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16 Screenwriting Contests Every Writer Should Know Of

16 Screenwriting Contests Every Writer Should Know Of

best screenwriting competitions

Screenwriting is an art form that can take decades to perfect. There’s no better way to hone your skills than to keep writing and rewriting. Participating in screenwriting competitions is a rite of passage for any up-and-coming screenwriter. They’re an excellent way to understand where you stand as a writer since your work will be evaluated by accomplished screenwriters. If you make it through, there are cash prizes to be won and pitch meetings with executives waiting to happen. This drastically increases the chances of a studio picking your script and adapting it into a movie or pilot.

Some of these competitions offer fellowships where you will be mentored by some of the most experienced members of the Hollywood fraternity. Keeping that in mind, here’s a list of screenwriting competitions that you might want to enroll yourselves in.

 

Best Screenwriting Competitions

1. Nicholl Fellowship in Screenwriting

Connected with the Academy, the Nicholl fellowship is one of Hollywood’s oldest and most prestigious competitions. Up to five writers are selected annually to receive the fellowship, worth $35,000. Winners receive individualized Academy member mentorship, are invited to award week ceremonies, and get access to exclusive seminars. However, they must complete at least one original feature film screenplay during their Fellowship year.

 

WATCH: How To Write Great Dialogue

 

HOW TO APPLY

To be eligible for the meritorious fellowship, writers are expected to submit a feature film screenplay (70-160 pages) and pay either an early entry fee of $50 or a regular deadline fee of $70, depending on the deadlines mentioned on the website. For guidelines around eligibility and other details, visit here.

Entries for this year close on May 1, 2024. For those unable to participate in 2024, can still open a Nicholl online account at any time, and get preparing for next year’s competition. 

 

2. Austin Screenplay Competition

The Austin Screenplay & Teleplay Competition has served as a platform for budding screenwriters to showcase their talent for over thirty years. To maintain a level playing field, this competition is only open to those writers who do not earn a living writing for film or television.

Under Screenplay & Teleplay Competition, feature screenplays must be 90-120 pages long, while teleplays need to be 22-40 pages and 45-70 pages for single-camera one-hour programs. The recommended length for multi-camera sitcom pilots is 52-58 pages. Unlike the Finish Line competition, no revisions are allowed once an entry has been submitted. 

The prize money varies across genres, with Drama paying the highest at $5000. Teleplay competition victors get $1000, whereas finalists across all categories receive complimentary badges to attend the prestigious Austin Film Festival and Conference. You can also have your script read by an additional judge at an extra cost of $15.

 

Important deadlines

The last deadline was Feature Screenplay ($90), and Short Screenplay & Teleplay ($75) ended May 24, 2024. All your FAQs regarding the contests are answered here.

 

3. HBO Access Writing Fellowship 

Recently renamed WarnerMedia Access Writers Program, this platform provides historically excluded writers a pathway into the episodic television writing space. They aim to provide guidance to creative minds from different backgrounds by connecting them with industry leaders. 

 

HOW TO APPLY

Applications for this year are now closed. All 2024 applicants should have received a status update on their application by now. The finalists will interview this month. Those selected will need to be come to LA for an in-person bootcamp week in spring 2024, and attend weekly virtual curriculum throughout the course. The program runs from March 2024 to May/June 2024. The next call for submissions will be announced at a later date. 

Unlike some of the other competitions on this list, they do accept entries from writers who’ve previously worked on a TV show. The caveat is that they cannot have worked for more than one season.

 

4. Sundance Lab

This is the official contest of the Sundance Film Festival, touted to be the biggest of its kind. It’s not a screenwriting competition per se, rather an incubator course that’s catapulted multiple creators to fame. Some of the films that were made under the support of the Feature Film Program are Damien Chazelle’s Whiplash, Ritesh Batra’s The Lunchbox, Taika Waititi’s Boy, and Quentin Tarantino’s Reservoir Dogs.

The fellowships or grants that come under the Feature Film Program (FFP) are:

  • Screenwriting Lab: A 5-day writer’s workshop run numerous times throughout the year. There is no entry fee.
  • Screenwriters Intensive Program: The program supports 11 writers or writers/directors from underrepresented communities who are developing a fiction feature screenplay. Beyond the application fee, there is no fee to participate in the Screenwriters Intensive.
  • Sundance Institute Comedy Fellowship: This fellowship provides a stage for the next generation of comedic voices to voice their opinions. It includes an opportunity to participate in the Screenwriters Lab and customized mentorship from the FFP team.

 

5. Titan Screenwriting Contest

An annual screenwriting competition by Industrial Scripts, the Titan Screenwriting Contest, was launched in 2021. Hollywood heavyweights will judge this year’s edition of the contest, including Basil Iwanyk (John Wick, Sicario and The Town), Shannon McIntosh (Django Unchained, Once Upon a Time In Holiday), and Georgia Brown (The Rig, Anasi Boys, The Devil’s Hour). There are 10 categories for writers to enter, and one prize will be awarded in each category.

Three final winners will be picked from among these 10, receiving cash prizes of $1000, $2000, and $5000, respectively. Besides cash rewards, exposure, and connections, winners get 12 months of Personal Daily Script Marketing, script coaching support from Industrial Scripts, and several other benefits.

 

HOW TO APPLY:

Visit here for details on how to enter this year’s contest. The final deadline to enter the contest is on June 30, 2022. Quarter finalists will be announced on August 17, 2024; semi-finalists on August 31, 2024; finalists/category winners on September 16 2024; and grand finale winners on September 30, 2024.

 

6. Save the Cat! Screenplay challenge

Save the Cat! screenplay challenge now accepts both feature films plus 60-minute and 30-minute TV pilots. The winner gets an all-expense paid 3-day trip to LA and you get to participate in a live table read to bring your script to life. The perks also include a one-year subscription to the latest version of Save the Cat! software and meet the judging panel of acclaimed writers and producers.

The top 5 finalists also win the subscription to the proprietary software and get to interact with one of the judges. All entries will be read and entrants will receive detailed analysis in return.

 

HOW TO APPLY

The deadline to enter is April 14, 2024. TV entry fees cost up to $119.00 whilst entering a feature will cost up to $129.00

 

7. BlueCat Screenplay competition

Besides episodic pilots and features, BlueCat screenplay competition also accepts short film scripts. Each entry can be resubmitted twice. The page count limit for the different events are:

  • Feature screenplays: 65-125 pages
  • Pilot scripts: 20-75 pages
  • Short screenplays: 1-29 pages

All entries are read and will receive a written analysis as part of the entry fee. The grand prize is a whopping $7500, while the winners in Feature Screenplay, Pilot, and Short Script categories receive $3000. For writers residing outside the States, a special Fellini Award was instituted, the winner of which will receive $2000.

 

HOW TO APPLY

BlueCat Screenplay Competition is currently closed for 2024. For more details, visit here.

 

8. Cinestory Foundation Fellowship

With an excellent track record, The Cinestory Foundation Fellowship has launched the careers of a number of writers since it started in 1995. Popular companies like Paradigm, Energy Entertainment, and the Lisa Callamaro agency seek out the services of the winners. Winners get a cash prize of $10,000 and a year-long fellowship program where they’ll be paired with a Hollywood professional. They’re also entitled to three 90-minute one-on-one sessions with agents, managers, producers, and development executives.

 

HOW TO APPLY

Deadline for the 2024 Feature Retreat & Fellowship Contest closes on Mar 25, 2024. Submission cost is $69.

 

9. Scriptapalooza

One of the most popular screenwriting contests out there, Scriptapalooza Fellowship accepts feature film and short film scripts across multiple genres — action, comedy, drama, sci-fi, and thriller. The winner gets $10,000 besides exclusive access to more than 150 producers through Scriptapalooza’s extensive network and 1-year membership to the International Screenwriters’ Association. The judges also pick winners from each genre, each of who is awarded $500.

But it isn’t just the winners who enjoy all the benefits. The scripts of all semi-finalists are also promoted among Scriptapalooza’s tightly knit community of producers, managers, and agents. You can get extra feedback on your script at an additional cost of $120 for features and $85 for shorts.

 

HOW TO APPLY

They are currently accepting screenplays and pilots for the 2024 Scriptapalooza Fellowship at a $45 entry fee. Short script entry costs $55. The final deadline is April 8 2024. Find all the details here.

 

10. PAGE International Screenwriting Awards

The PAGE Screenwriting Awards were instituted to introduce up-and-coming talent to Hollywood executives. With a proven track record, this competition has been the gateway to success for multiple budding screenwriters like Michael Kogge and Brooke Roberts. This competition only accepts original screenplays of 80-120 pages and teleplays of 30-75 pages. Adaptations of any kind are not eligible, and editing is not allowed once a script has been submitted.

Winners across the 31 different awards can win over $50,000 in cash and prizes. In addition, your work will also be publicized with the help of their co-sponsors.

 

HOW TO APPLY

Submissions were accepted between January and April this year and cost up to $77 to enter.  If you’d like to have your script reviewed by more than one judge, you may submit your script in up to two additional categories and have up to two additional Judges read your script for $18 each. Bookmark this link to stay abreast of the latest deadlines.

 

11. Finish Line Script Competition

This one-of-a-kind screenwriting competition allows you to rework your script based on the notes you receive. The grand prize is $10,000 in cash, an opportunity to interact with market leaders, a free consultation from experts, and a filmed table read. The runner-up is awarded $500 and can send their script to six industry pros on their list.

 

HOW TO APPLY

  • Early bird deadline: January 31 2024 – $348 entry fee
  • Regular deadline: March 4 2024 – $52 entry fee
  • Latecomers deadline: May 15 2024 – $42 entry fee

Getting comprehensive feedback from the judges will cost you over $100 more. This will also include free resubmission of drafts and a Zoom call with an ex-literary manager.

 

12. Final Draft Big Break Contest

This is the official contest of the well-known screenwriting software, Final Draft. The winners of the Final Draft Big Break Contest have gone on to strike deals with several reputed production companies like Paramount Studios and 3PAS Studios. Full-length screenplays should be approximately 80-120 pages, teleplays around 40-70 pages. Each of the Grand Prize Winners will receive $10,000 in cash, but you can also win free tech, a trip to Hollywood and access to an immersive program in TV and film writing.

See Also
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HOW TO APPLY

Entries for this year are now open.

  • Regular deadline: April 4, 2024: $35 entry fee
  • Regular deadline: May 20, 2024: $45
  • Final deadline: June 10, 2024: $55
  • Extended deadline: June 28, 2023: $65

 

13. Script Pipeline

Script Pipeline has helped uncover and develop writers for film and television since 1999. Some of the talents that found their start from Script Pipeline were Tripper Clancy, writer of Stuber and Evan Daugherty turned his winning script into a movie starring Robert de Niro and John Travolta.

The winner of the Screenwriting competition receives a whopping $20,000 and access to a dozen production companies, agencies, and managers. $1,000 is even given to each finalist. Judges take into consideration the overall quality of the script, along with the originality of the concept and market viability.

 

HOW TO APPLY

The 22nd Annual Screenwriting Competition closes on May 1, 2024 with late entry being May 15, 2024. Entry cost $60, and $65 for late entry.

The 12th Annual First Look Project searches for higher-concept material and introduces writers to reps and producers. The next deadline is June 20, 2024.

Get more information here.

 

14. ScreenCraft Screenplay competition

ScreenCraft‘s feature writing competition offers a wide array of genres to choose from. The Grand Prize winner is drafted to the ScreenCraft Writer Development Program and gets a cool $1000 in cash prize. In addition, their work is circulated among writers, producers, development executives, and managers. Meanwhile, feature winners are awarded a $500 cash prize and a lifetime subscription to Arc Studio Pro.

 

HOW TO APPLY

The guidelines and the key deadlines may vary across competitions, so go through the rules before you apply. Some of the competitions that are open right now:

  • Action and Adventure Screenplay Competition – Applications open March 31, 2024
  • Animation Screenplay Competition – Applications open up soon
  • Comedy Screenplay Competitions – Final deadline April 30, 2024
  • Drama Screenplay Competition – Applications open up later this year
  • Film Fund – Final Deadline – Applications open up later this year
  • Feature Competition – Applications open March 31, 2024
  • Horror Screenplay Competition – Applications open up later this year
  • Sci fi and Fantasy Competition – Applications open March 31, 2024 and closes April 31 2024

For details across contests, visit here.

 

15. Tracking Board LaunchPad

As the name suggests, this esteemed competition serves to provide a launching pad for the careers of upcoming writers.They run contests in 3 categories: television pilots, feature films, and prose writing. Your work could potentially be recognized by a large group of managers, producers, and executives. In addition, the top 25 winners are announced on the Tracking Board website and to thousands of industry folk via press releases.

 

HOW TO APPLY

The Feature film script writing and TV pilot script writing will open soon for the next season. Prose writing deadline is March 20, 2024. Bookmark this for further updates.

 

16. Page Turner Awards

The UK-based scriptwriting competition, like others on this list, could help you get one step closer to pitching your script to a Hollywood executive. In addition to a prize fund valued over $10k, winners stand a chance to secure a sponsored writing internship. The different award categories are:

  • Writing Award – for unpublished, completed manuscripts
  • Young Writer Award – for writers between the ages of 18 and 25
  • Writing Mentorship Award – for uncompleted manuscripts
  • Screenplay Award – for scriptwriters with a completed screenplay

 

HOW TO APPLY

In their inaugural year, the 2020 Page Turner Awards garnered much interest, with at least three writers winning a literary agency presentation. In addition, five authors received writing mentorship. The 2024 Page Turner Awards are currently open, and many different packages are available for different prices.

 

Notable mention:

The Black List

This is not a screenwriting contest but a hugely resourceful hub for all aspiring screenwriters. You can upload your spec script here, get evaluated by professional readers, and be noticed by industry members.

Every year in December, The Black List releases a list of the most voted spec screenplays of that year. These are voted by film industry executives.

Running for over a decade, The Black List’s annual lists include Oscar-winning movies like The King’s Speech, Juno, and Argo. 

 

Conclusion

There you have it! These are some of the best screenwriting competitions out there. Be sure to read all the rules and guidelines before submitting your script. The page count may vary from one to another, but they all need to be original. Most competitions insist that your work is in a 12-point courier font and submitted in a PDF format. Remember that the judges are looking for your distinct voice to come through when they read your work. This is a life-changing opportunity, make sure you put it to good use!

 

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