Three Screenwriting Contests That Can Launch Your Career

It is famously difficult to break into the film industry as a screenwriter, especially if you don’t have a network of connections to point you in the right direction. Luckily there is an alternative to peddling your unproduced scripts around town: entering (and winning!) screenwriting contests is an excellent way to gain the attention of agents, managers, and film industry influencers.

There are hundreds of screenwriting contests from around the world to choose from, but if you are serious about securing an agent or getting your work produced, here are three you have to check out:

ACADEMY NICHOLL FELLOWSHIPS

An internationally renown screenwriting competition, the Academy Nicholl Fellowships in Screenwriting has a fantastic record of emerging writers who were able to launch their careers after winning.

Type of Script:

  • Feature Film

Qualifications:

  • The contest is open to screenwriters who have not earned more than $25,000 writing fictional work for film or television.
  • Entry scripts must be the original work of one writer, or of two writers who collaborated equally.
  • Scripts must be submitted in English.
  • Adaptations and translated scripts are not eligible.

Prizes:

  • Up to five $35,000 fellowships are awarded each year.

Deadlines:

  • March 7th: Early Entry ($40 USD)
  • April 18th: Regular Entry ($55 USD)
  • May 2nd: Late Entry ($75 USD)

Notable Winners:

  • 2010 – Destin Daniel Cretton – Short Term 12
  • 2008 – Jason A. Micallef – Butter
  • 2000 – Doug Atchison – Akeelah and the Bee

 

AUSTIN FILM FESTIVAL

The Austin Film Festival Screenplay and Teleplay Competition is well known for consistently lining up a fantastic panel of judges from major agencies and production companies, and drawing the attention of agents.  

Type of Scripts:

  • Feature Film
  • Short
  • Teleplay

Qualifications:

  • The contest is open to emerging and established screenwriters.
  • All scripts must not have been optioned or sold prior to October 28, 2017.
  • Scripts must be submitted in English.
  • Screenplays/teleplays must be the original work of the applicant.

Prizes:

  • Cash awards range from $1,000 – $5,000 depending on the category.  
  • Winners will be reimbursed for round trip airfare and hotel to attend the AFF.
  • A Producer’s Badge to attend the AFF and Conference.
  • The AFF Bronze Typewriter Award

Deadlines:
Feature Screenplay:

  • March 31st: Early Entry ($45 USD)
  • April 20th: Regular Entry ($55 USD)
  • May 15th: Late Entry ($70 USD)

Short Screenplay, Teleplay, & Digital Series

  • March 31st: Early Entry ($35 USD)
  • April 20th: Regular Entry ($45 USD)
  • May 15th: Late Entry ($60 USD)

Notable Winners:

  • A huge number of winning writers have been hired on television shows, including: Bojack Horseman (Netflix), Silicon Valley (HBO), Empire (Fox), Community (NBC/Yahoo), and many others.
  • 2010 Finalist Christopher Cantwell went on to sell his series Halt and Catch Fire to AMC.
  • 2008 Finalist Edward Ricourt sold his script Now You See Me to Summit Entertainment.

 

SUNDANCE SCREENWRITERS LAB

The Sundance Film Festival is a prestigious event for indie filmmakers worldwide, and the Sundance Screenwriters Lab is no different. Twelve projects are chosen to participate in a five-day workshop, where writers are mentored by notable creative industry professionals.  

Type of Script:

  • Feature Film

Qualifications:

  • Applicants must be developing their first or second narrative feature film.
  • Those who have previously had more than one narrative feature produced are not eligible to apply.

Prizes:

  • Admission to the five-day Sundance Screenwriters Lab.
  • One-on-one sessions with creative advisors and industry professionals.

Deadlines:

  • TBA – Details will be posted soon on the website.  

Notable Participants:

  • 2014 – Daniel Kwan and Daniel Scheinert – Swiss Army Man
  • 2013 – Ryan Coogler – Fruitvale Station
  • 2004 – Ryan Fleck and Ann Boden – Half Nelson
  • 1999 – Darren Aronofsky – Requiem for a Dream

If you’d like submit your work to even more competitions, some honorable mentions are: The Tracking Board’s Launch Pad Competition, The Universal Pictures Emerging Writers Fellowship and the Script Pipeline. Good luck, and happy writing!

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