Screenplay Contests: Are They A Waste of Time?

screenplay contests, strategic perspective, waste of time -

Screenplay Contests: Are They A Waste of Time?

As we mentioned last month, in the article "Facing Rejection", a total of 7,102 screenplays were entered into the Nicholl Fellowship in 2017. Faced with those odds, it’s understandable that screenwriters are loathe to bother with contests.

And the truth is for most screenwriters, contests ARE a waste of time. But that’s not necessarily a reflection of the contests or the screenplays entered into those contests. Here’s why:

At ScriptArsenal, a writer affiliated with us recently entered the same script into eight screenwriting contests. He did not place in seven of them. He was named the overall winner of the eight contest.

Therein lies the rub, as it were. Just because your script doesn’t place in one contest does not mean it won’t perform well in another. Screenwriting is inherently subjective. Just as there’s a weird movie we all love that our peers don’t “get”, catching the right couple of readers who share your creative taste can make all the difference.

What does this mean for writers? There’s a complex answer. Because if your script is not of sufficient quality, you could enter it into 50 contests and never place in any of them. And if the contest you enter doesn’t have sufficient clout, performing well in it will not impact your career in a meaningful way.

That’s why it’s important to

  1. Ensure your script is of a strong quality.
  2. Ensure you are entering that script into meaningful contests.
There’s a consensus on the top 10 or so contests, a few Google searches is all that’s needed to see the same names keep showing up.

For the 1st part of this equation, though, it’s tougher to decipher. How can you tell if your script is of sufficient quality? Ideally, this should be equal parts self-confidence and external validation. It’s not enough if only you love your script, or if you find readers who dig it but you think it could be better.

But if you can get to a place with your material where you dig it as much as unbiased third-party readers do, that’s a strong position to enter the meaningful contests from. Are screenwriting contests a waste of time? Only if you don’t approach them from a strategic perspective.

What are your experiences with screenplay contests? Please share any stories, questions, or comments you have regarding screenplay contests, in the comment section below. 


  • Todd

    Look around you do you see HQ or un-imaginative ugliness, that’s right, it’s not that nobody cares, it’s people are not able to care, because you don’t get a say, your not the projector, how do you know this, well have you got 50M or 250M to make a movie, are you a navigator of society, a highly educated person with an IQ over 125 in the club for jobs for the boys, within the inner circles with high society links, a few questions are you gay are you jewish can you get good coke for the sexually regular film crowd derailed degenerate to sniff, do you live in Hollywood was your dad in the CIA are you a ex spy or military persons etc etc, maybe you should go do some digging around wikipedia and wake up, your not in the sell your soul club. That 95% of the time produce a prop of proper repetitive propaganda run by corporate owned studios who’s board rooms are full of despotic’s who are about as imaginative as the title that’s it, they think they the bobby dazzlers in a child like way, with more subliminal adverts than a youtube video these days, they lost the true principle of the motion industry… mesmerise – educate – social connection – reflecting points of interest in genre in points of interest reflecting observations within social submersion in a streamline seamless motion picture art form, not connecting dots with things happening at certain points and time, seeing a film these days is like running up and down a fire exit with different wall paper on the wall, ten steps down turn left you know like wall paper one and two three and four 5,6,7,8,9 exactly!! And all that money they spend on them, it’s sad, they get worse, the ego’s and pure outer image with a copy cat image prototypes templets. Hollywood had style, once upon a time, had emotions had an exciting heart beat, it was panache and quirky full of proper characters that could act and the best ones were ugly ducklings not midget feminized drips that look a joke, the good movies the ring a bell, they become yours, your dream world a place you could live in or want to be, you enjoy the feelings you feel watching them, you press play on the DVD and you forgot all your troubles of the day, pure escapism, and you just got entertained like a swinging pendulum on a fairytale cuckoo clock to …“THE END”

  • Marco

    I have received 16 win awards along with several finalist placements. The same project was hated or passed on by others. None of it seems to matter either way. No one cares either way. What does one conclude from this? Are the judges who liked my screenplay idiots, or are the one’s who hated it? So difficult. I feel like I’m on a shitty date or taking the SAT. Getting tired of putting my work into script chipper. Not exactly fertile grounds for creativity. A huge percentage of the readers haven’t and written anything themselves. Some are snotty and arrogantly stupid. Some are incredibly smart and able to enhance and encourage a project. I have even received notes from readers that indicate they skimmed and didn’t pay attention or just decided they hated your concept and completely missed your message. I know politically incorrect to challenge the “gatekeepers” of screenwriting careers, but the truth is you need to be careful. Many of these “experts” aren’t all that brilliant and will either turn you off, or turn your work into a conventional and predictable yawn.
    So now we’re left with relying on the judgement on the judges of a very select group of festivals. And you’d better impress them or you go nowhere. This means chasing their criteria and fitting your feet into their shoes. This gets tiring.

  • Karen W

    Sometimes, more important than winning is getting feedback from judges. Higher end contests usually offer this. It helps to hone your skills and see what judges are looking for.

  • Cindy

    The chance of winning by entering a meaningful contest revokes the time wasting aspect.

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