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. 


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