Why Screenwriting Competitions Are Important For Every Script Writer
Screenwriting Workshop Lesson: Adapt to a lifestyle that enables creativity.
If you’re still a young screenwriter, working hard, trying to get noticed but you’re not sure what’s missing or what to do next, let me tell you. You need to submit your work to screenwriting competitions. It’s one of the most important steps any aspiring screenplay writer must take on his or her screenwriting journey.
Why are screenwriting competitions important?
If we’re talking about the well-established competitions, the answer is easy. They have a lot of experience, accumulated over years and years, to help writers. They initiate, they open doors for writers to share their work with others and get a chance at breaking through this merciless industry. They’ve figured out how to look for talent and what to do with it. Mostcompetitions can promote your work through business channels that reach industry insiders. Competition directors and judges have connections in the industry that they use to share quality work they read during these contests so your work can make it to the big leagues, all it takes is a submission.
You might be shrugging this off and thinking, “Well I know someone who knows someone who knows an agent, so I send them my scripts every once in a while.” Sure, but do you get anything back? Sending unsolicited screenplays to production companies or agents or managers is not a reliable method of getting somewhere in this business. If you want to reach these people and guarantee actual screenwriting feedback, submit your script to a screenplay competition.
No connections needed!
The good thing about things like screenplay fellowships and competitions is you can always submit your script without needing connections. Regardless of who you are, where you come from, who you know or don’t know, your submission will be taken seriously. Juries in screenwriting competitions are qualified professionals with experience to objectively assess your script. It depends on your talent as a writer and how good of a storyteller you are, that is all.
Your work will be read by industry-level professionals
You might still be a little skeptic. I hear you. You’re afraid of submitting your script to major screenplay competitions and having it end up in line after hundreds of others. You’re jaded about how “professional” the script readers on that jury will actually be when your turn comes and you’re number 75. The fact of the matter is: this is only a fraction of how overwhelmed script readers in the industry really are. Screenplay agents and managers and producers are floodedwith scripts, even more than in competitions like these, so you’re not risking anything by trusting your script to a reader here rather than there. This is the reality of how the industry works. The good news is that the perk of submitting your work to a screenwriting competition is that it won’t get rejected because you didn’t take an appointment or don’t know someone on the inside. All submissions are welcome and the word “unsolicited” has no place here.
Exposure is key. You want your script to be read by as many judges as you can. Look for competitions that cater to your strengths, your genres, your goals. Sometimes you envision your script as a movie, but you can work it into a play, for example. Be flexible in pursuing what’s best for your story.
There’s more to winning than winning
Of course, as a hopeful screenwriter, your ultimate goal is to land the prestigious prize at the end of every screenplay competition. But don’t underestimate the perks of being on the list of semifinalists. Sometimes scripts readers take note of which writers made a strong impression and keep them in mind for future projects with industry people they know will click with you. Sure, going home with a lot of money and the winner title feels great but going home with better chances than before still counts.
On the other hand, winning a screenwriting competition does grant you access to people in the industry. Some contests set up meetings between winners and judges so they can discuss the submitted script together, gaining more insight into what worked best and what can be improved. Other competitions might directly hook up winners with professional directors or showrunners from whom they can learn a lot and develop their skills.
Focus on submitting a solid script
…because the perfect one doesn’t exist. You simply need to focus your efforts on submitting a script that is professional. So no typos or silly format mistakes. Check the competition guidelines for submissions and make sure you’re following every one of them. Take this very seriously. You don’t want to blow your chances at a potential life-changing point in your career (and life!) because your script was five pages too long or because you wrote your name on the title page when you weren’t supposed to.
Screenplay coverage just for you!
Screenwriting fellowships and contests are a sure way to receive proper coverage from readers who know what they’re doing. You don’t need to wait on that agent who never called back. Professional script readers give elaborate screenwriting feedback with notes that you can take in, process, and use to improve your work. As you digest all this feedback, you get pointers for your next submission. What better way to land the next prize than to get direct screenplay coverage from the very people who decides who gets that prize?
Obviously, feedback can be subjective, as all opinions are, and you don’t always have to follow it to the letter. Trust your instincts as a screenwriter and believe in your script. The point is to look at your script from another point of view. You get a fellow writer’s take on your own words. Even if you don’t necessarily agree with all the notes they give you, your mind will become more open to feedback which makes you a more flexible and creative writer – something all screenwriters need to be.