When I first started writing I knew nothing about screenplay contests. The notion that a writer should pay someone an entry fee in the hopes of progressing in a contest seemed a little farfetched. I believe the terminology that some would use, it’s a crapshoot.
Not to mention.
- Who’s running the contest?
- Do they have any affiliation with anyone who actually works in the industry?
- Do up and coming managers, agents, producers look at the material in the final stages of the competition?
- What do the organizers promise?
- How have writers in past competitions fared?
- What success stories have they had?
- Who’s reading the script?
- How many scripts has the reader (judge) read before they get to yours?
- The types of scripts yours is up against? How do you compare a low budget horror to a character driven drama?
- Is the reader (judge) in a good mood that day?
- If your piece is a romance and they’ve just split up with their partner. This may cause a negative opinion of your screenplay.
- How experienced are they when it comes to reading and scoring screenplays?
- What experience do they have in the industry?
I think it’s a little naive if a writer believes that if they win a contest or get placed highly a producer is suddenly going to scream from a very tall building that they have found that script they’ve been looking for. But as far as a calling card goes and getting noticed by agents and producers, I don’t think a writer has anything to lose. As long as they choose wisely which contests to enter. There are probably only a handful of contests that are truly worth entering.
Even being placed in a contest can gain attention from producers and agents. Especially if you are consistently being placed. This doesn’t mean they’ll be knocking down doors to get to you, but it certainly won’t do any harm.
Do your research and choose wisely.
Use them to see how your writing compares to other writers. If you are getting placed in competitions consistently, use this in your query letters. Use contests as a stepping stone to progress as a writer.