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Entering Contests or Festivals

With the proliferation of screenplay competitions, many writers are wondering which competitions to enter or whether they are effective or not. The only reason to enter a competition is to get recognition for your script.

So the question is, does this prospective competition have the wherewithal, experience and industry recognition to help you with selling your script?

For these competitions you will want to find out:
A) The experience of the principals running the competition.
B) If any scripts have been produced, sold, or optioned as a result of the competition.
C) Who are the judges and do industry people respect the opinion of these judges.
D) What production companies and agencies have made arrangements with the competition to read the winning scripts.

Here are some of the things that competition should be doing:
1) Press releases to the media for the winners.
2) Contacting their extensive industry contacts and promoting the winners to them.
3) Using any web sites that industry members use routinely to find scripts. This is useful for you, but if internet exposure is the only thing that they are offering, it is not enough.
4) Offering a page or more of critiques of the script to help you improve it.

Most states in the US have a film commission. Their job is to get movies filmed in their state. They take this seriously. Many of them have a screenwriting competition that they take a personal interest in and sponsor. A good state film commission screenwriting competition can get you considerable exposure.

Competitions can offer many other types of awards and these are always helpful, but 1-3 above, in my book, are vital.

Some production companies put on competitions. This is not a generally accepted method and is frowned upon by most writers and producers. As there is no shortage of scripts, this is a method production companies use to offset their own expenses. There are some that are credible, but the credible ones already have the money in the bank for production.

Festivals, which have screenplay competitions, are generally (not in all cases) a good way to go. A festival has to promote far more heavily than a contest. They have to have thousands of people attending their festival (most of the attendees are involved in the industry in some way) in order to survive. This virtually guarantees the winners at least some exposure. Of course, there has been a substantial increase in festivals. The festival should be graded in the same way that a contest is.

Remember, a contest is only as good as the exposure it can get you if you are one of the winners.

Do keep in mind that once the competition has given acclaim to your script, you must not sit on your laurels. Use winning this competition when submitting query letters etc.

I hope you find this useful for entering competitions.

Written by: Jerrol LeBaron
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