There are as many opinions about the benefit, or lack threreof, of contests as there are contests itself, and there are literally hundreds of screenwriting contests available every year. Only a handful are truly worth your time, energy and money, and deciding which ones are worth entering is purely subjective, but the following is MY process that I’ll share:
(NOTE: Please think twice before entering ANY contest if your screenplay is not absolutely perfect and ready for the very stiff competition. Contact us at The Script Mentor if you need help getting your project to that point, but if not us, try someone — anyone — that you trust!)
1) Determine what your budget is going to be for the year. Last year, mine was set at $500, because I felt I had a strong entry. In 2011, I was writing it, so I didn’t enter any. In essence, it was $250 for each year. In 2010, I spent roughly the same amount.
2) Sign up for Moviebytes.com. I’m a paid member (WinningScriptsPro) and it is a very helpful and informative site and service. They list most major contests, and offer ways to easily enter and track your entries.
3) Investigate each contest, including user reviews. User reviews are very enlightening, I assure you.
4) Determine what the prizes are and if that is what you are looking for. For me, money, recognition and exposure were my goals. I’m less concerned about table reads or free airfare to someone’s seminar in Cabazon, CA.
5) Calendar EARLY BIRD DEADLINES. You can save significantly if you enter early.
6) Spend any extra money on an occasional feedback. It might double the entry fee, or more, but in most cases, it is well worth it. My very first feedback, years ago, was from Script Pipeline (Script P.I.M.P. as it was known then). The script was awful, but the reviews made it sound like it had, and I had, potential. This was extremely important to me, because, like many others, I was feeling vulnerable when submitting my life’s dream- my first completed screenplay- up for ridicule. The feedback was spot-on, extremely informative, but more importantly, highly positive in tone. This was a major reason for my delving into another script, and another, and so on.
7) Read, accept and learn from the feedbacks, but do not dwell on them. Take the review to heart, because if it’s factually correct, it comes from a good place. Make an effort to make the improvements/corrections as pointed out in the feedback. Also understand not everyone is going to like it, and not everyone is going to hate it. Chances are that the reader probably knows a bit more than you, especially in the bigger, more prestigious contests.
8) Check out “Withoutabox”. This is a great little secret that everyone should be aware of. It makes sending scripts, tracking scripts, and paying for entry fees extremely easy and user-friendly. It’ll save you money to pay for $100 towards $120 worth of entry fees, as well. Cool site.
9) Read all of the contest rules. Some REQUIRE cover pages with info; some others PROHIBIT them. DO NOT get caught with your contact info anywhere on the script (including title page) or you’ll be disqualified.
10) Get confirmation on your entry, and save it.
11) Document your script entries. If you don’t use a contest entry program, create an Excel spreadsheet, and document script, contest name, date of submission, cost, fee for feedbacks, date of finals and any other pertinent information. By the way, contest entries with feedback are tax deductible as a business expense (refer to your tax professional for details).
12) Make sure (blank) contest is the first contest you enter! Register your screenplay, and write that killer logline (contact The Script Mentor for help with that “killer logline” part). The top writers will receive some fantastic prizes. Let them help you get some requests to read your masterpiece!