In the last few years we've seen screenwriting contests move ever more mainstream.
There are stacks of them in the USA, and several really notable contests in the UK.
Many more agents, producers and script editors are open to the idea that getting a
result in the bigger contests is a legitimate part of getting the kind of momentum new
Winning a contest is great, but don't get distracted and see it as an end in itself. It's
really only valuable if it helps towards your real goal - getting hired as a screenwriter.
What's more, these contests often charge an entry fee - and that can add up.
So how do you decide how to spend your money?
[I have a vested interest I must declare - in 2012 I founded the Screenwriting
Goldmine Awards, so this article is written from that perspective.]
1. Does the contest have clear industry links?
Look for evidence of interest and support from the industry you want to join, either
directly on the judging panel, or in affiliations to agencies, particular production
companies, or broadcasters.
At the Goldmine we have a taken an independent stance. We have no specific
affiliation, but we do have 35 senior figures from across the British TV industry who
read all the finalist scripts, and who decide the eventual winner.
2. Try to check the background of the readers in the initial stages
Skilled people are not cheap, so some contests will use people with little or no real
professional script-editing experience to do the first pass and read the entries as they
You've taken months, perhaps years to write this script; do you really want it to be
assessed by someone who started in the industry last week?
3. How many entries do they get?
In some of the bigger American contests they get literally thousands of entries, all
competing for a handful of prizes.
Given that you need to win outright, or at least be in the very last short lists a couple
of times, to make an agent or producer pay much attention, you have to do the maths here.
Are you happy with the odds
4. Pick a contest that aligns with your aims
If you really want to write massive crowd-pleasing shows for a mass market, you will
probably not find a terribly receptive ear at the Channel 4 Screenwriting contest.
Similarly, if you want to write a small domestic sit-com for British viewers, the odds
are that won't go down TOO well with Francis Ford Coppola's Zoetrope contest.
And finally one test that you should run on yourself:
5. Do you LOVE your script?
If you don't think it's practically perfect, however will the rest of the world fall in love
with it? Which translates practically to you not entering a script you see is a good rough
If you know there are problems, but you expect the judges to see past the bits that
don't work until they find the good bits, well, you may have a problem.
The standard is much too high at the top of these competitions. Winning scripts tend
to be technically polished well as full of brilliant ideas.
Apply these tests, and you can be just a little more confident that your entry fee is
being well spent.
The Screenwriting Goldmine Awards run every year. We are currently accepting
scripts until 31st January 2017.
More information at: https://awards.screenwritinggoldmine.com