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Can screenwriting competitions really help your career?

The short answer is... yes.



The long answer is... not all competitions are the same.


There are a ton of screenwriting competitions out there. Some are stalwarts that have been around forever. They are well-respected in the industry and winning one of them can mean a cash prize and a ton of connections.


Then there are others...


A majority of competitions will include meager prizes like meetings with small-time managers or producers, and not much reach. There may not even be any prizes.


It also matters whether you're trying to break in as a feature film screenwriter or a TV writer.


Screenwriting competitions are mainly for features. There are only a few well-respected TV writing competitions.


Not only that, but the powers that be (execs, producers, showrunners) aren't as easily swayed by a TV pilot competition win as they are a screenwriting competition win.


I'm not really sure why. But in my experience, a major feature competition can do a lot more for your career than a TV pilot competition.


But no matter if you're writing for TV or film, these competitions are not cheap.


So, choosing the right one could mean money well spent, and choosing the wrong one could mean a wasted hundred bucks even if you win.


Here's how to judge the competitions who are judging your material and make sure you're submitting to the right place...


Who is reading your script?



A lot of these competitions are inundated with scripts. Some of them have industry professionals reading these scripts in the first rounds.


Some of them have unpaid interns with little to no experience.


You want to make sure the feedback you're getting and the "pass or fail" are legit. So, make sure to check out who is reviewing your script before submitting.



What is the prize?


There will usually be a long list of people that the competition will promise to connect you with if you win. Google these people.


Make sure they work for legitimate, well-respected companies.


The connections you make from these competitions, along with notes, are going to be the most important takeaways from these competitions. So, vet the connections.


Sometimes there will be cash prizes, and other times the mere fact that you won the competition can be a calling card. But these instances are rare.



What have screenwriting competition winners gone on to do?


Look, obviously competitions can't guarantee success. And just because somebody wins a competitions, no matter which one it is, it doesn't mean they should automatically be vaulted into the halls of the Hollywood elite.


BUT a pattern is a pattern.


And if past winners have consistently gone on to find management, get deals, get staffed on TV shows, sell projects, then you know this competition is likely worthwhile.


 

So, that's how you assess. Easier said than done though, right? Let's talk about where to find this information...


Check the competition's website


This should be your first stop.


All of the answers to the questions above should be listed and the information should be provided.


Sure, it will be glossed up and look fancy and it may be hard to tell what's real and what's PR. But again, this is just your first step because it will help to eliminate the bad ones.


See, if these things aren't listed on their website, then you've got a problem right away. Lack of transparency is never a good thing.


And as a final check...


Go to Reddit


Screenwriting Reddit (reddit.com/r/screenwriting) holds an absolute treasure trove of useful information about competitions. People who have participated in pretty much every competition you can imagine have posted their experiences.


 

Competitions can be an amazing way to start getting feedback on your scripts and to get your name out there. So, make sure you invest in the right ones.



Image source: Ron Lach, StudioBinder

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Hello!

I'm Anton, a TV writer and author of Breaking Into TV Writing, a book about the business of TV writing and how to get your foot in the door.

 

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