Aside from getting an agent or having your first screenplay commissioned, entering screenplay contests is the best thing that you can do for your career as an emerging screenwriter. While spending time reading screenwriting books and researching your story are crucial parts of developing your craft as a writer, there is nothing more important than actually submitting the finished product and receiving feedback and the best way to do this is by entering screenplay contests. 

 Here are the top five reasons why entering screenplay contests should be your next move as an emerging screenwriter: 

1. Having your work professionally reviewed 

Writing can be a very daunting and isolating task and getting feedback on your work is a crucial part of the editing process. While you are an emerging screenwriter without the kinds of industry contacts that you need to secure paid writing gigs, entering screenplay contests is the most accessible way to have someone in the industry read your work and provide valuable feedback. Screenplay contests are specifically designed to help discover and showcase new writing talent. Screenplay contests can help accelerate emerging screenwriters careers by shining a spotlight on their work and providing them with the first opportunity to have their work professionally reviewed. 

2. Getting feedback from a highly trained and impartial source 

Getting feedback on your work is crucial to being able to keep improving your material; feedback can include tips on anything from big structural changes, subtle adjustments to the tone of the dialogue or small fixes to the format of the script. While it can be valuable to share your work with friends or family as a first port of call, the best way to receive impartial feedback from a highly trained and unbiased source is to have a reader from screenplay contests provide an in-depth written report. Readers have to get through so much material when working for screenplay contests that they quickly learn what makes a script and a writer’s voice stand out and they are able to offer valuable notes about what is working and what could be made stronger. There are plenty of different types of feedback reports that you can opt for and you can tailor the length of the coverage based on what stage you are at as a writer. Whether you are at the first draft stage and want a very detailed report or you need a shorter report with an immediate turn-around to help spot any last-minute issues before submitting samples to a potential agent, the best way to get a second opinion is to have professional readers from screenplay contests review your work. 

3. Placing at a contest can be the perfect launching pad 

Aside from the valuable feedback that you receive as part of entering screenplay contests, there is also the chance of placing or evening winning the screenplay contest. The recognition and exposure (not to mention the prize money!) that winning or placing in accredited screenplay contests is invaluable and can be the perfect launching pad to help get you on the radar of the production companies who are able to commission your work and give you the first all-important professional writing credits. Even if you don’t win the contest or get to the quarter or semifinals, it is still helpful when networking to mention that you recently received very positive feedback from an accredited screenplay contest. 

4. Getting used to deadlines 

Another great reason to get into the habit of entering screenplay contests is that it helps prepare you for the life of a professional screenwriter with clear deadlines and regulations that you need to follow. The frequency and variety of screenplay contests is so extensive that every emerging screenwriter is bound to find plenty of options that are well-suited to the style and scope of their writing. In order to be able to add structure to your working life as an emerging screenwriter it is a great idea to have a deadline in mind for screenplay contests and to give you something clear to work towards. Re-entering screenplay contests and placing higher than you did the year before is also a very useful way to be able to chart your progress and show that you are moving forwards. 

5. Re-entering screenplays contests is a great way to build relationships 

One of the most valuable aspects of entering screenplay contests for feedback is that you can re-enter the same contests after having implemented some of the notes from the reader. Receiving suggestions on how to improve your work and having a reader from screenplay contests point out what isn’t working in your screenplay is the easiest way to kick-start your next round of editing. Re-submitting and requesting the same reader again is also a good way to forge a relationship akin to having an editor, as the reader will continue to pick up on more details every time they re-read the script and get to know the writer’s voice better. Depending on how quickly you are able to edit your work and make changes, re-entering a script is the best way improve your chances of placing in the screenplay contest after having taken on board what the readers and judges are looking for. 

Screenplay contests offer the perfect opportunity to provide emerging writers with endless chances to have their work recognized and to establish a dialogue with an accredited reader that will allow writers to continue improving their work. 

Written by Daniela Piper-Vegh
Shore Scripts