There are as many opinions about the benefit, or lack thereof, 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. 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. When I enter, I average $500 for that particular year’s worth of entries.
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, cash prizes, recognition and exposure were my goals. I’m less concerned about “table reads” or free airfare to someone’s seminar in Cabazon, CA. Some will include “cash and prizes”, and the actual cash will be small, while the “prizes” may be $5,000 worth of their assistance in marketing your screenplay. This is a red flag for a money-grab.
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.
7) Read, accept and learn from the feedbacks, but do not dwell on them. Understand that not everyone is going to like it, and not everyone is going to hate it. Chances are, the reader probably knows a bit more than you, especially in the bigger, more prestigious contests.
8) 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.
9) Get confirmation on your entry, and save it.
10) 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.
*Contest entries with feedback are tax deductible as a business expense (refer to your tax professional for details).