Researching and Evaluating Writing Contests

Hundreds of writing contests tempt novelists and screenwriters with the lure of prize money, instant film industry contacts and personal feedback from film and publishing professionals. But contests can be costly. Writers should choose intelligently.

Before you write that check, research and evaluate the contests that interest you. Narrow down your choices to the best contests for you personally and the best ones for your scripts. These guidelines might help:

Tips for Researching Contests

• Check out their Web site
Nearly all contests have an online page with guidelines and other vital details. I know it’s tempting to salivate over the prize list and ignore the other features available on the site. Don’t let the promised goodies distract you –> $10,000 and a trip to Hollywood to meet the film industry movers and shakers you dream of impressing.

You’re on a mission. You need to find out if the contest has preferences regarding the subject matter of the script, the ethnicity/gender of the author or the area where the writer resides.

Shortcut: At the very least read the FAQ page and note the submission deadline.

• Rely on peer reports
If you belong to any online writing discussion lists (and you should!), post a query about the contests you’re considering. Learn from the experiences of others.

Movie Bytes offers a very useful feature to help you: Contest Report Card. Writers evaluate contests they’ve entered and post their comments. Take advantage of this wonderful resource.

• Feedback!!!
Unproduced or unpublished writers need professional feedback. Some contests offer feedback on your script or manuscript as part of the package. Even if you don’t win, you’ve received some extra value for your money. If the source of the ‘professional feedback’ is not listed on the site, send an Email requesting this information. It’s important – pin them down!

• Script readings
Some contests offer a staged reading of the winning script (or the scripts of all the finalists) as part of the prize. Script readings can be a great tool to help you polish your script as well as good industry exposure. Insider tip: Film festival script competitions in particular seem to offer script-reading opportunities to their finalists.