Screenwriting Competition Strategies
Screenwriting competitions require strategies;
You’ve worked hard on your script. Plotting. Crafting. Writing. Rewriting. Reading. Rewriting. Basically, you’ve done everything you can to make your script, YOUR STORY, the absolute best it can be. Now what?
There are literally hundreds of screenwriting competitions, and while some offer opportunities to launch careers, many are simply a way to spend money or stroke your ego. Neither of those are bad things, unless you have a small bank account or delicate ego.
The trick with screenwriting competitions, or any competition for that matter, is to have an end game. If you don’t know what you want to achieve, you will achieve nothing. Yogi Berra said it perfectly,
“You’ve got to be careful
If you don’t know where you’re going,
Because you might get there.”
Say you enter a small screenwriting competition and nothing happens. You don’t place. Then what? How do you use that information to improve as a writer? Do you use that information to improve, or do you blame the competition for being lame, rigged, stupid?
What if you do win or place? Does that mean your script is awesome and it’s ready for Denzel? Depends upon the script. Depends upon the screenwriting competition. There are so many variables.
The most common reason people enter competitions is to get attention. But to get attention, you have to enter the right competitions. Yes, there are ‘right’ competitions. And the righter the competition, the harder it is to win or place. But when you do win or place, the industry takes notice. They know how difficult these ‘right’ competitions are, and they’re looking for the writers who earned that win.
Smaller competitions can serve a purpose as well; they generally cost less to enter and can give you an idea of how your script will perform at the higher levels. If you don’t place, you know you need to keep working your story. If you do place, or win, you’re probably ready to take it up a notch — focus on another competition. Keep moving up the ladder and improving your craft.
I met a woman who’s screenplays did well at the less competitive level, and she was using those wins to push for a manager. That’s a decent strategy, as long as she wasn’t going after CAA or some other big agent. After all, managers and agents come in different sizes too.
Take advantage of the competitions that offer feedback. That’s a great way to know what works and in your story and what doesn’t at a competitive level. This is particularly good if you don’t have a network of writers to help with your development.
While you’re deciding which contests to enter, think about how well your story fits that competition. South By Southwest (SXSW) does not include a screenwriting competition, but lets say you had a short film. SXSW began as a music festival, so films with strong music or sound components would be a great fit for this festival.
The bottom line, know what you wish to achieve when entering your script into a competition, otherwise you’re just wasting your money.