Google “screenwriting competitions” and you will get a bazillion links to all kinds of articles on the subject.
by Phil Parker
Most will tell you that there are only half a dozen or so that are worth the price of admission- The Nicholl Fellowships, the Austin Screenwriter’s Festival, Scriptpipeline, the Page Awards, Zoetrope, Big Break, etc. Winning or placing highly in any of these top tier competitions can be an express pass to the front of the ‘career in screenwriting’ queue. It’s no wonder they get six to seven thousand entries each year! Everybody wants that golden ticket!
What about all the other contests though? A quick look at FilmFreeway or Withoutabox, two services that help you submit to festivals and competitions, and you’ll see HUNDREDS of them! Are they a waste of time and money?
No, I don’t think so. Let me use myself as an example.
Everybody wants that golden ticket!
My WWII script, ‘The Third Bomb’ is currently on the competition circuit and doing quite well, however it has not placed in any of the top tier contests that I have entered so far. That’s a bummer for sure, but it has been a finalist multiple times and won a couple of awards in others, which is great. Unfortunately, nothing has eventuated yet as a direct result of that, which is also a bummer, but…
…it is because of the unforeseen consequences of these results that I am excited.
When ‘The Third Bom’ started doing well in this contest or that, I would send a modest email to some friends at work, wanting to share my relief and joy. The word started to get around and soon my boss found out. Suddenly his attitude towards me changed. My stock had just gone up a few points! I was on his radar again and he started to give me more opportunities at work.
My stock had just gone up a few points!
Where, before, I saw only disappointment in missing out on certain contests, I now saw a reason to celebrate the success that I did have. I was seeing real world results for my efforts. I then posted the good news about my script on social media sites as well and eventually got an offer from someone I knew to do paid freelance work as a marketing blogger!
My journey with this, my first script, is not over yet, but so far it has given me cred in ways I never expected. My work colleges, friends and family all look at me a little bit differently now. It has reinvigorated me to keep going, to write another script, but also to keep an eye out for broader opportunities. Success can come in many different forms.
Was entering the ‘best of the rest’ as far as competitions are concerned worth it?
I’d say, yes.
Screenwriter Phil Parker has written screenplays for directors and producers around the world. His highly awarded spec script ‘The Third Bomb’ is currently under option with BAFTA-winning producer Sias Wilson. Phil also has many years of experience writing scripts for original content and promos at the BBC, where he won a coveted Global Excellence Promax BDA Award for ‘Frontline War’.