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The 10 Best Screenwriting Contests To Supercharge Your Career In 2019

Discover Which Screenwriting Competitions Are Among The Elite Few Worth Entering

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December 19, 2018 46 comments
best screenwriting contests 2019

The 10 Best Screenwriting Contests 2019

Many screenwriters got their big breaks from winning screenwriting competitions, but there are so many out there it can be hard to know which are duds and which might kick-start your career.

Not all screenplay contests are created equal. From what we’ve seen over the years, there are actually very few that are worth mentioning in a query letter, or that can open any doors.

Rather than spending a small fortune sending your screenplay off to a dozen competitions, do some thorough research and be super selective on which ones you enter.

Below you’ll find the top ten, very best screenwriting contests in 2019 we believe can actually advance your career and are worth putting to the front of the line in your research.

best screenwriting contests 2019

And don’t forget to download our free Screenwriters’ Calendar. which lists all the screenwriting competitions below, as well as the best festivals, fellowships and labs.

Nicholl Fellowship

Generally regarded as one of the very best screenwriting contests to win or place highly in if you want to kick-start your writing career. Up to five writers each win $35,000 fellowships from the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences but be warned it does seem to favor Drama.

Place highly in the Nicholl, though, and be prepared to buy a new cell phone after your old one melts from all the industry heat.

Deadlines & Entry Fees

  • TBC Deadline: Approx. March / April 2019

Contest Prizes

  • Up to five $35,000 fellowships are awarded each year to promising new screenwriters.
  • From the program’s inception in 1986 through 2017, $4.265 million has been awarded to 166 writers.

Check out the Nicholl Fellowship >>

best screenwriting contests 2019

Austin Screenwriting Competition

This screenwriting contest continues to open doors by creating a networking system for new writers to further their career within the industry.

Industry professionals recognize the Austin Film Festival as one of the best screenplay contests in 2019, with representatives from agencies and production companies participating in the judging process. Past judges include Focus Features, Lightstorm Entertainment, CAA and more.

Deadlines & Entry Fees

Features

  • Early: March 29, 2019 ($45 entry fee)
  • Regular: April 19, 2019 ($60 entry fee)
  • Late: May 15, 2019 ($70 entry fee)

Teleplays and Shorts

  • Early: March 29, 2019 ($35 entry fee)
  • Regular: April 19, 2019 ($50 entry fee)
  • Late: May 15, 2019 ($60 entry fee

Contest Prizes

  • Cash prizes of $2,500 (Narrative Feature, Documentary Feature), $1,000 (Narrative Short, Dark Matters Feature, Comedy Vanguard Feature), $500 (Narrative Student Short, Animated Short, Documentary Short
  • Reimbursement (up to $500) of round-trip airfare to attend AFF
  • Reimbursement of hotel accommodations at an AFF hotel (up to $500)
  • AFF Typewriter Award
  • The winning films in the Narrative Short, Documentary Short, and Animated Short categories are eligible to be nominated for an Academy Award

Check out the Austin Film Festival >>

ScreenCraft Screenwriting Fellowship and Screenplay Contests

What makes ScreenCraft one of the best screenwriting talent-discovery organizations around is the fact that entrants have a wide range of genre-specific competitions to choose from when submitting their script.

These include Action/Adventure, Drama, Comedy, Horror, Family-Friendly and more, meaning the prizes and readers are much more focused and in tune with the writers’ sensibilities, and each Hollywood jury is tailored to the genre.

The annual ScreenCraft Screenwriting Fellowship accepts feature film screenplays and TV pilots and is an effective program at launching careers of emerging screenwriters. Past winners have gone on to sign with agents at CAA, WME and UTA write for Netflix, Blumhouse, CBS and Millennium Entertainment. Winners and finalists of ScreenCraft’s competitions have come from all over the world.

Deadlines & Entry Fees

  • Rotating throughout the year. Click the link below for full information.

Contest Prizes

Each ScreenCraft genre-specific contest is unique, but all of them feature cash prizes and career-launching introductions to entertainment industry professionals including managers, agents, studio executives 
and award-winning filmmakers and TV showrunners.

Check out ScreenCraft’s many screenplay competitions here >>

best screenwriting contests 2019

Final Draft Big Break Screenwriting Contest

This is an annual, international feature and television screenwriting contest designed to launch the careers of aspiring writers, hosted by Final Draft. Big Break rewards screenwriters with over $80,000 in cash and prizes, including a trip to Los Angeles and A-list executive meetings.

Winners and finalists alike have had their screenplays optioned and produced and have secured high-profile representation as well as lucrative writing deals.

Deadlines & Entry Fees

  • TBC Deadline: Approx. June/ July 2019

Contest Prizes

  • Two Grand Prize winners are flown to Los Angeles and introduced to producers and executives AND receive a NYFA Fellowship.
  • Over thirty past winners have sold scripts, received representation, or gone on to professional writing careers.

Check out the Big Break Screenwriting Contest >> 

Slamdance Screenplay Competition

This is one of the best screenplay contests around as it has a history of highlighting talented, independent screenwriters and introducing them to the entertainment industry.

The Slamdance screenplay completion consists of four categories—Feature, Horror, Short and Teleplay/Webisode—and the top three scripts in the first two categories receive passes to the Slamdance Film Festival, $2,500 in legal services and membership to the WGA’s Independent Writers Caucus.

Deadlines & Entry Fees

  • TBC Deadlines: approx. June 2019

Contest Prizes

  • A total of cash prizes of $16,000.
  • Grand Prize winner will receive $8,000 in cash. 
  • Winners of the Feature, Horror, TV Pilot, and Short categories will receive $2,000 in cash, each. 

Check out the Slamdance screenplay completion >>

Page Screenplay Contest

Over the years the Page Awards have become widely recognized as one of the most important screenwriting competitions and sources for new writing talent within the Hollywood community and worldwide.

Each year dozens of top producers, agents, and development execs judge the contest and read the winning screenplays. Many of the winning writers have landed script assignments, secured representation, and signed option agreements on their work, and many now have movies and television shows in production, on the air, and in theaters.

Deadlines & Entry Fees

  • Early: January 15, 2019 ($45 entry fee)
  • Regular: February 15, 2019 ($55 entry fee)
  • Late: March 15, 2019 ($65 entry fee)
  • Last Minute: April 15, 2019 ($75 entry fee)

Contest Prizes

  • $25,000 for Grand Prize winner
  • $1,000 for Gold Prize winners
  • $500 for Silver Prize winners
  • $250 for Bronze Prize winners

In addition, along with co-sponsors InkTip, TV Writers Vault, and Roadmap Writers, they will actively publicize and promote your winning script, giving you a shot at the ultimate prize: the chance to get your screenplay produced.

Check out the Page Screenplay Contest >>

best screenwriting contests 2019

Sundance Screenwriters’ Lab

Out of all the top screenwriting contests listed, this is the only one to feature a five-day writing retreat with top professional screenwriters. The lab was created by Robert Redford in 1981 and has proved itself to be one of the very best ways to break into the industry for an aspiring screenwriter.

Every year, Sundance Institute provides over $400,000 in financial support to aspiring screenwriters, filmmakers, directors, and talent from other areas of the industry through a series of fellowships and labs.

Deadlines & Entry Fees

  • TBC Deadline: approx. May 2019 ($40 application fee)
  • Date of Lab: January 2020

Contest Prizes

The Sundance Screenwriters’ Lab gives independent screenwriters the opportunity to work with creative advisors on their feature scripts through a series of one-on-one story sessions and the best films have the chance to screen at the Sundance Film Festival.

Check out the Sundance Screenwriters Lab >>

Zoetrope Screenplay Contest

Francis Ford Coppola’s motion picture production company, Zoetrope, offers $5,000 to the grand prize winner of its screenwriting contest, plus excellent Hollywood industry exposure.

The winner and ten finalists will be considered for representation by William Morris Endeavor, CAA, The Gersh Agency and more. Finalist’s scripts are also considered for film option and development by leading production companies, including American Zoetrope, Samuel Goldwyn Films, Fox Searchlight, Sony Pictures Classics and more.

Deadlines & Entry Fees

  • TBC Deadline: approx. June, 2019 ($40 – $50 entry fee)

Contest Prizes

  • Cash prize of $5,000

The prizewinners and honorable mentions will be considered for representation by William Morris Endeavor, ICM, the Wylie Agency, Regal Literary, the Elaine Markson Literary Agency, Inkwell Management, Sterling Lord Literistic, Aitken Alexander Associates, Barer Literary, the Gernert Company, and the Georges Borchardt Literary Agency.

Check out the Zoetrope Screenplay Contest >>

BlueCat Screenplay Competition

This is one of the best screenwriting competitions to enter if you’re an international screenwriter looking to break into the film industry. Their Fellini award is $5000 and given to a screenwriter from outside the US.

Winners of the BlueCat screenplay competition have gone on to start careers in the industry having been signed by a talent agency, sold their scripts or won major film festival awards.

Deadlines & Entry Fees

Late Deadline: January 20, 2019 (Feature Screenplay $80 entry fee, Pilot (Hour) $75, Pilot (Half-Hour) $70, Short Script $65, Short Film $65)

Contest Prizes

  • The Feature Screenplay Winner will receive $10,000.
  • Four Feature Finalists will receive $1,000 each.
  • The Fellini Award Winner for the best script will receive $5,000. 
  • The Pilot Winners (hour and half-hour category) will receive $5,000 each.
  • Four Pilot Finalists for each category will receive $500 each.

Check out the BlueCat screenplay competition >>

best screenwriting contests 2019

Cinestory Foundation Fellowship & Feature Retreat

Cinestory is a script writing competition with an outstanding track record in launching screenwriters’ careers. Top scripts are requested by companies such as Paradigm, The Lisa Callamaro Agency, Energy Entertainment and many more.

Finalists’ prizes include cash but, probably more importantly, a one-year fellowship and screenwriting retreat in which they’re paired with a Hollywood professional to mentor their career.

Deadlines & Entry Fees

Feature Retreat:

  • Early: January 2, 2019 ($55 entry fee)
  • Regular: February 4, 2019 ($65 entry fee)
  • Late: March 11, 2019 ($75 entry fee)
  • Extended Late: April 15, 2019 ($80 entry fee)
  • Date of Retreat: October 19 – 22, 2019

Contest Prizes

  • Cash prize of $10,000
  • 12-month fellowship program with two industry mentors ($9000 value)
  • At the retreat, three 90-minute one-on-one sessions with working Hollywood agents, managers, producers, development executives and other pros to discuss the writer’s work and career strategy.

Check out the CineStory Foundation script contest >> 

best screenwriting contests

Save the Cat! Screenplay Challenge

Save the Cat! has just premiered their first screenplay challenge and their premise is simple: “A screenplay competition that uses the same language the writer, the reader and the decision makers use.”

Their focus is on structure and marketability to help set participants up for successful pitch meetings and script submissions. All screenplay submissions receive feedback in the form of a report containing 50 points of analysis based on the Save the Cat! beat sheet methodology.

Deadlines & Entry Fees

  • Regular Deadline: January 31, 2019: $135 USD
  • Late Deadline: February 22, 2019: $140 USD
  • Extended Deadline: March 15, 2019: $145 USD

Contest Prizes

Grand Prize Winner

  • Live table read to bring your work to life
  • 3-day trip to LA ($600), 3-night hotel stay ($1200)
  • In-person pitch to an LA-based production company, Treehouse Pictures
  • Black List and InkTip 1-year subscription
  • Poster/key visual development
  • Save the Cat! 4.0 Software

Check out the Save the Cat screenwriting competition >>

The Best Screenwriting Contests: Honorable Mentions

This post has focused on the top ten very best screenplay competitions you should enter. However, there are a few other screenwriting competitions that are worth checking out also. Here’s the list:

best screenwriting contests

Something To Remember Before Entering Screenwriting Contests…

Perhaps one of the biggest mistakes aspiring screenwriters make is sending their work to screenwriting contests, agents and managers when it’s not yet ready. As you’ve probably heard before, you only get one shot at this, so make sure your screenplay is in the best shape it can be before you enter it into one of these best screenwriting contests.

Once it’s been rejected it’s too late, so check out our script coverage services and help us give your script the best possible chance of placing highly in a screenwriting competition.

best screenwriting contests

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We hope this review of the best screenwriting competitions out there has helped. And don’t forget to check out our Screenwriters’ Calendar which lists all deadlines for the best screenwriting contests 2019 as well as the top screenwriting festivals, labs, courses etc.

More posts on how to submit your screenplay to screenwriting contests…

EVENT & CONTEST CALENDAR
FOR SCREENWRITERS 2019

SCREENPLAY SUBMISSIONS 101: HOW TO SUBMIT A SCREENPLAY LIKE A PRO

 

46 Comments
  1. James Isac says:

    I’ve entered 3 contests. What do you think will be the next step ? Thanks for your answer.

    1. Script Reader Pro says:

      Have these contests released the winners yet?

  2. Juliane says:

    I recommend The Second City’s Comedy Screenplay Contest for all comedy writers.

    1. Script Reader Pro says:

      Thanks for sharing, Juliane.

  3. Ellen says:

    Can I do this even if I live in Australia

    1. Script Reader Pro says:

      Yes it doesn’t matter where you live.

  4. Alba says:

    I will enter Austin, PAGE and Big Break this year. I feel like my script is finally ready!!

    1. Script Reader Pro says:

      Good luck, Alba. Fingers crossed! Let us know how you’re getting on.

  5. Yolanda says:

    If you’re a new writer looking for reinforcement that you have any talent for this, take your best work and enter it in on of the top competitions. Place reasonably well, and then put the knowledge that you don’t suck at this in your back pocket and start writing to sell. That’s my advice.

    1. Script Reader Pro says:

      Thanks for sharing your advice. It’s not a bad strategy!

  6. Lorenzo says:

    You only get one chance to make a first impression, so thanks for sharing the best competitions in the industry. I want to make it count.

    1. Script Reader Pro says:

      Good luck, Lorenzo.

  7. Will Domi says:

    I think the top few contests those you mentioned above are worth taking a shot at and can bring readings and connections and open doors, but they should only be entered once you have developed your craft and written a few screenplays that you would dare to be read by someone in the industry.

  8. pouyan says:

    Can I do this even if I live in iran

    1. Script Reader Pro says:

      Yes, you can enter from anywhere in the world.

  9. Sherilyn Harrington says:

    I think the best screenwriting contests are Nicholl, Scriptapalooza and Sundance. Everything else is a waste of your time and money in my opinion.

  10. Manoj Kumar says:

    Can i participate in this competition sir

  11. Petra Craigen says:

    Eye opener! It’s really hard to know which contest is a good investment. Thanks for sharing this list

  12. Steph G. says:

    The Filmmatic contest I entered last year was professionally run, and I see some solid press going out regarding their finalists/winners (I was a finalist 😉 ).

    screenplayawards.org

    I also had a good experience with BlueCat…

    1. Script Reader Pro says:

      Congrats, Steph!

  13. Prema Rose says:

    I have won 8 awards to date for my animated/live action musical The MicroCosmic Cartoon Show. Some are festivals and some are competitions. You only mention a few of the good ones to submit to, yet there are more quite reputable ones such as:
    Worldfest, Oaxaca, Filmmatic, and Write Movies, to mention others. I think it is a mistake to only go for the top tier. You want to have eyeballs on your work so that you get a sense of how it is being received in the marketplace. I prefer ones that have a variety of sub-categories, since my genre is pretty unusual.

    1. Script Reader Pro says:

      Congrats, Prema!

  14. Elizabeth says:

    Can anyone tell me if it makes a difference whether you do early, regular or late deadline for a screenplay contest?

    1. Script Reader Pro says:

      It doesn’t make any difference – what matters is the quality of the script. Best of luck!

  15. Tony says:

    I made the top 10 in Zoetrope and it did zero in terms of getting me any exposure. And I mean zero. I’ll say the same about Scriptapalooza, even though that’s not listed here.

    1. Script Reader Pro says:

      Sorry to hear that. Unfortunately, you generally need to win or place in the top 2 or 3 to get some kind of exposure in most contests.

  16. sisay says:

    Hi their my name is Sisay Asefa, I’m a screenwriter. I finished my screenplay, so can you accept my screenplay?

    1. Script Reader Pro says:

      Hi, Sisay, you can find all of our script coverage services here.

  17. Tom H. says:

    I was going to go full time into screenwriting after I retired. I was in the music and comedy industry for 40 years. However, my issue is that I was exposed to Agent Orange when I was in Vietnam in 1969. (thebooksnafu.com) and don’t know how much longer I have to live. Would I be wasting my time and money to even make the attempt?

    1. Script Reader Pro says:

      It’s never too late, Tom, but we’d be happy to check out your work to give you a better idea.

  18. Rajesh D says:

    Thank you. Great list!

  19. DS says:

    I’ve won or placed in a few of these, but honestly I think you’d be remiss to not include TrackingBoard/Launch Pad Pilot Launch on here.That was the one I received the most industry introductions from.

    1. Script Reader Pro says:

      Sounds good, keep the good work. TrackingB is in the honorable mentions.

  20. Anthony says:

    What about the PAGE awards contest? thats one of the best screenwriting contests and you left it out.

  21. Vanessa says:

    I think contests like Nicholl and Austin can do wonders for someone’s career but the others… not so sure. Maybe for validation?

  22. Giuessepe says:

    I did the Sundance Labs (which is listed here) and it changed my life. I also have a friend who got an agent because a script of his landed in the top 50 of the Nicholl.

    Some of these like Nicholl and Sundance are definitely worth a shot, but like everything the gatekeepers’ taste is subjective and you shouldn’t take rejection as a knock against your talent.

  23. Heike R. says:

    Lovely just what I was searching for. Can’t wait to apply for my first screenwriting contest.

  24. Steve says:

    I did receive bad feedback the first year I submitted to screenwriting contests. I submitted to 4 and didn’t advance in any of them. But it didn’t send me down. I worked harder, wrote 2 new scripts and submitted again and got into the 2nd round in AFF.

  25. Petro says:

    I was a semi-finalist in the BlueCat screenwriting contest last year.

  26. Sophia says:

    I like screenplay contests because the deadlines pushed me to finish and polish my scripts and the confidence I have gained has helped me network and get scripts read.

  27. Jospeh Racano says:

    I wanna admit that this is very helpful, it’s quite hard to know which screenwriting contests are worth my time.

  28. Rameez says:

    What’s your opinion about script pipeline?

  29. DEBDAS DEBNATH says:

    I have written a fiction fiction novel of 410 pages and ready for publishing as book. I m from India. Writing more than 10 novels as per script of Hollywood style movie. Please tell how I can sale or submit it.

  30. Pete Whiting says:

    There are good screenplay competitions and bad ones. Some give you cash, some give you opportunities or makes doors open and ultimately get your script to screen.
    Want a genuine career? Enter the big renowned screenplay competitions and hopefully place high or win. Get that on your writing resume and query letters.
    Have one good script and wanna win some cash and throw the hat in the ring? Then go for something that is less reputable where the focus is just money and maybe judges less harsh on their standards.
    If you enter every screenwriting competition, you’ll be broke pretty quick. So choose wisely.
    I was semi-finalist in Stage 32 2017 screenplay competition. Never had a phone call or email from anyone and still have no agent. Smaller and medium studios have all responded positively to query letters and most have said they want the script but the budget is too high. They love it but simply can’t do it. Lesson – make sure your first script is a simple, affordable one that appeals to a wide range of studios and producers. Sadly, my script would only appeal to major studios and I have no chance of getting it in front of them as I am a first time writer with no agent.

  31. Dhruv patel says:

    I want to share my story ,But I don’t know English very well..
    And I don’t have enough money to pay..
    If you help me to pay money , I will return it to you after won this competition..✍️

  32. Mavis Welsh says:

    Where are the best places to source film, tv, pilot scripts etc for reading? Matt

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