Grab your free STRUCTURE HACK and more screenwriting awesomeness!COUNT ME IN!


The 10 BEST

To Supercharge Your Career
In 2018



Sign up to our newsletter to get your FREE structure hack + monthly screenwriting articles & special offers

instant access
Yes, I want to receive the latest screenwriting tips. Read more about how we use your info.
Featured In
January 30, 2018 13 comments
best screenwriting contests

What Are The Best Screenwriting Contests To Enter In 2018?

It’s a well known fact that many top screenwriters got their big breaks from winning competitions, but what are the best screenwriting contests to enter in order to kick-start your career? 

Do you enter the big screenwriting contests like the Nicholl, with thousands of entrants, or the smaller regional ones with relatively few? Do you enter one, or twenty? All of these questions and more will be answered below as we take a look at the very best screenwriting contests worth entering in 2018.

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

best screenwriting contests

Austin Film Festival Teleplay & Screenplay Contest

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, with representatives from agencies and production companies participating in the judging process. Past judges include Focus Features, Lightstorm Entertainment, CAA and more.

  • Early Deadline: March 30 ($45 entry fee)
  • Regular Deadline: April 20 ($55 entry fee)
  • Late Deadline: May 15 ($70 entry fee)
  • Cash prize of $2,500 (Narrative Feature and Documentary Feature) or $1,000 (Dark Matters Feature, Comedy Vanguard Feature, Narrative Short, and Scripted Digital Series) or $500 (Narrative Student Short, Documentary Short, and Animated Short)
  • Reimbursement (up to $500) of one round-trip airfare to Austin to attend the 2018 Festival
  • Reimbursement (up to $500) for stay at an AFF partner hotel during the 2018 Festival
  • AFF Brass 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 >>

Blue Cat Screenwriting Contest

This screenwriting competition holds a longstanding tradition of giving written notes to every screenplay submitted. Each feature screenplay entered receives two analyses, while each short receives one.

BlueCat has one of the largest cash prizes in the world for a short screenplay contest, with the winner being awarded $5,000. The Grand Prize for the Best Feature Screenplay is $10,000.

  • Regular Deadline: February 1 (Entry Fees: Feature Screenplay $60, Pilot (Hour) $55, Pilot (Half-Hour) $50, Short Script $50)
  • Final Deadline: February 20 (Entry Fees: Feature Screenplay $65, Pilot (Hour) $60, Pilot (Half-Hour) $55, Short Script $55)
  • The Feature Screenplay Winner will receive $10,000. Four Feature Finalists will receive $1000 each.
  • The Pilot Winners will receive $5,000, one Winner for half-hour pilots and one Winner for hour pilots. Four Pilot Finalists for both categories will receive $500 each.
  • The Short Script Winner will receive $5,000. Four Shorts Finalists will receive $500 each.
  • The Fellini Award will be awarded to the Best Feature Screenplay of the 2017 Competition written by a screenwriter residing outside the USA and will receive $1000.

Check out Blue Cat >>

best screenwriting contests

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.

  • Early Bird Deadline: March 14 ($40 entry fee)
  • Regular Deadline: June 18 ($50 entry fee)
  • Extended Deadline: July 2 ($65 entry fee)
  • Last Chance Deadline: July 17 ($75 entry fee)
  • 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 Big Break >> 

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.

  • Early deadline: March 7 ($45 entry fee)
  • Regular deadline: April 10 ($60 entry fee),
  • Late deadline: May 1 ($85 entry fee)
  • 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 >> 

Page Awards Screenwriting Contest

Over the years the Page Awards have become widely recognized as one of the most important screenwriting contests 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.

  • Early Deadline: January 15 ($45 entry fee)
  • Regular Deadline: February 15 ($55 entry fee)
  • Late Deadline: March 15 ($65 entry fee)
  • Last Minute Deadline: April 16 ($75 entry fee)
  • $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 Awards >> 

best screenwriting contests

Scriptapalooza Screenwriting Contest

Past winners have won Emmys, been signed by agents, managers, had their scripts optioned and made into movies. One of the best parts about placing highly in this screenwriting contest, however, is that Scriptapalooza will do something no other competition in the world does: promote, pitch, and push the semifinalists and higher for a full year.

  • Early Bird Deadline: January 5 ($45 entry free)
  • First Deadline: February 1 ($50 entry fee)
  • Regular Deadline: March 1 ($55 entry fee)
  • Late Deadline: April 16 ($60 entry fee)
  • Final Deadline: April 30 ($65 entry fee)
  • The first place winner will receive $10,000 cash and all Genre winners will receive $500 cash.
  • Scriptapalooza will promote, pitch and push the Semifinals and higher for an entire year.
  • You will get access to over 150 producers, managers and agents that are actively looking for material.

Check out Scriptapalooza >> 

Script Pipeline Screenwriting Contest

Beyond cash prizes, finalists are given exposure to approximately 200 qualified industry contacts, as well as consultations with Script Pipeline’s Director of Development and Senior Consultant.

Winners also get personal introductions to managers, producers, agents, directors, and others searching for new projects and writers; an opportunity to send other material to Script Pipeline for internal review and a reserved spot to the Secret Door Pitchfest as a recognized finalist.

  • Early Deadline: March 1 ($55 entry fees)
Regular Deadline: May 1 (TBC)
  • $25,000 to winner
  • $1,000 to runner-up
  • Personal introductions to managers, producers, agents, directors, and others searching for screenplays
  • Development assistance with Script Pipeline execs
  • Additional script reviews for potential circulation
  • Long-term circulation to industry
  • Exclusive invitations to writer/industry events hosted by Pipeline Media Group

Check out Script Pipeline >> 

best screenwriting contestsSlamdance Screenwriting Contest

Slamdance has a history of highlighting talented, independent screenwriters and introducing them to the entertainment industry. The competition consists of four categories: Feature, Short, Horror and Teleplay/Webisode.

  • Early Deadline: April 9 (Entry Fees: Feature Screenplay $50-$65, TV Pilot (Hour) $45, TV Pilot (Half-Hour) $30, Short Script $25)
  • Regular Deadline: June 11 (Entry Fees: Feature Screenplay $60-$75, TV Pilot (Hour) $55, TV Pilot (Half-Hour) $55, Short Script $35)
  • Late Deadline: July 23 (Entry Fees: Feature Screenplay $75-$90, TV Pilot (Hour) $60, TV Pilot (Half-Hour) $50, Short Script $40)
  • A total of $16,000 in cash prizes will be awarded to the winners this year.
  • The Grand Prize winner will receive $8,000 in cash.
  • The winners of the Feature, Horror, TV Pilot, and Short categories will receive $2,000 in cash, each.
  • The top three screenwriters in each category will receive prize packages that include Festival Passes good for all screenings and parties at the Slamdance Film Festival in Park City, Utah (January 2019)
  • The top three screenwriters in the Feature and Horror category are eligible for membership in the Writers Guild of America’s Independent Writers Caucus.
  • The winning Horror feature and Feature screenplays will receive $2,500 in legal services from Pierce Law Group, LLP
  • Production companies, studios, top agencies and managers request to read our top scripts.

Check out Slamdance >> 

Sundance Screenwriters’ Lab

Out of all the 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.

  • TBC Final Deadline: approx. May (TBC entry fee)
  • Date of Lab: January 18-23, 2019

The core prize is getting the chance to decamp to Utah in June and rehearse and shoot up six scenes from your screenplay, while being mentored by “Creative Advisors” made up of world renowned writers, directors and actors.

Check out Sundance Screenwriting Lab >>

Zoetrope Screenwriting 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.

  • Submissions Open: July 1 (TBC entry fee)
  • TBC Final Deadline
  • First prize is $1,000
  • Second prize, $500
  • Third prize, $250

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 Zoetrope >> 

The Best Screenwriting Contests: Honorable Mentions

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

Creative World Awards
Nantucket Film Festival
Shore Scripts

best screenwriting contests

Why You Should Get Screenplay Coverage Before Entering A Screenwriting Contest

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


We hope this review of the best screenwriting contests out there has helped. If you’re not sure, though, if you want to enter a screenwriting contest in the first place, here’s a post on the pros and cons of entering screenplay contests.

And don’t forget to check out our Screenwriters’ Calendar which lists all deadlines for the best screenwriting contests as well as the top screenwriting festivals, labs, courses etc. in 2018.

  1. James Isac says:

    I’ve entered 3 contests, at the end of 2017. 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.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *



Sign up to our newsletter to get your FREE structure hack + monthly screenwriting articles & special offers

instant access
Yes, I want to receive the latest screenwriting tips. Read more about how we use your info.