Grab your free RESOURCES TOOLKIT and more screenwriting awesomeness!COUNT ME IN!


The 5 BEST

To Supercharge Your Career
In 2018

Discover Which Screenwriting Contests Are Among The Elite Few Worth Entering


We'll also send you the very best screenwriting tips, hacks and special offers on the web.

Featured In
by Script Reader Pro in Screenwriting Tips/Hacks
January 30, 2018 28 comments
Best Screenwriting Contests

What Are The 5 Best Screenwriting Contests To Enter In 2018?

Many screenwriters got their big breaks from winning screenwriting contests, 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 screenwriting 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 five screenwriting contests we believe can actually advance your career and are worth putting to the front of the line in your research.

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 >>

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.

  • 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 >> 

best screenwriting contests

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 >> 

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 >>

best screenwriting contests

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:

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.

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.

More posts on how submit your screenplay to screenwriting contests…

best screenwriting contestsEVENT & CONTEST CALENDAR




  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.

  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 😉 ).

    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.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.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


We'll also send you the very best screenwriting tips, hacks and special offers on the web.