It's that time of the year again. Contests are everywhere! And we urge you to submit. Some may be skeptical, but we're not. We know they have value and for more reasons than just the prizes. Sure you can win cash, trips or free software. But if you really want a career, you've got to get some awards on your wall. The absolute BEST way to get noticed these days is to win numerous contests, and not just the big ones. Enter smaller contests to build on your writing. Enter multiple contests to get a clear perspective on the notes you're receiving. Enter early and get feedback often because editing your work is important. As you rewrite from notes you'll move up from placing in contests, to winning contests, to being repped. But take your time! Don't be in a hurry. Baby steps. If you follow our 8 tips below, we're confident you'll find a faster path to making contests work for you!
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8 TIPS FOR ENTERING SCREENPLAY CONTESTS
1. Start Small: Enter less well-known competitions. There are numerous lists out there with the same 10 contests on them. If you've never won a contest, placed in a contest or received a gold star for your script, do not enter the TOP 10. You will not win. We don't mean to sound pessimistic but why run before you walk? The bigger contests are highly competitive with up to 7000 submissions. Smaller ones are a great way to get your feet wet, get incredible notes and even win amazing prizes, including cash, connections or trips. Your odds are better with smaller contests so take your time.
2. Never Submit an Unfinished Script: Does your mother love your script? We make this joke all the time but just because ma loves it, it doesn't mean it's ready. Make sure to have "industry" readers read and rate your work. Don't leave it up to your friends or family. This is a highly competitive industry that you CAN be successful in. But make sure your work is tip top so you don't waste your money or worse yet, get discouraged. The world needs your unique voice. Just be properly prepared to deliver your original stories to their highest level. That said, don't be afraid to get in the game to see where you place.
3. Contest Readers Don't Hate You: They really don't. More than anything they want to find a great script. There's truly nothing more exciting than finding an original voice. And because most screenwriters don't take their time to work their way up, they submit when the work is not truly ready. Take your time, learn the craft. We are all storytellers and this medium is a difficult one but it CAN be learned.
4. Your First Page Should Rock: Well, not really but certainly by page ten you do need to impress. It's just that competitive of a game. The reality is that the top agents, managers and producers will only give you ten pages to show them something authentic. So, write a great opening, introduce original characters or intrigue the reader with your unique voice. Of course, the script needs to keep their interest throughout, but this is a very important first step to grabbing the reader's attention.
5. Enter Contests with Feedback: Feedback from any contest, no matter how big or small, has value. Notes from smaller competitions will give you the feedback you need to ready your script for the bigger contests. So, you should always get feedback until you are winning consistently and even then, keep getting notes. When you sign with an agent or manager, they won't stop giving you feedback, so why would you think you don't need it now?
6. Listen to the Feedback: The more you hear repetitive notes, the more you need to listen and rewrite. You should always trust your instincts but if a note comes across your desk time and again, then you're not communicating something efficiently. Don't take it personally, challenge yourself to find a new way to get your point across.
7. Placing Can be as Good as Winning: Most reputable contests, big and small, can help you advance if you make the TOP 10. Heck, even if you get an honorable mention or make the semi-finals, you may be able to use this success to get an agent, manager or producer to read your work. It doesn't mean you're ready so be careful not to oversell your accomplishment until you've placed in multiple contests numerous times. The more you do, the more confidence you will have and the more likely you are to sell your script.
8. Enter Early or with Special Offers: Most contests have an early entry period with a much lower fee. If you're confident your script is ready, then save some cash by entering early. Or wait until there's special discount offer with multiple entries or free feedback. Like we said above, the more notes you get the better. While you wait for the contest results or feedback, start another screenplay, because writers write!