Being a writer is just not enough when it comes to screenwriting. Of course, a person aiming to become a screenwriter must be brilliant with his/her storytelling and writing skills, but they must also know how to become a successful screenwriter.
This is where major screenwriting festivals come into play. Screenwriting festivals or contests are an excellent way to get your script read by professionals who have been working in the industry. Screenwriting festivals are organized at large where anyone willing to get their script into the limelight can apply to.
However, nothing worthy comes at free. One of the major drawbacks of screenwriting festivals and contests is their high submission fees. One willing to get their script recognized by the judges of screenwriting contests must have had immense patience and hope within.
But, the lucky ones who get their script read and awarded by these screenwriting festivals get a step ahead among all.
Winning a screenwriting contest can help you get recognized in the industry as an award-winning screenwriter and you might end up signing a deal with a production house for getting your script turned into a movie.
How can one apply to screenwriting festivals?
Screenwriting contests are not difficult to enter. The primary process to enter the biggest screenwriting festivals is through following the simple steps and guidelines mentioned on their website. The challenge is to win a screenwriting contest.
It is essential to keep a note of all the screenwriting festivals happening and their deadline to submit scripts. You can submit your best script to all these screenwriting contests and hope for the best.
The scripts submitted through these contests are read by a number of people before it finally gets selected for the final read by the judges.
Thus, one of the primary notes to keep in mind while submitting a script is that the script must be in PDF format. A PDF format is the most reliable and tender format of submitting any form of write-up anywhere that needs to be read and judged.
One can download their scripts in PDF format from the screenwriting software used to write them.
One must know that screenwriting contests get a huge number of applications every session. All of the scripts are definitely read, but one must wait patiently to get a judgment on their submissions.
Are screenwriting festivals worth it?
It is a difficult question to answer if screenwriting festivals are the best way to kickstart your screenwriting career. The industry has received many such screenwriters who have won a screenwriting competition, but the long process of these contests has also neglected worthy scripts.
Let us peek into the world of these contests through the experience of a Hollywood screenwriter with who I recently had an interaction. The screenwriter has chosen to be anonymous but passed on some essential insights into the culture of screenwriting festivals and contests.
According to him, Hollywood is more about making hits nowadays, than making good films. Your work will always be judged based on constraints learned or conveyed within the industry along with these guidelines.
For instance, since dramas are generally not top sellers, you are already starting at a disadvantage in the ‘marketability’ scoring factor.
Most competitions will have your work initially read by a ‘reader’ that may be responsible for five or more screenplays a day. Many readers have never written or produced a screenplay. Their qualifications are rarely provided, with the exception of coverage-only services.
If you’re looking for in-depth feedback for your script, you can check out some script coverage services first.
Some readers base their opinions on industry guidelines learned through story seminars. Some do have familiarity with works of comedy, but when it comes to the thriller or horror genre, they have little experience.
The odds of your screenplay being read by one of these high-ranking judges is minimal unless you happen to land in the top handful of screenplays from thousands submitted.
If your work becomes an ‘official selection’ or a ‘quarter-finalist’, it is almost certain you will not be contacted by an agent, manager, or producer as a result. However, you can put the laurels on your title page, which might prompt the next reader to pay closer attention to your work.
The fact is, people submitting to some of these competitions don’t know the background of the person performing the initial scrutiny of your work.
Their one opinion is the make-or-break factor as to whether your work moves forward. Some festivals and competitions take six months or longer to review and score your work.
If you are a classic screenwriter, you know the work does not end until the scene is shot, so waiting many months for feedback is counterproductive as you might have rewritten some or all of the work several times.
There are some pros and cons to these competitions as in every business.
The Black List is an honest competition however, it’s a tough game and in order to succeed you have to land in the top few to be considered.
If you chose feedback and one reader likes your work while another does not, your scores are averaged and that score appears with your script. It is expensive but has the highest chance of getting into Hollywood as a writer.
With Coverfly, only certain competitions and festivals are accepted in order to post accolades and improve your ‘ranking’. Most of these approved competitions take months to make decisions, and the accolade will only be considered after and if the competition/festival publicly posts the results.
They will not accept emails verifying your accolade, and don’t answer phones should the competition call them directly.
As for FilmFreeway, there is the ability to submit to competitions worldwide, as with other services. Some of the foreign and obscure competitions can be a bit sketchy, and as a writer, it’s always better to use caution as everyone’s looking for story ideas.
However, the FilmFreeway platform is easy to manage and almost every competition/festival on the planet is listed.
There are other competitions and services that will read and provide an overall opinion of your work, but typically you will not be able to see your scores unless you upgrade to full coverage.
Here are some rules to keep in mind while submitting:
- Look for the qualifications of the initial readers of your work. If you have the money, select coverage-only services.
- Always make sure your screenplay is as perfect as possible, as most competitions don’t accept rewrites without re-submitting the work.
- If you are a writer that massages your work frequently, submit to those competitions that provide scoring and feedback quickly.
I hope this article provides you with insights for improvement and doesn’t deter you from sending your script to long-term festivals and competitions.