The screenwriting competitions you should like will very much depend on what you want to get out of it. To be clear: Don’t enter, if you don’t actually want the prize on offer.
For some the prestige, for others a big prize pay-out. Others are going to be drawn to the possibility of representation and others, to receiving worthwhile feedback.
Some writers talk of never entering a competition where the readers are paid to read.
For every writer though, the prospect of actually getting your film made, your words translated to the big screen is the overriding draw. But these different criteria will inevitably have you prioritising different festivals.
All this said, the clear winner, head and shoulders above all the others is the Nicholl Fellowship, run by the Academy. In terms of prestige, pay out, representation and getting you noticed, there is no other.
‘For the writer’ comps, Slamdance and Austin Film Festival come high. For cash pay-out, Big Break run by Final Draft is up there, not to mention the cache of being vaunted by the software everyone uses. Not a comp as such, but of course, gaining entry to the Sundance Fellowship is an invaluable asset for any screenwriter.
Tracking Board’s Launch Pad is very well-respected, tending to have larger than average entry count. They also have a very good reputation for gaining real traction with projects as much as agency representation, not just for the outright winner necessarily, but even projects that reach the Top 100. This is perhaps unsurprising when you consider the jury is made up of producers and agents. Just what the doctor ordered.
Then there are the ScreenCraft comps, well-liked because they run separate comps for different genres.
Honourable mentions have to go out to Blue Cat, Script Pipeline, Stage 32 and Page comps.
I have to say, I have a soft spot though for Big Apple and LA International.
As I say though, I think any writers first thoughts need to go out to what they wish to achieve with their screenplay and choose the comp that best fits those goals. Entering comps is not a cheap enterprise, with fees anything from $40-$80, depending where you hit their entry deadlines, and if you intend entering a few, this mounts up fast. I think I currently have five different screenplays going deep in seven different comps.
What can happen though is you get terrified with the impending cut-off and enter anyway, without perhaps thinking further as to what you stand to gain or want from the process. At any given time, there are so many comps willing to take your money, without necessarily offering a great deal in return.
In my opinion anyone who makes the last rounds of a good comp has done exceptionally. For me, I’m intent on doing so with a spread of screenplays, across a gamut of comps, to illustrate I’m no one trick pony, with an ability to write and then be seen across as large a field as possible, in my quest for representation. Happy writing.