Screenplay contests are everywhere it seems these days.  Which screenplay contests are the best ones to enter?

Participating in screenwriting contests is absolutely essential for writers who want to grow their scriptwriting careers in 2013.  Screenwriting contests not only provide much needed exposure, but winning a contest guarantees immediate production deal consideration, contacts with agencies and cash rewards that can help a screenwriter further his/her career.

The benefits of screenwriting contests even trickle down to non-winning scripts as they can get their screenplays noticed by some of the most successful screenwriters, agents and film and TV executives.  This can lead to production contracts even for the contestants who do not win the top prize.  

There are hundreds of screenwriting contests conducted every year throughout the United States and it can be difficult for screenwriters to choose which ones to enter.   Eric Edson and his staff at decided to highlight our favorite screenplay contests this month.  Several aspects of the contests were considered, including the judging panel, the rewards and even the networking opportunities offered to contestants.

The contests featured in this list – American Zoetrope Screenplay Contest, Nicholl Fellowships in Screenwriting, Scriptapalooza Screenplay Competition, Final Draft Big Break Screenwriting Contest and Blue Cat Screenplay Contest, we believe offer the highest amount of collective value to contestants and winners.

American Zoetrope Screenplay Contest – Show off your scriptwriting skills to Francis Ford Coppola

One of the primary reasons this contest is in the list is because it was created and is still judged by Francis Ford Coppola – the legendary director of Apocalypse Now and The Godfather. The contest is hosted by the American Zoetrope – a company that produces films and offers post-production services. The 11th annual American Zoetrope Screenplay Contest will be held this year where entries will be judged by Francis Ford Coppola and the American Zoetrope Staff, and the winner will be awarded a cash prize of $5,000.

Most importantly, the top 10 finalists could win representation from one of the best artist management agencies in Hollywood including William Morris Endeavor, and CAA. Contests give screenwriters a taste of the realities of scriptwriting, which cannot be replicated by screenwriting books. Interested contestants can get more details about a particular contest from its official website.

Nicholl Fellowships in Screenwriting – A scriptwriting contest from The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences

This is one of the most well-known screenwriting contests as it is conducted by The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences – the same organization that hosts the Academy Awards every year. The Don and Gee Nicholl Fellowships in Screenwriting competition receives thousands of entries each year and offers only five fellowships – each worth a whopping $35,000.

This competition is only for feature film scripts and the best five scripts are read by virtually every important agent, executive and production company in Hollywood. Even quarter and semi-finalists get numerous requests to read scripts, so any contestant can rest assured that he/she gets lots of opportunities to sell a screenplay. Winners of the quarter final round are judged by non-Academy film professionals and the semifinal round is judged by Academy members. The Academy Nicholl Committee judges the final winners of the fellowships. More contest information can be found on their website and Facebook page.

Scriptapalooza Screenplay Competition – A respected creative screenwriting contest

The Scriptapalooza Screenplay Competition is administered by Scriptapalooza and the competition was founded in 1998. The screenwriter of the best screenplay receives a grand prize of $10,000 and the potential to connect with close to 100 agencies and production companies. The main reason for this contest being featured in the top 5 is the fact that the judging panel consists of more than 80 managers, agents, producers and industry professionals who read entries. There is no doubt that this opens up a lot of opportunities for the contestants regardless of the final results. The Scriptapalooza competition has been featured in many important periodicals like Hollywood Reporter, Vanity Fair and Entertainment Weekly. Visit the website or the Scriptapalooza Facebook page for more information about this contest.

Final Draft Big Break Screenwriting Contest – Get your big scriptwriting break here

Final Draft is the biggest screenwriting software manufacturer, and their Final Draft software is used by thousands worldwide. The reason that the Final Draft Big Break Screenwriting Contest is one of the best is because of the huge number of awards they offer in different categories. This year, contestants can submit scripts for half and one hour television shows and scripts will be judged under 8 different genre categories. Most importantly, this contest is co-sponsored by Script Magazine, so winning scripts and writers are featured prominently in the on-line magazine. Additionally, winners are thrown a huge party at Beverly Hills. Not only do winners receive huge cash prizes but also the chance to be represented by some of the biggest agencies in Hollywood. Most of the past winners have secured representation and production deals. The Final Draft website and Facebook page offer more information about the contest and entry details.   

BlueCat Screenplay Competition – An upcoming scriptwriting contest

The BlueCat Screenplay Competition was started in 1998 by Gordy Hoffman – brother of celebrated actor Philip Seymour Hoffman, and is now run by him and Heather Schor. The winner of this contest receives $10,000 and $2,000 is awarded to each of the four finalists. There are two other prizes that are awarded to the best screenplays – The Cordelia Prize and the Joplin Award. The reason why this contest has been shortlisted is because it offers two screenplay analyses by multiple judges for every submission. So irrespective of the final results, all the contestants have an opportunity to get their work reviewed by the best minds in the industry. Also, it is one of the few contests that offers screenwriting tips and conducts workshops for budding writers. Screenwriters can find a wealth of information on the website and by subscribing to the BlueCat newsletter. More contest details can be found on their website and Facebook page.

About the author

Eric Edson is a long-time member of the Writers Guild of America and the author of “The Story Solution”, a scriptwriting book which describes the process of creating a captivating screenplay. Based around the book, Eric created a website called The Story Solution that serves as a virtual repository of information for budding screenwriters. Having written over seventeen feature screenplays and collaborated with major Hollywood studios like Sony, 20th Century Fox, Warner Brothers, etc., Eric enjoys offering advice, screenwriting tips and creative screenwriting workshops for individuals looking to become successful screenwriters.


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  • This sounds like a great event, that should attract some all-star talent from around the country in the world of screenwriting. A dream of mine would be to win something like this and parlay that into a career in Hollywood!

  • Merilwen Legyviel

    Joining a contest could be tedious and stressful. It also requires resources. Choosing the right contest to participate in could be challenging to a writer. By narrowing it down to five, Eric Edson makes the choice easier for a promising screenplay writer.

  • Kaitlyn Ramos

    There were a lot of script writing contests, and it’s so hard to choose which one to join. However, with this list, it’s now easier to decide.

    Thank you Eric for posting this! It will surely help those who were starting their career in script writing, and that includes me.

  • Kimberly Ann Morgan

    By providing this list, Eric Edson is giving the possible contestants a big favor. Writers don’t have to search for the right contest among hundreds of done every year. This list makes choosing which contest to join in a whole lot easier for a writer.

  • leo davenport

    This list saves us much time searching for and deciding which contest to join. It also gives us a peek at who will judge our work and what prizes and incentives we can look forward to.

  • Darryl Besse

    Thanks for this list of screenwriting contests! The American Zoetrope Screenplay Contest sounds so interesting, especially because screenwriters have the chance to get their work reviewed by Francis Ford Coppola. This article saves amateur screenwriters so much time and effort looking for the best contests.

  • Jes

    Indeed, Eric Edson’s list of Screenwriting Contests is a help for writers aspiring to join credible competitions. There’s so many out there to choose from. Joining in contests can open opportunities in ones career as a writer.

  • Liv Kutcher

    Thanks, this is such a helpful review.

    I’ve been trying to find something that could help me land with a great deal as soon as I step out of college and into the real world. And yes, joining any of these top screenwriting contests not just in L.A. but throughout the United States can be my ticket to success – the production deals, instant contacts with important industry business agencies, and of course the cash rewards could help get my ball rolling… And even if I don’t come up as the winner, the exposure to some of the biggest names in screenwriting, film and TV can lead to production contracts. This list is really promising!

  • Roger Standridge

    I would recommend the PAGE awards. Their readers are from the industry and their Judge’s Feedback is well worth the price. Who knows, you might get a break.

    If you’re a student, don’t forget the BEA contest. Who knows, you just might win one for your school.

  • Justin Lomb

    This is a great list. If I could offer my 2 cents, the most professional and efficient contest I’ve submitted to is the Hollywood Screenplay Contest. My good friends screenplay was optioned thanks to the contacts and exposure he received from HSC. I’m hoping to join their winner alumni myself.

  • John Dawson

    Great advice and content.

  • Don’t forget the Austin Screenwriting Competition! They treat writers with the true respect they deserve. I also recommend Happy Writers, PAGE and StoryPros.

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