Why Enter Contests?



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  • Why Enter Contests?

    As a relatively new writer who has now officially been twice dinked on my 2nd script, I am starting to ask myself why, exactly, we enter these contests. I didn't enter the Nichols or AFF because I didn't think I was at that level yet, but I did think my script was quite brilliant and entered in contests that I truly thought I had a prayer in, at least as a seme-finalist.

    One gave feedback, and I sorely needed that, so no big mystery there. I certainly got my $$ worth with Slamdance.

    Here are some other reasons I've thought of:
    To get representation (How often does that happen?)
    Prize $$
    Looks good on query letters or in pitch meetings

    To those of you who have been at this a while longer, or even some of you pros (are you there, Bill M?), what, if any, advantages do you see to entering contests? And, based upon that assessment, which contests do you deem the most worthwhile?

  • #2
    I think the main reason for serious writers to enter contests is to create buzz for themselves. Many writers have no connections and, thus, can't create any heat on their material. Prize money is nice and representation is what we are all after, but I, personally, don't enter contests to directly receive any of the representation that is supposedly promised. If I place highly in any of the major contests, I know that agents will take notice or, at the very least, be willing to take a look at a submission from an amateur who has done very well in say, the Nicholls. All the prizes don't mean as much as the possibility of getting an agent and getting people in the business saying your name and the name of your script.

    As for the contests to enter, I'd say the musts are Nicholls, Disney/ABC, Scriptapalooza, and anything else that an agent will immediately recognize. Stay clear of the ones that sound fishy and don't really offer anything as a prize. Not only will you not win anything substantial, agents won't care about said contests.


    • #3
      Another good reason is to actually test the quality and marketability of your writing.


      • #4
        Why Enter Contests?

        Sometimes contests reward scripts with good writing but low marketability -- expensive period pieces or tender coming-of-age stories with no high-concept hook. Most contests don't care if your screenplay would be easy to sell or not. Most agents and producers care very much.

        If you write the kind of stories that are low-concept and/or hard to sell, winning a big contest may be your best chance to get industry reads and attention. When you try to pitch a script that's hard to sell, you'll have a hard time getting anyone to read it. However, if you pay a contest entry fee, they have to read it. If it's good and does well in the contest, that may get you fans as well as validation that may make it easier for you to get reads in the future.


        • #5
          Why Enter Contests?

          -- Contests can serve as stepping-stones.
          Winning writers (and occasionally runners-up) have used the "heat" generated by their contest victory to jump-start their careers. Winners of the largest contests usually find an agent quickly (if not already represented). Their scripts are welcomed by major production companies and studios. This leads in turn, if the writer so desires, to a round of meetings with countless development execs. Major-contest-winning writers have often sold or optioned a script or been hired to write or rewrite a project within the first year after winning. This in turn will often lead to other work or other sales.

          -- Contest results can be added to a resume or query letter.
          Placing in a contest should certainly be mentioned in a query letter and can be added to a resume (if appropriate). While the mention of a victory or placement in an obscure contest will not guarantee positive responses from agents or producers, it can't hurt you. Mention of placement in major contests has often garnered writers reads at agencies and production companies.

          -- Contests can serve as a yardstick.
          While most contests do not offer any kind of written feedback or notes on an entrant's script, they may serve generally to let her know whether her script is ready for submission to Hollywood agents and producers. Reaching the second round of any contest suggests that she's doing something right. Reaching an advanced round of highly competitive contests such as Chesterfield, Disney and Nicholl might suggest that her script is nearing or has met professional standards. On the other hand, being knocked out of one or several contests may suggest that her script isn't ready.

          -- Contests can open doors and initiate professional contacts.
          Since many contests use Hollywood professionals as judges at advanced levels, it is possible to make contact directly by advancing in a competition. Some contests provide lists of quarterfinalists, semifinalists and finalists to interested agents, producers and development execs. Writers have made professional contacts through this distribution. For a very few writers, these initial contacts have led directly to a career.

          -- Contests offer an outlet.
          When a writer has no other means of getting his script to someone in Hollywood, contests offer an opportunity to get that script read.

          -- Contests typically offer equal opportunity for all entrants.
          Competitions, especially those with blind reading policies, don't consider any entrant's age, gender, race or sexual orientation.

          -- Contests offer deadlines.
          A few writers have been known to complete scripts when a deadline looms.


          • #6
            Some good points. It's also a wise decision to assess what you're after before submission. Fortunately many of these contests offer various prizes, from exposure to cash. If it's an agent you're after than obviously give those contests that offer that a shot. If it's strictly cash you're after- you get the picture.

            Try to stick with the top 5 or so, as mentioned above, but always look into the smaller, less known contests as well, sometimes there's gold in them hills. DD offers some great insight into the scammers and such, so just be sure to check back here before jumping into the small fries.

            As to the original question, personally I like to gamble, so the contests provide me a fix of sorts, but that's just me