Screenwriting competitions are definitely NOT created equal. (No offense to the Eastern Pocatello Auxiliary Kiwanis Screenwriting competition.)

Some can gain you access to film-industry insiders and skyrocket your screenwriting career into the next stratosphere. Others offer little more than an opportnity to “donate” $75 to the coffers of the screenwriting contest.

But which screenwriting competitions should you enter? Which screenwriting contests can ACTUALLY do something for your screenwriting career?

Here is a fast look at 10 Screenwriting competitions you’d be an idiot NOT to enter: (Scores based out of 10.0)

Screenwriting Competitions That Don’t Suck #1: Don and Gee Nicholl Fellowship

This is the BIG KAHUNA. The grand enchilada. The pre-eminent screenwriting competition in the world sponsored by the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences. (Mostly because it’s not JUST a simple contest, but it’s a fellowship where winners are awarded a one-year stipend to work on a script.) And though it’s extremely competitive, simply being a semi-finalist for this competition have your phone ringing off the hook from producers and agents. (Which is why it’s helpful to have a few scripts in your drawer when entering.)

Deadline: May
Info: http://www.oscars.org/awards/nicholl/

Screenwriting Competitions That Don’t Suck #2: Warner Bros. TV Writer’s Workshop

Like the name implies, this one ain’t just a competition – it’s a fully-integrated workshop designed specifically for TV writers. And though you MAY not think your writing skills are wired for the small-screen, if you’ve got a romantic comedy or police procedural sample rolling around in your desk drawer, then this year-long workshop might just be the perfect vehicle for your dialogue-heavy screenwriting craft. (Great for playwrights too!)

Deadline: May
Info: http://writersworkshop.warnerbros.com/

Screenwriting Competitions That Don’t Suck #3: Austin Heart of Film Screenplay Competition

This competition does double-duty as a film festival – and networking event – that provides would-be pro screenwriters the chance to meet industry types in a relaxed, non-Hollywood setting. Not only does the list of past winners contain a bunch of screenwriters who’ve used the competition as a springboard for jumping into the movie business, but it’s one of the few script competitions where you actually get the chance to meet the organizers. (And possibly get to give an acceptance speech after your third gin and tonic.)

Dedline: April
More Info: http://www.austinfilmfestival.com/submit/screenplayandteleplay/40

Screenwriting Competitions That Don’t Suck #4: Page International Screenwriting Awards

The prizes are impressive. (25K is the grand prize!) But it’s the success its winners have gone on to have in the screenwriting biz. Best of all, it’s an international contest. (So no worries if your story doesn’t contain robots that turn into Ford Trucks.)

Deadline: February
More Info: http://pageawards.com/

Screenwriting Competitions That Don’t Suck #5: Script-a-Palooza

Going strong for sixteen years now, the BIG draw of this screenwriting contest is the collection of judges: producers, literary agents, and managers. This competition tends to attract lots of young, emerging Hollywood development talent. (A perfect way to create your own entree into the film biz.) And besides. how cool is a name like “Script-a-Palooza?”

Deadline: April
More Info: http://www.scriptapalooza.com/home.php

Screenwriting Competitions That Don’t Suck #6: Slamdance Screenplay Competition

Forget Sundance. This showcase for raw and innovative filmmaking might just be the best script competition in Utah. Offering a great venue to get feedback from actual fillmakers – not just agency interns – this well-respected contest is a must-add to your submission list. (Well respected in the industry as well.)

Deadline: June
Info: http://www.slamdance.com/

Screenwriting Competitions That Don’t Suck #7: Sundance Screenwriter’s Lab

Okay, so maybe you shouldn’t forget Sundance entirely. This five-day intensive workshop is super-competitive – as you’d expect – and does (usually) prefer scripts with a “message.” But this respected script competition gives independent screenwriters time to work on their scripts with the assistance of development pros. (Not to mention provide some amazing scenery to look at while you procrastinate.)

Deadline: January and June
Info: http://www.sundance.org/programs/screenwriters-lab/

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About The Author

Michael Rogan
Editor, ScriptBully Magazine
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Michael Rogan is a former screenplay reader and optioned screenwriter. He is also the founder and editor-in-chief of ScriptBully magazine, and has written a few non-sucky books including "How to Write a Book That Doesn't Suck (and Will Actually Sell)". He has made it his mission to help screenwriters kick ass - and rid the world of films based on action-figure lines.

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