A Writer’s Perspective: Competition Season Is Winding Down

For the aspiring screenwriter it’s getting close to the time to finalize those scripts, clean up that rewrite, and get the checking account stocked up. It’s competition season and some important deadlines are looming.

Film festivals are a blast and you get to see some amazing new work, but they are also a way of starting a career. Or they could be. To someone. I don’t know, but that’s the hope. The dream. To enter a competition and do well, or to win, and don’t worry about the prize money or the trophy because the real prize would be getting the interest of an agent. Tiny, yet huge, steps here.

There are only a few screenwriting competitions I really pay attention to. Here they are in no certain order.



The Austin Film Festival

A personal favorite of mine. I love the city and the festival itself is a pretty fantastic resource for aspiring filmmakers and a total four day party. The festival is attended by some of Hollywood’s finest, and hopefully you’ll get to meet them and if your script advances far enough you might even get read by someone who can help you get a leg up on starting a career.

The early submission deadline is May 1st 2013 and will cost you $40 per entry. The late deadline hits on June 1 2o13 and that will cost you $50 to enter.

Of the three competitions, Austin does the best at selling itself. From their site —


For the past two decades, Austin Film Festival has been launching writers into their careers. This year, AFF is celebrating its longevity and exponential growth by creating a week to change your life. With one of the most recognized and prestigious Screenplay and Teleplay competitions, AFF breaks out newcomers from the privacy of their desks straight into the industry. Whether your dream is signing a contract, landing an agent, learning craft from an industry icon, or taking home the coveted Bronze Typewriter Award, you can’t win if you don’t enter.

New for 2013: The Horror Award!

Due to an increasing demand for horror scripts by our industry judges, we’ve created a new horror award category for the Screenplay Competition. This category is open to any feature horror script including dark suspense, thriller, sci-fi and macabre themes.


While the Film Festival is jam-packed with great films, AFF Conference is maybe even better known in the industry. The Conference is an intense idea exchange, featuring dream participants like David Chase and Paul Feig and Caroline Thompson and Lawrence Kasdan; the hip, inclusive parties at night bring these veteran creators up close and personal with emerging writers and artists—the opposite of velvet ropes and VIP rooms. Screenplay Finalists and winners are presented alongside awardees like Frank Darabont, Eric Roth, and Chris Carter at the highly anticipated Awards Luncheon ceremony. Second Rounders, Semifinalists, and Finalists proudly show off registration badges which designate their placement in the Competition. By submitting a script, you tap into this underground-legend meet-up of pros and newcomers.


All entrants get registration discounts, with even bigger discounts when you place in the competition. “Second Rounders” (the esteemed top 10% in each category), Semifinalists, and Finalists attend special panels, programmed specifically for them, that take their script to the next level and reap the benefits of their competition placement.

Second Rounders in 2012 attended a panel called “The First Ten Pages” with Academy Award©-nominated producer Lindsay Doran (SENSE AND SENSIBILITY, STRANGER THAN FICTION) where she read and evaluated the first 10 pages of selected Second Round scripts and helped the writers refine those crucial first pages. 2012 Semifinalists and Finalists also attended a panel where previous AFF Screenplay Competition alumni discussed how they made the most of their placement, and a panel called “The Heart of the Matter” where they could pitch, tweak and elevate their scripts with Pixar Development Executive Mary Coleman. In addition, Second Rounders and above receive AFF readers’ notes for their script.

At the semifinalist level and above, judges include professional writers and representatives from major studios and production companies actively seeking scripts and talent. In past years, judges have included representatives from Oasis Media Group, Mosaic Media, ABC Studios, Paradigm Agency, Escape Artists at Sony, Fortis Films, Washington Square Arts, Tom Sawyer Entertainment, Artisan, CAA, Brant Rose Agency, William Morris, DreamWorks, and Pixar.

All Semifinalists and Finalists are included in the 2013 Producers Book, distributed to over 400 agents, managers, producers, and other industry professionals.


It’s no surprise past competition entrants have signed with Artisan, CAA, Brant Rose Agency, Metropolitan, William Morris, DreamWorks, Pixar, and Miramax, have had their scripts optioned and acquired and made, and have jumpstarted TV writing careers. 2010 Finalist Chris Cantwell had his script “Halt & Catch Fire” (co-written with partner Chris Rogers) ordered by AMC as one of four projects this year to go to pilot. Filming is slated to begin in 2013. AFF also has a great relationship with Franklin Leonard and his coveted Black List of “most liked” unproduced scripts. Appearing on his 2012 list are 2011 Comedy Screenplay Winner Max Taxe for his winning script “Goodbye, Felix Chester” and 2012 Drama Finalist Austin Reynolds for “From New York to Florida”.


As writing for TV keeps rising and growing as an art form, AFF expands and develops its Teleplay Competition to serve the configurations and special qualities of this category. AFF accepts both specs and pilots, for a spectrum of awards. Previous teleplay judges have included producers and writers fromAwake, Shameless, Castle, Lost, White Collar, King of the Hill, and Spin City, to name a few. And winners have used this Teleplay Competition as a direct route to more work, like Dan Steele, 2010 Sitcom Teleplay Winner, who was admitted into the Warner Bros. Workshop and is now a staffed writer on Gossip Girl, or VJ Boyd, 2008 Teleplay Finalist, who is currently a staff writer on the FX show Justified.

Winning the Enderby Entertainment Award and getting to take part in the luncheon amongst writers like Eric Roth and Chris Carter was amazing and surreal. After winning, several managers offered to read my script and I had my first meeting with an agent. Austin has definitely opened doors and given me more credibility as a writer.

Adeline Colangelo, Enderby Entertainment Award Winner for “The Break-Up Nurse”



The focus here is to be what Sundance once was — a place for truly unique and original content. One of my favorite scripts I’ve read, ‘Maria Full of Grace, was a winner a few years back and the film ‘Paranormal Activity debuted there are took off from the festival. So they do know how to pick them. A career isn’t a guarantee with a win, but its a good crowd to be in.

The regular deadline for the Slamdance Writing Competition is May 13 2013 with an entry fee of a $60, which goes up to $70 if you don’t make until their late and final July 2 2013 deadline.

A rundown from their site —

The Slamdance Screenwriting and Teleplay Competition is dedicated to discovering and supporting emerging writing talent. To that end, we are unveiling an exciting new partnership this year with JuntoBox Films who will be awarding a Grand Prize of $10,000 cash and a $50,000 production grant to the winning feature script. JuntoBox Films’ goal of producing films and finding writers with innovative and interesting stories is a great fit with what Slamdance strives to achieve.  

We welcome screenplays in every genre, on any topic, from anywhere in the world. A unique feature of the competition is providing constructive feedback for every entrant. In addition to this, we also offer a more intensive coverage service for a supplementary fee. Now in our eighteenth year, we have a history of highlighting talented, independent screenwriters and introducing them to the entertainment industry. All of our readers approach scripts differently, but in general we are looking for originality and promise in a work. As an organization, we strive to foster an independent spirit among new writers and filmmakers. We’ve established a strong track record through our competition successes and are committed to continuing our pursuit to champion outstanding new work.

Our competition consists of four categories. Awards are given to the top three scripts in each category. In addition to that, JuntoBox Films and Slamdance will present the new Grand Prize for the best feature length screenplay.

• Feature
• Short
• Horror
• Original Teleplay/Webisode


Academy Nicholl Fellowships

The Nicholl Fellowship is given by the Academy of Motion Picture Arts & Sciences and is pretty much the biggest deal of them all. All you need to tell your family and friends is that it’s tied to the Oscars and they’ll get a sense of the scope this fellowship is about. Getting into the final rounds will definitely get you some interest and possible reads from agents and whatnot.

The past winners are varied, from ‘Finding Forrester‘ to ‘Arlington Road‘ and ‘Closet Land.’ The late deadline is coming up in a matter of hours — April 11 2013 with a $65 entry fee.

Here’s a rundown from their site —

The Academy Nicholl Fellowships in Screenwriting competition is now open for submissions.

Up to five $35,000 fellowships are awarded annually. Fellowship recipients are expected to complete at least one original feature film screenplay during the Fellowship year. Fellowship payments are subject to satisfactory progress of the recipient’s work, as judged by the Academy Nicholl Fellowships Committee. Fellowship recipients, selected from approximately ten finalists in the competition, are announced in October. The winners and finalists are invited to participate in awards week ceremonies and seminars in November.

The Academy reserves the right to grant no awards if, in the opinion of the Academy Nicholl Fellowships Committee, no entry is of sufficient merit.

Applications are accepted online only. Entrants must register an online account, then log in to that account to access an application. The application is available only when the competition is open for submissions. You may confirm whether your script has been processed into the competition by logging into your online account. Due to the volume of entries received, it may take up to one week to see “confirmed” next to your script title. All entrants will receive notification of their status by e-mail sent no later than August 1 of each year.





Sites like Moviebytes and Done Deal Pro are full of lists for other competitions, but these are my personal favorites. Some folks love to enter anything they can, and make good connections that way. I’ve tried a swath of contests of various sizes but nothing quite feels as good or has actual potential like these three.

If anyone has other competition recommendations please send them in.

For other Austin and film festival reading, check out these previous articles —

A Writer’s Perspective: Jenni Prange Boran in Austin

A Writer’s Perspective: Austin Finalist Scott Larson

A Writer’s Perspective: Justin Sloan

From Dublin to Hollywood with writer Eilis Mernagh

Making Movies: Lundon Boyd of ‘Liars Fires and Bears’

Can the new Black List start a Career?

8 thoughts on “A Writer’s Perspective: Competition Season Is Winding Down

    1. Slamdance is one of my favorite festivals to enter. It’s in Park City the same time as Slamdance so it’s a bit expensive to make it to the actual festival, but I’d like to make it one year. It also has a wider variety of genres to enter under. You should check it out.

      1. I entered one year and may do so again. I didn’t know they had a festival associated with it. What about TrackingB? Didn’t include because the price is crazy high? I am a fan of Page because of the genre categories and because finalists are allowed to send in a revised version of their script.

        1. I mainly stick to competitions that have festivals attached. They feel more real — they’ve put in enough effort to host a festival, show films, and get Hollywood interest. That’s what I look for.

          I’ll look into TrackingB. Don’t know much about it.

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