A couple years ago when I finished my first script, I had no idea what to do next. Unlike fiction, you can’t just send queries to agents and expect any kind of response, even rejections.
Screenwriting contests and script competitions are one avenue to get industry attention. These are the best options based on my experience and research.
1. Nicholl Fellowships – This is the best one out there. You’ll get inquiries even if you’re a quarterfinalist (top 250 out of 5,000). As a semifinalist (top 100), you’ll get blasted with emails for a month, and they’ll continue to trickle in for up to a year.
4. Big Break
There are hundreds of contests out there, and they mostly cost between thirty and fifty bucks to enter. Big Bear Lake International Film Festival is an example of a smaller competition that has seen winners go on to actual careers in the industry. You can find many other contests at Without a Box.
Are contests a scam? Are they a way just to raise money? I believe they’re largely legit. I’ve done the math, and script contests are not big profit centers. Something on the scale of the Nicholl certainly loses money. It’s the software companies and the expensive seminars and script doctors (and MFA programs) that feed on Hollywood dreams and make serious money from them.
Industry professionals are definitely interested in contest winners and finalists. This route has worked for me. I’m still a working stiff writer and haven’t sold anything. But I’ve had a lot of good reads and I’m now rewriting one of my scripts for an indy company, so my one sliver of a chance has come directly from my experience with contests.