Are screenwriting competitions a waste of time?

This is something that I am often asked – firstly, there are a number of websites such as Film Freeway, that allow you to submit your scripts to various film festivals and screenwriting contests internationally.  

If you are looking to have your work appreciated, if you are looking for laurels to place on your posters that make it look more attractive to literary agents and managers, then do it. But there some things you should know:

  • It’s not cheap.  Prices range from $10 to $200 per festival – there are a lot around the $30 mark, but even then, you need to submit to ten to get even a few acceptances.
  • I’m not convinced most of these festivals even bother to read your script. They can receive hundreds and often have to trim down the entries to a number they can read, so it’s pot luck if they even look at it – so it’s like rolling a dice.  The best festivals will bother to read, if they are selected – but it’s not likely.
  • Communication from a number of these festivals is very poor.  If you can’t attend (and some of them are online anyway) it may take months to know how your script did.
  • These festivals make a fortune from fees charged to submitters – in some cases, it’s just another way to make money from us creatives.
  • You won’t get a movie deal from your entries. It’s incredibly unlikely that anyone will ever do anything with your script, even if it wins – albeit, you never know.
  • There is rarely any prize money or reward for finishing… you even have to pay for trophies on some occasions.

So why do it at all?  Well when one of the competitions actually does read your script, and you get an award…

  • Your writing gets some validation
  • It feels great.
  • Someone might read it that wants to make it (albeit unlikely)
  • You can show potential literary agents and producers that you are an award-winning writer.
  • If you aren’t winning or getting to finals, you will know that something may be wrong with the script – you’ll know to get some more help with it.
  • All PR is good PR when it comes to getting recognition from your work.
  • When a producer wants to make something – he’s more likely to want to trust an award winning writer than one who’s kept the screenplay in a draw for 20 years.

Even if you win, this is not guide to it being a good screenplay – it might just be the best of a bad bunch, but it’s something.  But the thing is, you have to see each fee as investment into the credibility of your writing.  There will be no early tangible difference to your writing career, but it will make you more confident and people, will, eventually, start to take you more seriously if you keep winning.

The key thing is to make sure the script is good before you send it off to competitions.  Redrafting, constant improvements, seeking professional advice is all part of the process – only enter a comp when your screenplay feels done. Not 100% done (I rewrite my screenplays a little, every time I open them) but done enough to be well received.  Don’t wait for it to be perfect or you’ll never get there.

If you want more info, head to https://filmfreeway.com/ – there are others too, you can find them with any quick google search.

There are some writers who will tell you not to bother and some who swear by it… make your own decision and in the meantime, if you need help with your script, maybe I can help. Click here for more info. https://davidjkeogh.co.uk/my-services/

Keep writing!

Leave a Reply