First Draft: 12 Screenplay Contests to Consider

We took a poll of several Hollywood executives to get their perspective on the best screenplay contests for discovering new writers. In no particular order, here are the best screenwriting competitions and events, based on our talks with film and television executives, managers and agents.

1. Academy Nicholl Fellowship: Probably the most famous contest for screenwriting, the Nicholl is consequently one of the hardest to win. Last year the Nicholl received more than 7,000 entries! Over $35,000 worth of prizes are given each year. An anonymous Sony Executive said, “The Nicholl is a real star maker. It’s still the contest we all turn to, demand coverage for, and track. If you win the Nicholl people will know your name.” This year’s competition is closed, but submissions usually run from May through August with winners announced in November.

2. ScreenCraft Fellowship: Last year all three of ScreenCraft’s Fellowship winners got representation from managers and agents, and this year so did both the ScreenCraft Comedy winners. ScreenCraft’s writers have sold projects to top production companies. Jeff Portnoy, of Heretic Literary Management (and formerly Resolution Agency) had this to say: “ScreenCraft has, for me and many like me, become a dependable and invaluable resource for discovering talented screenwriters—it’s one of the best resources for writers who want to expose their work to the entertainment industry. I couldn’t recommend it more.” Jen Grisanti, a television executive and acclaimed story consultant, had this to say: “I love collaborating with ScreenCraft because of their genuine passion to find new voices. I admire their commitment to the creative process by having programs like their Fellowship that offers an extended mentorship to writers and guides them toward making their dream a reality.” ScreenCraft has several genre-specific screenplay contests as well as the annual ScreenCraft Fellowship (applications due by December 15) and the Family Friendly contest ends on December 30.

3. The Black List: While the Black List has been around for 10 years, its website is fairly new. Founder Franklin Leonard sought to create a web forum where industry execs, agents, and managers could log on to view scripts that had been vetted by top readers. Writers from the site have signed with every major agency: CAA, WME, Paradigm, Verve, APA, UTA. The site hit the ground running in 2012 and quickly built a devoted fan base among managers and agents with many writers gaining management along the way. The site also features huge deals with Warner Brothers, Sundance, and the NFL—putting their writers in the right rooms to succeed. Adrian Garcia of Paradigm says, “The Black List makes it easy to make my weekend read each week with the selection for feature and TV scripts.” What’s nice about the website is that you can enter any time. They have different perks and contests that run on the site for you to opt-in, but people are scanning the scripts year round…

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