The hardest step in submitting to a screenwriting competition is making sure that your script is ready, but it’s not the only step.
You’re spending money every time you submit to a screenwriting competition, so you want to make sure you’re getting the value for your money. That doesn’t just mean submitting to the best competition for you. That means making sure you’re setting yourself up for success. The business side of any endeavor is just as crucial as any creative work, so we’ve got you covered with a rundown of everything you need before (and after) you hit “submit.”
Perfect Your Material
Consider Getting Script Coverage
No one is going to stop you from submitting an early draft of a script. It actually happens a lot. But readers can tell. Instead, if you don’t think your script is ready but want to try and submit it anyway, look for competitions or companies offering script coverage. Just ensure that the readers have worked in the industry (this is often promoted by the competition or company) and if their readers are paid. There are competitions that exist that don’t pay their readers. Someone with real industry credits wouldn’t read for free for a competition. Also, companies don’t typically advertise whether or not readers are paid, so you will have to dig a little on the internet to confirm, but it is possible to find out.
If you can, get multiple reads. Friends can be great, and if they’re in the industry or are writers themselves, it’s even better. If you want someone more impartial, get a writers group or a mentor. There are great online resources to find a group, and now that everyone in the world knows how to use Zoom, you don’t have to find someone in your area.
Read the Rules
Before submitting, you should also have read all of the competition rules. Lots of writers assume they know them all, but that doesn’t stop them from still messing things up. For example, how many times are writers told not to include a title page or any of their personal information, but it still happens a ton.
The rules are also not always the same. Since there are companies with genre or format-specific focuses, you have to make sure that you have gone through everything required to submit. This might include extra materials like a pitch deck or logline. It might only be the first ten pages of a script instead of the full thing. It might be leaving out your personal information.
What to Look for in a Competition
Research is critical before submitting to competitions. Look at a competition’s success stories to ensure the people behind it do what they marketed to entrants. We’re obviously partial to Launch Pad, but others have a proven track record (Nicholls, Austin, ScreenCraft, Final Draft, and WeScreenplay to name a few).
Don’t just look at what the ultimate winner receives. Look at what the semi and quarterfinalists receive as well. If they’re just giving you some books or software, is it worth it? If they’re offering meetings, who are the meetings with? Many competitions send out the lists of finalists at every stage with their loglines, genres, and whether or not they’re repped.
Research the judges. Prizes often include a chance at representation. You don’t want to sign with someone simply because they were the judge and enjoyed your script. You want to work with this person and build a relationship with them. Many writers say no to initial representation offers if they don’t feel like it’s the best decision for them.
To get a sense of potential representatives you may meet, you can look through the competition pages to see a list of judges’ names. Certain judges appear on the panels of several competitions. Those names have likely also done a lot of industry interviews so that you can look them up easily.
Start Writing Again
As soon as you hit submit, you absolutely must start writing your next script if you haven’t already.
One of the most common questions you’ll hear from the people you meet after placing in a competition is, “What else you got?” You need at least one other script that’s ready, if not more, and a handful of ideas you want to jump on. This isn’t just so that you have another script ready to sell, but because it solidifies what your “voice” or “brand” is for people.
You might want to write many different kinds of stories or genres, but it helps to put you in a standard category for getting more work when you’re just starting.
What If You Don’t Place?
If you don’t place, it won’t matter because you have momentum on your next script, and the one you just wrote still exists. A “no” or “pass” isn’t the end. It’s just a moment, and now you have more information and experience to consider before you hit “submit” again.
Ready to put these tips into practice and place? Enter the Launch Pad Feature Film Screenwriting Competition!