Screenwriting Contests

by Michele Wallerstein

Okay, you finished the world’s greatest screenplay.  You’ve sweated out the hours and hours of work.  You’ve managed to get through the days of self-doubt.  You might even have managed to stay married through it all.  Here it is, that great masterpiece, staring you in the face.  You say to yourself: “What do I do now?”

The answers come to you in droves.  There are agents, managers, producers, studio executives, lawyers and consultants that might see your genius and want to buy your script, sign you to contract and/or at least refer you to a powerful friend.  If only you knew who they were and how to get to them.  There’s the rub.  Then, there’s that little voice either in your head or whispered by a friend or screaming at you from the myriad of internet blogs and sites.  It says:  “ENTER THE SCRIPT IN A CONTEST!”  Well that sounds like a very good idea.  It is a good idea if you know exactly what to do if you win, place or even show in that contest.

Winning a script competition is a great feeling and it often comes with a few dollars as a prize.  It might even show some of your friends and relatives that you actually do have some talent.  All of this is fine, but what does it do insofar as your professional career is concerned?

Unless you take the next steps, entering and even winning contests doesn’t do a thing for you.  The steps begin with your showing up at the film festival, event, seminar, etc., that has sponsored your contest.  You must be there to receive your award or prize and to be seen by the people in attendance.  Next, you must connect with everyone who is a professional in Hollywood who attends that event.  Do your networking in a powerful and positive way with these people.  You are someone that they need to know because you’ve won or placed in the contest and because you have a terrific and marketable screenplay that they should read.

Make sure that you have the basic information on all of those professional Hollywood people.  Get their names, addresses, emails, phone numbers and their exact titles as well as the names of the companies for whom they work.  After that you must make sure they have your business card or at least a piece of paper with your name, address, email and a reminder note that you are a writer that they met at the “such & such” event.

Now you are home and the real work begins.  Follow up with those people and remind them that you met and that you were in the contest.  Ask if you can send the screenplay or any other original screenplay that you have.

The next step to using a contest positively in your life is to write query letters to other agents, managers and producers or development executives wherein you mention one or two of the contests that you’ve won or placed in.  Never mention more than a couple of contests.  These people want information delivered to them quickly and precisely. They are not interested in a list of you accomplishments.

If you continue to enter many, many contests without following the above, you will be wasting a tremendous amount of your valuable time and energy.  Use that time and that energy to write another screenplay, or rewrite the ones you have.

A contest is merely an end to a means for getting your foot in that Hollywood door.  Use it wisely.

Michele Wallerstein is a Screenplay & Novel & Career Consultant and author of “MIND YOUR BUSINESS: A Hollywood Literary Agent’s Guide To Your Writing Career“.

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Copyright 2009 Michele Wallerstein. Not be used without written permission from Author.