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Break Into Hollywood Through Screenplay Contests
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If you're a budding screenwriter, then the odds are stacked heavily against you. Obviously, there are tens of thousands of other writers out there with similar dreams of selling a script for six figures and having big-name stars like Brad Pitt or Kate Winslet sign on to their project. But unless you have significant connections in the industry and/or a good agent, it can be very difficult to get your foot in the door. Movie studios already have a pipeline of writers that they depend on to churn out scripts, and we've all heard how tough it is for a spec script to get sold. That's where screenplay contests come into play.
Screenplay contests give unknown amateur writers a chance to have their work read by the right people. All it takes for that first big break is to get noticed by one person with an inside track at a studio. And since the more prestigious a contest is, the more well-known the judges tend to be, it pays to enter as many top screenplay contests as you can find. Even if you don't win, you could merit an honorable mention that puts your name out there for future projects.
Finding screenplay contests is easy enough for anyone with an Internet connection. Just make sure that you thoroughly vet any contest before you enter, because there are quite a few scams out there. Be aware that just because a certain competition requires an entry fee, that doesn't automatically mean it's a scam. Many legitimate screenplay contests require you to pay a nominal amount (usually anywhere between $20 and $50) for each script you submit. This covers the readers' time and may also go towards the prizes, so fees are completely normal.
Speaking of prizes, there are some amazing ones available to the winners. For example, some screenplay contests offer cash awards for first place (and maybe even second and third). One contest boasts of $50,000 in cash and prizes, which isn't too shabby. Another common prize is professional coverage (notes and feedback) of your script. This can be very valuable, as some agencies charge several hundred dollars to have a pro cover your script.
But of course the real value in screenplay contests is getting recognition as a good writer -- or as an unpolished writer with tremendous potential. You're not ever going to make a living from contest winnings. The goal is always to sell that script, earn your WGA card, and enjoy a fruitful career as a screenwriter.
If you've got several scripts that you think are ready for the unforgiving eye of an impartial reader, then perhaps it's time to enter a few screenplay contests. You'll get to see how your writing stacks up to your competitors, you'll gain valuable experience, and you'll learn several writing techniques and strategies along the way. And who knows: you might just end up opening some eyes and selling your blockbuster!
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