What are your thoughts on screenplay writing contests? There are hundreds of them to choose from, and most of them charge around $50 to enter. Is this truly a viable way for an unknown writer to get discovered? Or is it a waste of money?
The two screenwriting awards I know best are the Nicholl Fellowship and the Sundance Screenwriters Lab, both of which have a history of being a tremendous boon to a young writer. The benefit is not just being selected, but in the follow-up and guidance these programs provide. If you have a great script that feels right for these competitions – and by that I mean it’s not an obviously commercial action thriller or such – these might be places to consider.
Beyond these two, it gets murkier, and harder to separate the good competitions from the bad. In general, I’d say the ones associated with festivals are a little more reputable, and might be worth the entry fee. Just make sure it’s a real festival that’s run for a least three years.
I’m more suspicious of unafilliated competitions, because it’s never clear what their real motivation is. Some are run by upstart management companies who are trolling for young writers. Others are just in it for the cash. And even if it is an honest competition, having won a contest no one’s heard of isn’t going to help you in your career.