Posted by: michellemuldoon | June 24, 2014

Contests: The Writer’s Perspective Pt. 1

BRADSI wrote this article for Hollywood Scriptwriter in October of 2013.  It’s an important reminder about what matters in screenwriting competitions, which is basically, do what you promise. I have to thank my fellow writers for their willingness to share their thoughts, and experiences.

The Writers’ Perspective

Competitions for writers have flourished over the years. Whether it’s a scriptwriting contest, or a film festival screenplay competition, the number of possible entry points to recognition and rewards has grown to the point that writers now have some tough decisions to make on how they want to spend their competition budget.

In recent years there have been warnings about awards that were not quite legit, or festivals that have popped up one year and somehow disappeared shortly after. This has forced writers to take a hard look at where they enter, and what they get out of it.

Is there a disconnect between the contest and competition offerings, and the needs and expectations of the growing community of emerging writers? Some would suggest yes, and that’s something that requires an open forum for discussion.

Contests and film festival competitions have all run along the same format: set up a series of deadlines, increase the cost to enter as the deadlines whittle down, and provide a time frame for every level of result notification. These dates, however, have become nebulous at best, constantly changed or altered to suit the financial needs of the event. The final entry date is often moved; extensions becoming commonplace at many an event, with the excuse attached that it’s being done as a “benefit” for all. However, is that how the writers see it? Is the state of contests and competitions as healthy as the organizers say it is, or are seasoned entrants turning a critical eye on the events and grading whether or not they get enough bang for their buck? With new ventures and opportunities for script promotion hanging a new online shingle (what seems like) every month, writers with some contest results no longer need to turn solely to contests for validation.

If contests and competitions want to maintain a quality winning product, meaning quality writers continue to submit, then they may want to consider feedback from the writers, themselves.


We’re all writers; communication should be a “no-brainer”, right? Wrong. It’s the farthest point from simple. It’s amazing how many contests and competitions are quick to promote themselves through such mass mailing systems as Inktip, Moviebytes, and various other writers’ e-newletters. Once the deadlines have passed though, it can feel like the writer is standing in a field of crickets. The deadline for the first announcement flows past like a rushing river and still nothing, nada, not a word.

Robert Tobin has won awards at several festivals and contests and his situation isn’t, unfortunately, unusual. “ I have to chuckle, because I’m in the semi-finals of one competition that I entered more than a year ago and they still haven’t announced the winners or even finalists yet… Nearly every competition I’ve entered has been late announcing results, and as contestants we’re afraid of raising a fuss because they have our fate in their hands! ”

Award-winning writer Maggie Franks has had a similar experience, “A friend of mine and I are both finalists in the same comp. But we have yet to be notified….since 2011.”

According to recently optioned writer Margaret McCarley, “It is so nice when a competition notifies you one way or the other, even if it is just emailing a list of the scripts that moved on to the next level, and then a list of the winners.”

There’s really no excuse for this anymore. Contestants can easily be placed on a mailing list. Announcing placements and result stages is as easy as posting the results on the contest or competition website and then sending out one notification email. It’s simple, and easy, and while many competitions get it right, so many more get it wrong.

With the social media explosion, the writers are not only the customer; they’re the P.R. department, as well. Give them enough information, and they’ll post, tweet and instagram anything they can for both their own promotion and subsequently, the promotion of the contest or festival. Shouldn’t a business want everyone publicly singing their praises, and not just the winners? Sometimes, what feels like too much communication can be barely enough in the eyes of the receiver. Contests and competitions need to catch up with the advantages that come with the social media revolution.

… On Friday I’ll post the rest of this article.


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