Screenplay contests receive increasingly higher numbers of entries each year and this means that each year it can feel more and more diﬃcult to stand out. Sometimes the quality of the entries for screenplay contests is so high that having a strong entry that is well-executed is no longer enough. In order to be able to advance in a screenplay contest and stand the best chance of placing and winning your script needs to stand out and show something that is unique and memorable.
Here are the top ﬁve suggestions to make your work memorable that you can use as a checklist before entering screenplay contests:
Showcase your unique voice as a writer
In order to make your entry stand out against hundreds or even thousands of other entries in a particular category of a screenplay contest it is crucial to impress upon the reader what your unique voice is as a writer. In order to communicate that you are an experienced and conﬁdent writer it is important to try and signal what is special about your point of view and what kind of stylistic features can be found in your writing beyond this one particular script. The scripts that advance in screenplay contests not only have strong stories that are well-executed, but they also have a unique quality that helps get the audience excited about the writer themselves and makes them want to invest in their voice in order to hear more stories from them.
- Highlight how your script will connect with modern audiences
The great thing about screenplay contests being annual events is that each time the contests run they can look for new material that is reﬂective of the new year. Although it is important not to fall into the trap of trying to follow industry trends and ﬁxate on trying to second guess what kinds of scripts production companies are looking for, it is beneﬁcial to highlight what is new about your script that will speak to modern audiences. Even stories with period settings need to think about what they can do to show audiences something that they aren’t already familiar with. When entering screenplay contests it is helpful to ask yourself what about your script will be able to connect with modern audiences today as opposed to if your project had been written ﬁve or even ten years ago.
- Screenplay contests are looking for projects that elevate the Genre
When entering screenplay contests that are geared towards certain genres it can be useful to think of a couple of points of comparison for your work. Before entering screenplay contests it can be helpful to think about what kinds of previously produced projects your entry can be compared to, both in relation to the ideas and themes being explored and in terms of the tone and style of project. Readers and judges of screenplay contests will deﬁnitely be thinking about what they have seen recently that feels similar to your work, and most importantly what your entry does diﬀerently. While it is important especially for genre pieces to adhere to certain genre conventions or guidelines, it is also crucial to think of small ways to try and surprise the audience by challenging their expectations and ensuring that your work is not predictable.
- Perfect your ﬁrst Ten Pages
While it may feel clichéd to talk about the importance of the ﬁrst ten pages of your script, there is no avoiding the fact that ﬁrst impressions really matter, and readers won’t wait until the third act to make up their mind about your work. The ﬁrst ten pages really need to grab the audience’s attention and touch upon the ﬁrst three points in this list, proving what is new about your story, why it speaks
to audiences today and what your point of view is as a writer. Audiences and readers have an abundance of scripted material at their disposal, so your script needs to prove to them in the ﬁrst ten pages why they should invest in your work and want to see what happens next.
- Maximize your visual storytelling – that is what Screenplay Contests are looking for.
There is a lot that the writer can do to indicate the tone and style of the story on the page. Although the story should feel complete on the page and present a cohesive vision, there should also be a part of the reader and the judges that gets excited about how much more poignant the story will be on- screen.
Before submitting your entry to screenplay contests try to reference the list above and question whether or not there are any more edits that you can make to ensure that your script stands out and does the best job possible of reﬂecting who you are as a writer.