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February 14, 2023

Best Screenwriting Competitions 2023

Screenwriting competitions are a gateway into the industry. Paying for entry often means you are guaranteed to get your script reviewed by a key agent or executive and the exposure can be more valuable than any cash prize.

In 2023 with the decline in cinema, the independent scene burgeoning, and big players like Netflix and Amazon hungry for their next big hit, there’s never been a better time to put yourself out there.

Here’s our list of screenwriting competitions in 2023 to look out for and some insight into how much do screenwriting competitions pay writers.

Final Draft’s Big Break Competition

Final Draft is the traditional choice of screenwriting software, though others players on the market such as Arc Studio are now challenging this.

The judges include Matt Dy of Lit Management who previously ran the Austin Film Festival and Sonia Gambaro of 3PAS studios.

It’s important to note that coverage or feedback is not provided for this competition as it is with some others. However, there are cash prizes that change every year.

In 2022 the entry fee was $49 though it may well be higher for 2023. The early bird deadline is usually in April with the final deadline in August. Note that this competition does accept revised draft submissions up until the final deadline.

The logo of the Big break screenwriting software in blue letters with yelllow page edges.
The Big Break Screenwriting Contest by Final Draft is one of the best competitions to enter

You could therefore submit a rough draft of a screenplay and enter a revised script closer to the deadline though we wouldn’t recommend this; we always recommend waiting and handing in your most polished, best work.

Also remember that this competition is open to users of all screenwriting software and not just Final Draft. So Arc Studio users are welcome to apply.

Reel HeART International Film Festival

Sponsored by InkTip and Final Draft, this festival has several competitions you can enter. Writers should enter a short film script that must be less than 30 pages. The top 3 winners will get a readout of their script in front of a live studio audience.

The feature screenplay competition is the chance to submit a full-length screenplay with a maximum page limit of 120. The top prize is the same.

The great thing about this competition is that all scripts receive written coverage via email so you are guaranteed some feedback.

The deadlines are ongoing and you can find out more information here.

ATLFF Screenplay Competition

The Atlanta Film Festival Screenplay Competition returns again to our list for 2023 for the second time in a row. This year ATLFF is celebrating its 46th anniversary and they need your help to make it a good one with some stand-out scripts.

The festival judges this year are looking for scripts that challenge them and characters that offer a surprise. So get thinking outside the box.

There are three competitions you can enter for a short film, pilot screenplay - which should suit a budding TV writer - and the feature screenplay.

You may wonder how much do screenwriting competitions pay? The answer is the top prize for a feature screenplay writer is $500 on top of a travel stipend and your festival accommodation paid for 3 nights plus a live reading. The pilot screenplay gets $350 plus 2 nights of accommodation and a live reading. The short film competition gets $250 and two nights of accommodation.

The best part of the prize for all three competitions, in our view though is the mentorship. Past mentors have included:

J.T. Petty (Videogame credits: Batman Begins, Outlast, The Walking Dead: The Game, Splinter Cell)

Kent Osborne Head of Story (Adventure Time), and Writer (Spongebob Squarepants)

Diane Drake Screenwriter, professor at UCLA, and ex-VP of Creative Affairs at Mirage Enterprises (Only You, What Women Want)

Entrance fees depends on when you submit and gets gradually more expensive the longer you leave it. The earliest deadline is the 30th of June with $25 for the short screenplay, $30 for the pilot, and $40 for the feature.

To submit your screenplay to ATLF 2023, be sure to click here.

Save the Cat Screenwriting Challenge 2023

At Arc Studio we love Save the Cat. It’s a simple framework that can help you finish your scripts when you’ve got writer’s block.

So we’re also big fans of the 2023 Screenplay challenge. The big pull of the Save the Cat competition is that every script gets a full read by the Save the Cat! Master Cat Readers.

The logo for the Save the Cat! Screenplay Challenge. Orange and green letters and spotlighted picture of a cat swinging by. rope
Save the Cat is a great structure you can use for planning your story structure and they also run a screenwriting competition

Rarely do you get such an opportunity as many agents and executives will read the first few pages of the script and decide whether to pass on it. Feedback on a full read-through gives you so much more on structure, pacing, and your ending that sometimes gets missed.

All writers receive 50 points of analysis that are grounded in the Save the Cat methodology. This means you will get concrete steps for how to improve your script not just more general comments about your tone of voice and style.

You can enter screenplays for feature films and 30-minute and 60-minute pilots.

As well as feedback the top writers receive an all-expenses 3-day trip to L. A and 3 nights in a hotel worth $1,200, a meeting with the judges, and a chance to see their work read out.

The networking opportunities in L. A are phenomenal so it’s well worth entering if you feel you have a strong, polished script.

Here are the deadlines:

January 31, 2023 – regular deadline

February 26, 2023 – late deadline

March 26, 2023 – Extended Deadline

The judges include Sheila Hanahan Taylor (Founder, Practical Pictures, films include American Pie, Cats and Dogs) and Juliet Berman (Head of Development at Treehouse Pictures, Executive Producer on Sand Castle (both for Netflix)

You can click here to find out more info.

Austin Film Festival Competition 2023

Austin is popping right now with many independent creators and filmmakers setting up a base here for a change of scene from the traditional hotspots of New York and Los Angeles.

Check out the Austin Film Festival’s competition which features a teleplay section and a feature (film) section. The feature film competition has two categories drama and comedy whilst the teleplay section has comedy and drama for both spec scripts and pilot scripts.

The 2023 judging panel includes Dayo Adesokan – writer/producer Superstore, Nick Austin – Director of New Media & Emerging Platforms Development for Sony Pictures Television, VJ Boyd – writer/producer S.W.A.T., Justified, Chuck Hayward – writer Dear White People, Fat Camp, Step Sisters, and Cooper Barrett’s Guide To Surviving Life.

The prize for winners in both the narrative feature category and documentary feature category is a cash prize of $2,500 and reimbursement (up to $500) of a round-trip flight to Austin to attend the festival as well as reimbursement (capped at $500) for a stay at an AFF hotel during the Festival; and the AFF typewriter award.

The deadlines are different depending on what type of screenplay you are entering so be sure to check out the competition website for more.

The Golden Script Competition

The Golden Script competition has more finalists than most other screenwriting contests. Their top 30 picks are referred to as the Golden List and are shared with top Hollywood studios and producers.

The top prizes for 2023 will include a 1one-on-one masterclass with three-time Emmy-nominee Jesscial Sharzer. The entrance fees are more expensive than some other competitions.

For the feature or screenplay pilot with a 1 hour consultation included the prize is $189.99 A feature or TV pilot with a review is $74.99 and the sort screenplay with feedback of 400 words is $54.99

Note that all of these prices increase if you miss the initial deadline of 21st March and wish to submit to the extended deadline of 29th March.Screenplays can be up to 140 pages. You can still submit screenplays longer than this but you need to pay an additional fee.

Submit to screenwriting competitions 2023 to be in-it-to-win-it

It’s easy to get cynical about screenwriting competitions especially when you have to pay to enter.

But it can be worth it. The entrance fee acts as a barrier that puts other amateurs off. The payment often goes to the judges to make sure they have the time to properly review your script, often from the first page to the last.

Some of the competitions also provide feedback for all entrants from an industry professional which is invaluable.

So entering screenwriting competitions in 2023 is definitely worth a shot.

Don’t forget if you need help formatting your script to make sure it looks as professional as possible before you submit it, Arc Studio has your back. Our industry-standard tools take the hassle and stress out of this aspect of the process.

Be sure to download our software for free today!


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Best Screenwriting Competitions 2023
Harry Verity

Harry is a professional writer. His first novel The Talk Show was published in the U.S and the U.K by Bloodhound Books in 2021 and he is currently working on adapting it for screen. He's also written for Media Magazine - a UK magazine for students of A-level Film, Media and Television Studies.

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