I’m pretty skeptical about script contests as a way to further your career. There are success stories but I think they’re the exception. So I was interested to read the view of Chad Gervich on the Script website. He says that winning a script rarely gives you the edge. He’s been a judge in script contests and says winning only shows your script was the best, but that the standard is generally atrocious.
How bad are these scripts? Out of 500 he estimates that ten to fifteen “have some semblance of real voice, character, or storytelling. That doesn’t mean they’re good…” On the one hand that’s good news because it means if you have a good script you have a reasonable chance of winning. On the other hand, if people in the business know that these contests have a low standard, they may not pay much attention to them.
Listen, having won a contest is better than nothing and there have been some successes, but it’s good to have a realistic view, especially when some contests have a hefty entry fee. Here are a few specific tips:
Look at the ratio of the entry fee to the prize–if it costs $50 to enter, and the prize is only $500, I figure somebody’s making money on this.
Of course it may be access to important people in Hollywood that you’re after, in which case you need to check whether the contest is specific about who will see the winning entries. Simply being told that “the winner will be sent to important Hollywood producers and agents and directors” isn’t good enough. First, who are these people? Second, have they actually agreed to look at the winners, or are they just going to get them sent to them and throw them away or hit the delete key?
Finally, does the contest list previous winners? If so, why not email a couple of them and ask them what their experience was–did it help them? If so, how? You should be able to Google them or find them on Facebook or you can write them a letter c/o the Writers Guild if they’re members.
(Jurgen Wolff offers screenwriting tips here every Tuesday as well as on his site, www.ScreenwritingSuccess.com. Also see his book, “Your Writing Coach,” available from Amazon and other online and offline booksellers.)