When considering entering your work in a screenplay contest, or film festival with a screenplay contest, one must consider your overall goals. I had three when submitting my comedy, MegaBall$:
- Get feedback on the work to help refine it. I focused on contests that offered that service and I found them to be helpful. All were very positive while offering thoughts on weak spots. One in particular was very helpful, citing how my lead character was too passive. It took me a long time to find the problem, but when I did the dynamic of the story changed for the better.
- My company, Oroloro Entertainment, is focused on producing the film ourselves. I was amazed on how many people we spoke with don’t read screenplays, including investors and others that could help us move forward. Our strategy was getting ‘laurels’ to show the project has merit. We were fortunate with one investor who wanted to read the script and it sold him. We also ask all who work with us to read the script first.
- Raising our profile. Getting our project name out into the world will help improve our project profile and, hopefully, translate into a possible audience. Each time the script did well we’d post the laurel on our web site, then post to our social media accounts.
But I do find many of these contests and festivals need improvement, and one must carefully select which to enter (those fees can really add up!). We tried to focus on ones that were either comedy-specific or had submissions by genre. How can a comedy go against a real-life drama, or against a sci-fi or action story? But, sadly, some of these contest were not well run. Some were great! They would communicate when your project was accepted, or awarded…but others did not, leaving us to constantly search for results. One even admitted they forgot to include us (but they did refund the fee and still provide the feedback). Another mistook our submission as film and not a screenplay. Others would take weeks to update their websites.
One thing in particular that many contests have done is change the notification date without informing the entrants. I have often seen dates moved, not just once, but a second time. Meanwhile the contest remains open and accepts more entries by extending the deadlines. Just not a fair practice to those who entered early under the original published dates. No excuse for this, except they are trying to bring in more fees…or have not had many entries…or have not reviewed the materials. All bad signs.
Be prepared for disappointment. We had a string of several contests where we were a finalist, several making it to the top-10, but then later others rejected the entry (how dare they?!). Be sure to read their submission rules, any mistake can easily disqualify an otherwise good screenplay.
My takeaway – no your goals, research then choose festivals wisely.