Limitations of the Screenwriting Competition Model, and How Coverfly Wants to Improve It

Problem #1: It’s unclear which competitions are valuable to writers.

  1. The No Brainers — All writers should enter these types of screenwriting contests. These are competitions where even if you assume the value of intangible/non-monetary prizes to be zero, submitting to them is still EV+. Examples⁴ of these contests are programs with free or heavily subsidized entry or application fees, such as studio writing programs, festival writing labs, contests organized by charitable/not-for-profit entities, and contests run by volunteers. If you win, you get some value. If you lose, you’ve lost nothing other than your time applying (or an amount of money that was worth the risk).
  2. Probably Worth It — Writers should submit to these contests if they can afford the submission fee and if they seek exposure. These are the competitions where the intangible/non-monetary prizes for winning are large enough to make them EV+ for writers. They should have strong track records of generating success for their winners.⁵ Because these contests are taking in more money from writers in submission fees than they are paying out in cash prizes, in order for these competitions to provide value to writers as a whole, they must be able to create that difference in value in terms of exposure on behalf of their winners. Characteristic of these contests are contests with longstanding and reputable ownership, strong juries and mentors, proof of industry connections, and a track record of generating success for their winners.
  3. Probably Not Worth It — Writers should avoid these contests. These are contests that may be well-intentioned, but the intangible/non-monetary prizes for winning are not large enough to make them EV+ for writers. These contests are typically lacking in recent success stories for their winners, have vague or non-existent juries reading the top scripts, don’t offer any direct contact with industry connections to winners, or simply post the results of the competition without any further value to the writers. Indicators of these competitions include:

A rising tide lifts all boats.

Problem #2: Poor user experience for the majority of entrants.

Problem #3: Poor user experience for entertainment industry professionals.

  1. They’re skeptical about which contests to trust for quality winning projects.
  2. Reaching out to the contest is far from frictionless. They have to get in touch with the contest, find the person in charge of writer success, and hope that person sends them material properly suited to their taste. They are unable to browse loglines of winners before their contact information is given away.
  3. Competitions haven’t banded together to present their winners to the industry in a single, easy to search dashboard. Executives are expected to jump from site to site and sort through poorly organized blogs to find contest winners.

Conclusion

Footnotes

  1. Success story pages with specific past winners and specific places they signed or sold their work.
  2. A jury or mentors with relevant professionals in the industry, their name, and picture.
  3. Transparent leadership/administrators — you should be able to contact someone and get a response.

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Building technology for Hollywood.

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Scot Lawrie

Scot Lawrie

Building technology for Hollywood.

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