Screenplay Contests: Answer 6 Questions Before Submitting Your Script
This screenwriting workshop will explore the most commonly used abbreviations and how they are used correctly in scripts.
By Jen B
As a screenwriter, you can get easily excited about submitting your script to the best screenplay contests, but before you do that, there are many things you need to consider first. Even if it’s not a contest, submitting screenplays cannot be taken lightly. Sure, it’s great news when you find out there are screenplay agents accepting submissions, but you don’t want to rush and make a potentially fatal mistake in the process.
There are intricate rules and regulations when it comes to screenplay submissions. Regardless where or to whom you want to submit your work, there are six important questions to ask yourself first.
1. Do I follow the content requirements?
As an eager screenwriter, you might be checking screenwriting competition deadlines tirelessly to keep track of your writing process that you completely forget to take time and carefully read the terms and conditions. No matter how good your script is, if you do not follow the content requirements for each competition, your work will be rejected from the get-go. Yes, read every single line to make sure your script is in perfect shape and in accordance with the rules of the screenplay contests you’re applying to. Check things like your script page count, adaptation rights, and category to ensure there isn’t anything off about your submission.
What if you don’t want to alter your precious script to comply with rules you find arbitrary? There are a few tricks in screenwriting softwares than can help lower your page count like letter spacing or margins, for example. Be smart about the changes you make but also be open and willing to edit your script if you don’t want to risk rejection.
Another major aspect you need to check is your Title Page. There are various guidelines for different screenplay contests so it’s very important to read the Title Page section in their requirements page and follow it to the letter. Sometimes when you’re crammed, creating a Title page can actually slip your mind. Screenwriting softwares usually have the option to create a title Page: use it! Carefully read the contest requirements to make sure you’re not including any unnecessary information that could disqualify your script. If you intend to submit your work to multiple screenplay contests, please read the requirements for every single one because they vary. You don’t want to unknowingly submit the same file and end up being dismissed from most of them because of a silly title page mistake.
2. Is my submission in the proper screenplay format?
Three letters you need to memorize by heart: PDF. Most screenplay contests require that your submission be in PDF format. No Word files or any other format is accepted so always alwaysalways make sure you save your script as a PDF file before submitting.
If you can’t easily find that option, there are several online services that can convert your file from whatever format you write in to PDF. Confirming that your script is in the proper screenplay format is one thing you need to check off your to do list before hitting that submit button.
3. Did I proofread my script?
You have to. It’s not optional. Proofreading your script before submitting it anywhere is a must. Whether it’s the best screenplay contests or big production companies or screenplay agents accepting submissions, you can’t send your script before proofreading it multiple times. Take a few hours to sit down and focus on every line. If you’ve gone through it too many times and don’t trust your eyes anymore, ask someone else to do it for you. Afterall, that’s what friends are for: keeping a keen eye on your grammar and spelling mistakes. Those silly typos can annoy script readers and turn them off. So please don’t underestimate the importance of correcting your yours to your’s.
4. Do I have permission?
If you’re planning to submit your script to professionals such as producers, managers, or agents, make absolutely sure you have permission to do so. Unsolicited scripts sent to production companies or studios are a big no-no. Nowadays, there are very strict procedures and regulations, like release forms for example, in place for screenplay submissions and you don’t want to upset Hollywood by ignoring their rules.
5. Do I have the rights to every word in my script?
Before submitting your script anywhere, make sure you’re not adapting anything from other sources like TV shows or books or plays. Your love for the Harry Potter franchise is unquestionable but don’t use any of J.K. Rowling’s storylines or charactersor even the HogwartsExpress in your script because you simply don’t own the rights to any of them. Any mistakes when it comes to adaptation rights is a surefire way to mess up your submission, landing it in the rejection pile.
6. Did I write the best final draft I can write?
Last but definitely not least, submit a nice, trim, proofread final draft. The final in “final draft” does not come from “finally I’m done writing” – never rush submissions. It’s an achievement to complete a script and your enthusiasm is understandable but you need to know that there’s always space for improvement. A few pages to lose. A scene to rewrite. A dialogue that drags on for longer than needed. Camera directions that need to go. Reading through your script a few times as an editor rather than a writer is an important step towards creating the best final draft.
So to all writers aspiring to become the next Aaron Sorkin or Greta Gerwig, I know you’re frantically checking off screenwriting competition deadlines as every month goes by, but always ask yourselves these six questions before submitting your work anywhere. All you’ve got is that first impression and the best screenplay contests out there are after the best first impressions so make yours count. You must have permission to submit a proofread, polished final draft in the proper screenplay format abiding by content requirements and adaptation rights.