Monday, March 17, 2014

10 Awesome Contests for the Television Writer

There's a lot going on in television right now. In fact, according to CBS, we're currently enjoying the second golden age of the medium, and I have to agree. Movie stars are flocking to a genre that used to be looked down upon (Zooey Deschanel in New Girl, Matthew McConaughey in True Detective, Kevin Spacey in House of Cards), and so are viewers. And you know why? There's incredible content on television right now (like those three amazing shows I just listed...). The ante has been seriously upped. It's a great place for great writers, but how do you break in?

Let's say you've got a spec* script for your favorite sitcom, or maybe you've written a pilot** for a new sci-fi drama. What's the next step? Well, there's a lot of equally difficult routes to get your script*** in front of the people who can make it a real, live show, and writing contests are one fun option. They certainly come with a lot of competition, but the potential prizes and exposure are super exciting! Recently, a fellow writer asked the twitterverse if anyone knew of the best TV-writing contests out there, and as a resident of Tinseltown myself I couldn't help but respond. Here are my 10 favorite writing contests for television****, organized by their impending deadline. 

Categories: Pilots, of any genre or length.
The Prize: Five winners will be read by their industry panel (which is a pretty impressive list) and get exposure on Enter two scripts and you’ll automatically get a free one-year subscription to trackingb (normally $89).
The Fee: Currently $100
How to Enter: Go here and pay the fee, then email your script (attached as a PDF with NO NAME on it) along with a logline/description, your contact info, and the paypal payment id # in the body of the email, to
The Deadline: March 30th

Categories: Spec scripts or Pilots; pilots can be up to two hours
The Prize: $500, and some serious exposure (Like their partner Paradigm Talent, a real heavy-hitter as far as agencies go)
The Fee: Currently $50
How to Enter: Submit electronically with this form, or by mail
The Deadline: April 11th

Category: Pilots (30-60 pages) and spec for sitcoms (25-35 pages), 1-hour (50-60), and write-ups for new reality shows
The Prize: $500 cash, 1 year membership to International Screenwriters Association, and exposure to the 50+ producers, managers, and agents who read the submissions.
The Fee: currently $45
How to Enter: Use this form
Deadline: April 14th

Categories: Pilots—comedy (25-45 pages) or drama (50-70 pages).
The Prize: $25,000 and a whole lot of promotion.
The Fee: Currently $69
How To Enter: Use this form.
The Deadline: April 15th

Categories: Pilots, specs, and reality write-ups of all genres and lengths.
The Prize: $2000, and one-on-one consultation with a development exec, along with some great exposure.
The Fee: $55
How to Enter: Use this form 
The Deadline: May 1st, 2014

Categories: Sitcom or 1-hour; spec or pilot;
The Prize: $1000 cash and the cost of round-trip airfare + hotel + of course you get to go to the festival and awards luncheon.
The Fee: $30 on or before April $30, $40 on or before May 31
How to Enter: by mail, or with this form
The Deadline: May 31st

Categories: Pilots only.
The Prize: 50 finalists win attendance to the TV Pilot 101 webinar; they all write their first draft. 10 of those winners go to the Story Specialists mentoring program to polish it and write a story bible. The winner gets lots of exposure and a meeting with Verve Talent and Literary.  
The Fee: $40, $50, or $75 depending on when you submit.
How to EnterDownload and fill out their free TV Pilot Kitand fill it aaaaaalllllllll out with your creative genius. Then submit on their website.
The Deadline: March 31st for the $40 fee, May 31st for the $50 fee, and June 30th for the $75 fee.

Categories: 1-hour and half-hour spec or pilot.
The Prize: This one has so many prizes I can’t even list them all, but to start: $2500, meetings with really fancy industry people, a paid trip to Hollywood, an NYFA Fellowship, and of course a copy of Final Draft. And LOTS of exposure.
The Fee: $40 until April 30th, then $55 until July 31st
How to Enter: The entry form is on the sidebar of their website.
The Deadline: April 30th, or July 31st

Category: Comedy Pilots, 25-35 pages long
The Prize:  $25,000 and a development deal with FOX
The Fee: None! (This was the ONLY contest I found that had no fee!)
How to Enter: Via the NYTVF website.
The Deadline: This contest isn’t open yet, but it has been going for six years. My bet is they’ll come back for lucky number seven. Last year submission period was May 20 – June 3rd, so get your scripts ready and keep checking back at their site.

Categories: ABC and Disney Spec scripts only.
The Prize: A job at ABC with a $50,000 salary.
More: Info about the fee, deadlines, and how to enter aren’t available yet because the contest is currently closed. It just seemed so awesome I had to include it—I mean, a full time writing job is pretty killer. So get your spec scripts ready and check back at their website regularly.

Did I miss any great ones, fellow writers? If so, email it to me at, and if there's enough of a response I'll put together a follow-up post. Happy writing!

*Spec: An episode for a series that already in production/currently airing.
**Pilot: The first episode of a brand-new, original series.
***Standard Script Format: Courier, 12 pt font, contact info on the front page (NOTE: Some of these contests request you to redact your contact info in order to have blind judging. Make sure you check before you enter!) and these guidelines (here's a helpful example.)
****Yes, a lot of these contests also have film categories, but for the sake of this blog post I'm ONLY focusing on TV-writing contests. A film contest list would be a good follow-up, so email me your favorites!

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