by Kate G
Get some eyes on your spec, original pilot, or other original scripts by submitting to yearly television writing contests. Contests at least guarantee that someone will take the time to read through your script, and if you’re good (and lucky), they can offer cash, development deals, paid internships, high level workshops, and bragging rights. For the most part, television writing contests seem to be held in the first half of the year with the majority holding deadlines during or at the end of May. Once you hit June/July you’re pretty much going to be working for next year’s contests. In the spirit of helping every aspiring television writer out there, we’re listing a bunch of contests here in relative chronological order!
New York Television Festival
This one’s going first because it has many different deadlines throughout the year depending on which initiatives it is currently sponsoring. Take a good look, East Coasters, because this is all you’re gonna get close to home. Most of these contests (or ‘initiatives’) are for independent producers creating original content, meaning you’re probably going to have to get out there and film something – even if it’s just a couple minutes to go with your treatment. They partner with companies like A&E, History, and Fox to provide chances for development deals. Festival is held every fall in Manhattan. Check back for new initiatives.
Nickelodeon Writing Fellowship
Entry Period: January 2nd – February 28th
Comedy spec scripts only. Sorry drama writers. Ready for this? Because this prize is a knockout. Nick hires (that means pays) around four writers to learn from the best, participate in production and development, meet all of the important players at Nickelodeon, and groom to (hopefully) work there when they’re done. Prepare to move to Burbank, California if you win, but they’ll pay round trip airfare and a month’s accommodations. A veritable holy grail for comedy writers. Oh, and you missed it for 2013. But there’s always next year.
Entry Period: April 15th & October 15th
Enter with everything from pilots to comedy/drama specs to reality shows (and there are a lot of reality show producers associated with this one). Cash prizes for the winners and feedback if you want to pay an additional $75. But more importantly, if you win, they show your work off to all of their contacts, producers, managers, and agents. Exposure exposure exposure. Their network is available for a possible leg up into the industry.
CBS Diversity Writers Mentoring Program
Entry Period: March 1 – May 1, 2013
Break out your spec scripts and some of your original work because you’ll need one of each. For original work they accept pilots, short fiction, screenplays, or short plays. However, for a funky twist to spice up your life, the rules state that your spec and your original work will need to ‘match in tone’. The workshop takes place in the Los Angeles area (noticing a trend, yet?) where you will be shaking hands with and learning from all kinds of television bigwigs. You win access to executives, support, and the chance to dive right in and observe your mentor’s writing room.
NBC – Writers on the Verge
Entry Period: May 1, 2013 – May 31, 2013
Comedy and Drama specs accepted. A 12 week intensive course held on Tuesday and Thursday nights designed to help you create an awesome spec and pilot to show to those who might hire you. This is described as a program for writers who just need a little spit shine to be ready for professional work. Once again, get ready to rush out to California as the workshop is held in Universal City. No one’s helping you get there either. But we all know if you win you’ll hitchhike your way out there and live under a bridge if you have to (remember to charge a hefty toll).
Warner Bros. Writers’ Workshop
Entry Period: May 1 – June 1
Comedy and Drama specs accepted. A lot like the NBC Writers on the Verge but now with 100% more Warner Bros. A Tuesday nightly workshop in Los Angeles, California with the end goal of possibly being staffed on a television show. No help with housing or pay, but when your big break knocks, are you going to tell it you just can’t afford it right now? A great many working professional television writers have been through this workshop – and some have written books about it.
Disney/ABC Writing Fellowship
Entry period: Usually May – June 1st as well. (For some reason they don’t like to keep their deadlines posted until it begins.)
Comedy and Drama specs accepted. Make sure you have three solid specs, because if you become a finalist you may be asked for more work. If (or when) you win, you are offered the opportunity to become an employee of Disney with an annual salary of 50,000 USD. As with Nickelodeon, you will be exposed to and work with key personnel to advance your career. They will also have the option to buy the scripts you submitted at the price that would befit your experience level. Something to be aware of: this one is going to require recommendations from people who work in the industry so start
sucking up to bothering asking your friends in the industry for glowing letters extolling the virtues of your writing prowess.
Spec Scriptacular & People’s Pilot
Entry period: January 1st – June 1st.
These are TVWriter’s own flagship contests, one for comedy or drama spec scripts and the other for original pilots (guess which is which). With thousands of dollars in winnings as well as the invaluable mentorship of Larry Brody, we happen to think the rewards are top notch. TVWriter is dedicated to helping you write your very best, so this year LB and company are offering free feedback for every entry! How’s that for a deal? On a personal note, this contest has some of the quickest and most personable responses from LB himself. Makes you feel like someone actually wants to read your script – not to find any reason to throw it in the circular filing cabinet.
Entry Period: Feb 25th – July 2nd (tiers of submission deadlines)
Original Feature, Horror, and Teleplay/Webisode winners each win 3,000 bucks in addition to other prizes and the chance to have their script read by production companies, studios, and agents. Winner for original feature length screenplay this year receives $10,000 and $50,000 to produce the film. If you’ve got an idea for a movie while you’re perfecting your webseries and your specs, now’s the time to get cracking!
Fox Intensive Initiative
So, Fox. I get that you only want professionals, people who’ve worked in your industry already. Not so great for the rest of us trying to catch a break, but I get that bit. But how about updating your website with the new deadlines? Or letting us know if there’s even going to be a new contest? Nothing up here except for last year’s info. If you see something pop up, feel free to let us know (or keep it to your greedy self). Go forth, write, edit, and buy those antiquated brads, champ. Because you can’t win if you don’t play.
EDITED by LB TO ADD: Here’s another contest, one we just thought of. First reader/commentor to tell us why the pic at the top of this article is relevant (and, yep, it is) gets a prize. (C’mon, you can do it. Writers are the Kings & Queens of General Knowledge. Or at least we’re supposed to be.)