Deadline Alert: Screenwriting Competitions, Labs & Programs – Q1, 2021

If you’re at all familiar with my writing, guidance and advice for new and emerging screenwriters and TV writers, then you probably know that I am a big believer in what screenwriting competitions, labs and programs can do for your pedigree and your writing career. 2020, too, served as a huge reminder of this when my friend and client Crosby Selander was named finalist to Script Pipeline‘s feature competition, went on to find representation, and sell his screenplay BRING ME BACK in a 7-figure-deal, the sort we rarely ever see for new writers. For me, it served as a wonderful reminder of what’s still possible for writers out there, and that competitions, labs and programs remain a serious career stepping stone for those who surface through them. 

With that in mind, I wanted to get a jump on the new year, and share a list of the best screenwriting/TV writing competitions, labs and fellowships that are accepting entires in Q1 (and bleeding into Q2) of 2021: 

Upcoming Deadlines:

ATX Television Festival Pitch Competition
Open for Submissions!

  • Final Deadline: 2/7/21
    • Submission fee: $40

  • Required materials: 
    • 90-Second Video Pitch
    • 5-10 Page Script Sample

  • Highlight: After the pitch is honed, the Grand Prize Winner will receive a pitch meeting with one of our studio/network partners (dependent on the show’s genre and style) to try and sell their pilot.

ISA Fast Track Fellowship
Open for Submissions!

  • Final Deadline: 2/16/21
    • Submission fee: $59

  • Submission Guidelines: Features: 70 – 120 pages.  TV Pilots: 10 – 70 pages.

  • Highlights: The ISA Fast Track Fellowship gives two undiscovered screenwriters a direct line to be mentored by eight top level agents, managers, producers and executives during a week of meetings. 

Film Independent Episodic Lab
Open for Submissions!

  • Non Members Deadline: 2/17/21
    • Fee: $65
  • Member Extended Deadline: 3/3/21
    • Fee: $45

  • Required materials:
    • A cover letter explaining your interest in the Episodic Lab
    • One complete, original pilot
    • A series logline
    • A series description describing the story engine and series arc of the show
    • Project status and history, including any industry exposure
  • Highlights: Film Independent’s Episodic Lab will accept a diverse group of 6–8 writers or writing teams and provide them with critical support and mentorship. Through personalized feedback from experienced showrunners, creative producers and executives, Fellows will gain the tools to revise and refine their pilots and navigate a changing industry landscape.

Screencraft Fellowship 
Open for Submissions!

  • Regular Deadline: 1/31/21
    • Fee: $69
  • Final Deadline: 2/28/21 
    • Fee: $79
  • Submission guidelines:
    • No limit to the number of projects entered for consideration
    • Cover letter requested at semi-final round
    • Only Feature scripts and TV Pilots are accepted for the Fellowship.

  • Highlights: 
    • 7 Days of Professional Meetings
    • 3 Months of Consultation
    • ScreenCraft Writer Development Program

Sundance Episodic Lab
Open for Submissions!

  • Application Period: 2/10/21-3/10/21
    • Fee: $40

  • Required Materials:
    • Bio(s) of the writer(s) (no more than 250 words per person)
    • Series logline: a one-sentence description of your series (no more than 50 words)
    • The first five pages of your pilot script (in .pdf form)
    • Pilot synopsis (no more than 500 words): a summary of your pilot episode
    • Series overview (no more than 500 words): this is a one-page description of your series
    • Personal statement (no more than 250 words – see specifics on site)
    • Thematic statement (no more than 250 words – see specifics on site)

  • Highlights: The Episodic Lab: Idea to Pilot is designed to identify emerging independent voices, with the goal of developing an original episodic project from its inception. The program focuses on the craft of outlining, writing, and revising episodic material. During the lab, fellows participate in workshops with accomplished showrunners to sharpen their episodic storytelling skills. After the lab, fellows receive strategic and creative support from Sundance Institute staff and creative advisors. Part one of the Episodic Lab: Idea to Pilot will take place November 11– 14, 2021. Original TV Pilot Contest
Open for Submissions!

  • Final Deadline: 3/15/21
    • Fee: $99
  • Highlight: Judging panel includes Ryan Cunningham (Anonymous Content), Karyn Smith-Forge (Berlanti), Jeff Portnoy (Bellevue Productions), Natalie Laine Williams (Universal Content Production), Anna Culp (Imagine) and Josh Adler (Circle of Confusion) just to name a few.

Screencraft True Story and Public Domain Writing Competition
Open for Submissions!

  • Early Submission Deadline: 1/31/21
    • Fee: $49.50
  • Final Submission Deadline: 3/31/21
    • Fee: $79.50
  • Submission Guidelines: 
    • Feature screenplays must be a minimum of 75 pages and a maximum of 150 pages.
    • TV pilots must be between 25 and 75 pages.
    • Pitches must be between 1 and 40 pages.
    • Any screenplay submission longer than 120 pages will incur a $1 per page overage fee for each page over 120.
    • There is no limit to the number of projects you may submit.
  • Highlight: Judging panel includes Oscar-nominated screenwriter, Oscar-winning producer, a VP of Development and a literary manager. 

PAGE International Screenwriting Awards
Open for Submissions!

  • Upcoming Deadline: 2/15/21
    • Fee: $55
  • Final Submission Deadline: 4/15/21
    • Fee: $75
  • Submission Guidelines: 
    • Submissions should be standard length and should include page numbers on the upper right corner of the page.
    • Full-Length Features: 80-120 pages
    • Short Film Scripts: under 30 pages
    • TV Drama & Comedy Pilots: 30-75 pages
  • Highlights: Scripts that advance to the Final Round (the top 10 scripts in each category) are evaluated by a group of Hollywood producers and production executives

Cinestory Foundation Feature Lab 
Open for Submissions!

  • Regular Deadline: 2/15/21
    • Fee: $69
  • Late Deadline: 3/21/21
    • Fee: $81
  • Final Deadline: 4/25/21
    • $88
  • Submission guidelines:
    • Screenplays must be feature film screenplays from 85 to 125 pages
  • Highlights: The Grand Prize for the competition is the CineStory Feature Fellowship, a 12-month mentorship program, during which the Feature Fellow works with 2 Hollywood professionals hand-picked to continue to educate the Fellow about the craft and business of writing for the screen to help the Fellow better understand the screenwriters’ role in the entertainment industry. Finalists are invited to famed Cinestory Retreat. 

The Black List/WIF Feature Residency
Open for Submissions!

  • Submission Deadline: Between 3/8/21 and 4/7/21, depending on whether you submit through WIF or TBL.
    • Fee: $40; may be less for WIF members`

  • Submission Guidelines: Note that guidelines are different depending on whether you are a WIF member and submitting through WIF, or submitting through The Black List. If submitting through The Black List, allow for an evaluation period.
  • Highlights: Up to 15 writers will be invited, based on the strength of their scripts, to submit a one-page personal statement and professional resume. These writers will also be potentially invited to interview. From those submissions, up to 6 writers will be selected by the Black List and WIF to participate in the Residency.

Launch Pad TV Pilot Competition
Open for Submissions!

  • Upcoming Submission Deadline: 2/12/21
    • Current Submission Fee: $55
  • Final Submission Deadline: 5/7/21
    Submission guidelines:
    • Submit your original TV pilot
    • TV pilot must be under 70 pages
  • Submission Guidelines: 
    • All pilot scripts must be under 70 pages (any script with more than 70 pages will be charged an additional $1 per page)
    • Do not submit any form of pitch document with your pilot script.
    • The only scripts not allowed to be entered are those which have already sold, have previously earned our “TB Recommends” or “Launch Pad Recommends” honors, or received a top 100 placement in a previous Launch Pad competition, regardless of format.

  • Highlights: Final round judging panel includes Chelsea Benson (Echo Lake), Jake Wagner (Alibi Entertainment), Scott Stoops (Good Fear) and Jon Hersh (Housefire Management) just to name a few. 

Script Pipeline Screenwriting Contest
Open for Submissions!

  • Early Deadline: 3/1/21
    • Fee: $50
  • Regular Deadline: 5/1/21
    • Fee: $60:
  • Final Deadline: 5/15/21
    • Fee: $65
  • Highlights: Finalists scripts will be reviewed by industry companies including Zero Gravity Management, Kaplan/Perrone, 3Arts, Silent R Entertainment, Mosaic Media Group, Heroes & Villains, UTA, Verve and many more. 

Script Pipeline TV Writing Contest
Open for Submissions!

  • Early Deadline: 3/1/21
    • Fee: $50
  • Regular Deadline: 5/1/21
    • Fee: $60:
  • Final Deadline: 5/15/21
    • Fee: $65
  • Highlights: Finalists scripts will be reviewed by industry companies including Bellevue Productions, Anonymous Content, Esmail Corp., 21 Laps, Heroes & Villains, APA, UTA, Verve and many more. 

Humanitas New Voices
Open for Submissions!

  • Early Deadline: 3/1/21
    • Fee: $65
  • Regular Deadline: 4/1/21
    • Fee: $75
  • Late Deadline: 5/17/21
    • Fee: $85
  • Required Materials:
    • One (1) original 30-minute pilot, 60-minute pilot, or feature film screenplay
    • Logline
    • Brief (1 paragraph) synopsis
    • Release form

  • Highlights: Once selected, winners of the Humanitas New Voices Prize are paired with an industry mentor to continue developing their feature or pilot. Past mentors include: Alan Ball, Jenny Bicks, David Shore, Pam Veasey, Jason Katims and Tom Fontana, to name a few. 

Austin Film Fest Screenplay & Teleplay Competition 
Open for Submissions!

  • Upcoming Deadline: 3/26/21
    • Fee: $45
  • Final Deadline: 5/21/21
    • Fee: $70
  • Submission guidelines:
    • Submit teleplay (pilot) or screenplay
    • Feature Screenplays must be approximately 90-120 pages in length.
    • Short Screenplays must be 5 – 40 pages in length (for more on submitting shorts, check the site as fees may vary)
    • Teleplays should be the appropriate length depending on the format. The recommended length for single camera sitcoms is approximately 22-40 pages and 45-70 pages for single camera one-hour programs. The recommended length for multi-camera sitcom pilots is approximately 52-58 pages.

  • Highlights: It’s AFF! Which means that the further your script goes, the more fest perks and exposure you will get.

Look for more deadlines in Q2, 2021. In the meantime, a special thanks to Rose Glaeser who helped me put all of this together!