Screenplay Contests

Film Producer Marvin Acuna has this to say about screenplay competitions:

Winning screenplay competitions is a very positive boost to the ego, but in the end that takes second position to the primary purpose: the EXPOSURE you deserve for winning. If done right, the competition is judging you on your talent from a level playing field.

There’s a ton of competitions out there – the trick is finding the right ones or, to be blunt, finding competitions which aren’t a scam.  With that in mind, here’s a cherry-picked list I’ve built up over the past few years.  While there’s certainly hundreds more out there, this Baker’s Dozen represents legitimate competitions with definite endgame value:

Austin Film Festival Screenplay Competition
The script competition at AFF is one of the top three most credible, honored and head-turning in the nation. While it is but one facet of the stellar AFF program … it also happens to consistently call out the best in the business, and deserves the respect it demands.  For full-lengths.
Entry fee:
$50
Deadline:
June
Info:
http://www.austinfilmfestival.com/new/screenplay

Shriekfest Short/Long Screenplay Competition
For Horror, Science Fiction and Fantasy focused short screenplays.  Includes cash prizes, script analyses. Full-length finalists submitted to agents/producers for consideration.
Entry fee:
Prices vary depending on submission date and type of entry (short vs. full-length)
Final Deadline:
July
Info:
http://www.shriekfest.com/

Slamdance Short/Long Screenplay Competition
The Slamdance Screenplay Competition is dedicated to new writers. They accept screenplays in every genre, on any topic from every country around the world. Their mission is to bring attention to the most talented emerging screenwriters and introduce them to the industry. The WGA, west holds a reception each year for the winners.
Entry fee:
Prices vary dependent submission date and additional services available (e.g. coverage)
Final Deadline:
June
Info:
http://www.slamdance.com

Scriptapalooza Competition
Top selectees will have their scripts read by producers and agents in the film industry.  The program is run with WGA oversight and approval.  This is a twice a year competition that has been around for almost a decade.
Entry fee
: $40
Deadline:
See website – dates vary.
Info
: http://www.scriptapalooza.com/

Nicholl Fellowships in Screenwriting
The Nicholl Fellowships in Screenwriting program is an international competition open to screenwriters who have not earned more than $5,000 writing for film or television. Entry scripts must be the original work of a sole author or of exactly two collaborative authors. Entries must have been written originally in English. Adaptations and translated scripts are not eligible. Up to five $30,000 fellowships are awarded each year.
Entry fee:
$30
Deadline:
May 1, annually
Info
: http://www.oscars.org/nicholl/

Sundance Institute Summer Screenwriter’s Lab
The Screenwriters Lab is a five-day writer’s workshop that gives independent screenwriters the opportunity to work intensively on their feature film scripts with the support of established writers in an environment that encourages innovation and creative risk-taking. One-on-one story sessions with Creative Advisors support, challenge, and inspire the screenwriters during this intensive process of script development.
Entry fee:
$35
Deadline:
May 1st
Info:
http://www.sundance.org/press_subgen.html?articleID=8&colorCode=green

Gimme Credit Short/Full-Length Competition
Known for connecting winners and finalists with filmmakers, all proceeds go toward production of winning scripts for both short and long form.
Entry fee:
Varies depending on entry date– see website
Final Deadline:
November
Info:
http://www.gimmecreditcompetition.com/

BlueCat Screenplay Competition
Includes cash prizes ranging from $100 to $1000.  Every screenplay submitted to BlueCat receives written analysis from industry insiders.
Entry fee
: $35 to $65 (dependent on entry date)
Deadline:
April 
Info
: http://www.bluecatscreenplay.com/

And for current faculty and students….

The National BEA Festival Student Screenplay Competition
A national competition for the best shorts and full-length scripts written while attending college.  Missouri State University students have placed successfully in this competition for the past three years.
Entry fee
: $30
Deadline:
Early December each year
Info:
http://www.beaweb.org/staticcontent/staticpages/stu_call.htm