Screenwriting contests — are they a good idea?

Agents and managers I’ve talked to have emphasized that there are handful of top competitions that can be a feather in a writer’s cap, if one place REALLY highly in them.  And these can be mentioned at the bottom of an e-mail query (after pitching whatever script you’re trying to get read).

Here is the list I’ve compiled from those conversations.  Please add comments if you have supporting or differing opinions on this.

They are in no particular order, other than the Nicholl Fellowship being universally acknowledged as the top contest, and Sundance Screenwriter’s Lab being its own special case…

Nicholl Fellowship
Austin Film Festival
Final Draft “Big Break”
Page Awards
Blue Cat
American Zoetrope
Script Pipeline

Sundance Screenwriters Lab

In television, some of the major studios and networks also offer fellowships that can be a serious launching pad for aspiring TV writers.  The big five are:

CBS Writers Mentoring Program
The Disney/ABC Writing Program
Fox Writers Intensive
NBC: Writers on the Verge
The Warner Bros Television Writers’ Workshop

I also recommend my "Ten Key Principles Successful Writers Understand", and my series of audio downloads.    And if you'd like me to read something you're working on, check out my consulting page.