The Austin Film Festival and Conference is the one festival in the U.S. that focuses specifically on writers and their stories. The Conference is packed with panels of professional screenwriters sharing their experiences breaking into the industry and the process of getting their scripts to the screen. Aspiring screenwriters have direct access to ask the professionals questions and get advice on the next steps in their journey. Plus, the vibe at the festival is very welcoming, and many screenwriters make lasting connections with one another over drinks at the Driskill Hotel bar.
NFS contributor Christopher Boone talks with writer/director Jeff Nichols at the Austin Film Festival and Conference 2016.Credit: Austin Film Festival. Photo by Jack Plunkett.
Today, April 20, is the regular deadline for the 2017 Austin Film Festival Screenplay & Teleplay competition. So if your script is polished and ready to go, you'll want to consider submitting your script to the AFF competition before the entry fees go up.
All entrants receive free feedback on their screenplays, regardless of how they place in the competition. These reader comments will be a paragraph summary of the reader's reaction to the script. Entrants whose scripts advance to the Second Round and beyond will receive additional reader comments discussing reactions to concept, plot, structure, characters, and dialogue.
Winners of the competition will receive cash awards plus roundtrip airfare reimbursement (up to $500 per script) and hotel reimbursement (up to $500 per script), along with recognition as the Awards Luncheon at the festival. All finalists in all categories receive a complimentary Producers Badge ($675 value) to attend the Austin Film Festival and Conference. Semifinalists can purchase a Producers Badge at a reduced rate of $200, and even Second Rounders will receive a discount on Producers Badge purchases.
Here are the feature screenplay categories open for submission with an April 20, 2017 regular deadline entry fee of $55 and a May 15, 2017 late deadline entry fee of $70:
- Drama Screenplay Award presented by the Writers Guild of America, East: This category is open but not limited to feature drama scripts in genres such as historical, western, family, romance, horror, thriller, etc. Drama Finalist scripts will be judged by a select panel of WGAE screenwriters.
- Comedy Screenplay Award presented by Sony Pictures Animation: This category is open but not limited to feature comedy scripts in genres such as dark comedy, satire, family, animation, slapstick, horror, etc. Sony Pictures Animation will supply representatives to judge for the category. Subject to scheduling and availability, a representative from the studio will meet with each of the Finalists during the Conference or over the phone at a later date.
- Entrants may submit to both Drama and Comedy categories, but each submission requires a separate online entry form, entry fee, and PDF script.
- The Feature Screenplay Competition is only open to writers who do not earn a living writing for film or television.
- All screenplays must be original works of the entrant(s), in English, approximately 90-120 pages in length, and may not be sold or optioned before October 28, 2017.
Feature screenplay entrants who have applied to the Drama and/or Comedy categories may opt into consideration for the following awards for an additional $20/each:
- Enderby Entertainment Award: The Enderby Entertainment Award category is open to feature scripts in all genres with an original concept and distinctive voice that can be independently produced under $10 million. Co-founded by Rick Dugdale and Daniel Petrie, Jr. (Beverly Hills Cop, The Big Easy), the production company acquired the 2008 AFF Finalist script Stranded (now titled Dawn Patrol) which world premiered at the 2014 Festival starring Scott Eastwood and Rita Wilson.
- Sci-Fi Award presented by Skybound Entertainment: Open to science fiction, fantasy, horror, surrealism, myth/legend and fantastical storytelling. Skybound Entertainment is a multiplatform entertainment company led by Robert Kirkman and David Alpert (The Walking Dead, Fear the Walking Dead and Outcast). The company will review the top scripts submitted in each category and will determine the Finalists and Winner and will meet with each of the Finalists during the Conference or over the phone at a later date.
- Horror Award: The Horror Award is open to any feature horror script including dark suspense, thriller, sci-fi and macabre themes.
For television writers, the following categories are open with an April 20, 2017 regular deadline entry fee of $45, and a May 15, 2017 late deadline entry fee of $60:
- AMC One-Hour Pilot Award: Open to any pilot script written in the one-hour format for an original television series. AMC will review the top scripts submitted in the category and will determine the Finalists and Winner. Finalists will be given the opportunity to meet with a representative from AMC during this year's Conference or over the phone at a later date.
- Sitcom Pilot Award: Open to any comedy pilot script written in the half-hour format for an original television series.
- One-Hour Spec Award: Open to any spec for a current one-hour television show.
- Sitcom Spec Award: Open to any spec for a current half-hour comedy television show.
- The Teleplay Competition is open to ALL writers at all levels.
- In order for spec scripts to be eligible for consideration, the program must not be canceled prior to the start of the current television season (September 2016). Specs for new programs must have a series premiere date no later than May 2017. Any ineligible spec script will be disqualified and no refund will be provided.
- 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.
Screenwriters with original short screenplays 5-40 pages in length can apply to the Short Screenplay category with an April 20, 2017 regular entry fee of $45, and a May 15, 2017 late entry fee of $60. The Short Screenplay Competition is only open to writers who do not earn a living writing for film or television. Short scripts that have already been produced are ineligible.
To submit your feature script, teleplay, or short script, go to the AFF Screenplay & Teleplay Competition submission page here.
Finally, AFF is accepting screenplays for digital series for its competition this year with an April 20, 2017 regular entry fee of $40, and a May 15, 2017 late entry fee of $45 that meet the following criteria:
- The Scripted Digital Series Competition is only open to writers who do not earn a living writing for film or television.
- Digital series scripts must not have been optioned or sold prior to October 28, 2017.
- Scripts that have previously reached the Semifinalist level and beyond within the Scripted Digital Series Competition or Screenplay & Teleplay Competition are not eligible for submission.
- Entrants can submit 1-3 scripted episodes, totaling no more than 30 pages in length. Each script must be submitted as part of the same PDF file.
To submit your digital series screenplay, go to the AFF Scripted Digital Series Competition submission page here.