Not all screenplay contests are good.
We've done our best here at No Film School to alert you to the screenwriting contests, classes, and forums we think are worth your time and money. We did a breakdown of coverage services and whether or not they were worth the money, for instance.
This week, the internet exploded over one of the most potentially exploitative contests we've ever seen. The worst part about it? It's from MTV—a company big enough to know better.
The story goes like this.
MTV Entertainment Studios was looking for a way to reinvent A Christmas Carol as an original movie. That idea is in the public domain, so anyone could work on it and write a spec about it. MTV decided that the best way to develop this idea, instead of hiring established writers, was to create a contest for first-time screenwriters, the First Time Screenwriters Contest.
The contest rules state you cannot be part of the Writer's Guild. You also have to forfeit IP rights and royalties whether or not you win or lose, and can only win $10,000 to $60,000.
But you could also win no money, lose your idea forever, and have to deal with it.
Yes, that's all real. And you can read the details of the contest on MTV's website.
It seemed like Twitter erupted immediately against these rules.
Video is no longer available: twitter.com/totallymorgan/status/1491192688712241157?s=20&t=fDTS24fgtM6_PyvYmmSAdQ
People were pointing out that this contest, aimed at "diverse" writers, was incredibly exploitative of marginalized voices. Making matters worse, people showed that MTV would own almost every idea submitted, whether they paid for it or not.
This is from an MTV screenwriting competition, and the people who organized it should be disemboweled on Sunset street. pic.twitter.com/ywtmhnoH4l
This is from an MTV screenwriting competition, and the people who organized it should be disemboweled on Sunset street. pic.twitter.com/ywtmhnoH4l— post-america guy (@breakingany_2) February 10, 2022
This element became a uniting point for many, who rightfully demanded answers from MTV. Though none have come yet.
A predatory OWA disguised as a free screenwriting contest for emerging writers? Come on, Hollywood. Do better. pic.twitter.com/Hm24bxJpqW
A predatory OWA disguised as a free screenwriting contest for emerging writers? Come on, Hollywood. Do better. pic.twitter.com/Hm24bxJpqW— Ariel Relaford (@ArielRelaford) February 9, 2022
When you're looking for places to spend your money and effort on screenwriting, we strongly recommend you do your research. Never, ever enter a contest where you relinquish your rights to any material.
And never enter a contest that pays you less than the WGA minimum to own the rights to your project.
There are so many people out here trying to get writers to work for free or for next to nothing. It's a brutal trend that devalues creativity and your ideas.
It's so hard to break into Hollywood. Trust me, I get it., But there are no shortcuts. Most contests are not worth it. I think maybe just the Nicholl Fellowship is worth it now. Sucks to hear that, but most are scams and not respected. Do your best writing, have a great script, make personal connections, and try to pass it around.
Good luck, and happy writing.
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