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Tips for Perfecting Your Screenplay And Getting It Into A Film Festival

by Writing Workshops Staff

A year ago

Tips for Perfecting Your Screenplay And Getting It Into A Film Festival

by Writing Workshops Staff

A year ago

“Once you crack the script, everything else follows.” – Ridley Scott

Apply for our 3-Month Mentorship: Launch Your Screenwriting Career with Taz Skylar

In the world of screenwriting, the bar is constantly being raised. Thanks to digital technology and online platforms, screenwriters now have more opportunities to get their scripts read and seen by the general public.

The downside? It's much more work for aspiring writers to break into the business. Even getting your script noticed by smaller festivals can take time and effort. But there are ways to increase your chances of success.These tips will help you perfect your screenplay and give you insider knowledge on how to crack the code for getting it into a film festival and having it stand out against all other submissions.

Know your audience

If you want to break into the film industry, you have to know your audience. Seems simple, but research can go a long way. As a screenwriter, you must know what type of stories the industry is looking for, what the studios' current agendas are, and which genres are the most in demand. This doesn't mean you should chase trends, but there is no substitute for knowing the ins and outs of the industry you aspire to join.

There are several online platforms where you can research what producers and studios are searching for and which genres are in demand. You can also use these platforms to gauge the current mood in the industry.

Helpful platforms for screenwriters include:

  • the Blacklist
  • Script Reader Pro
  • Script Shadow
  • IMDB Pro

By keeping up with these platforms and knowing what the industry is looking for, you can increase your chances of having your screenplay produced.

Write a great logline

The logline is your elevator pitch. It's what you use to pitch your screenplay to producers, agents, and other industry insiders. It's also how you sell your script in a competitive market, where thousands of scripts may be vying for the same attention.

The three key ingredients your logline are:     

  • The Protagonist    
  • The Goal    
  • The Antagonist Force

Your logline will force you to answer: Who is my protagonist? What do they want? Who/What is against my protagonist? Why is vital for my protagonist to achieve their goal?

Example loglines:

  • In space, no one can hear you scream. (Alien)    
  • There are 3.7 trillion fish in the ocean. They’re looking for one. (Finding Nemo)    
  • The longer you wait, the harder it gets. (The 40-Year-Old Virgin)    
  • Just because they serve you doesn't mean they like you. (Clerks)    
  • You don't get to 500 million friends without making a few enemies.(The Social Network)

Ideally, you should write two log lines for your screenplay: one for industry insiders and one for film festivals. For industry insiders, you want to write a log line that is short, snappy, and concise. For festivals, you want to write a longer log line, and that gives you a chance to expand on your idea and why it's unique.

Don't be lazy with your formatting. Use Courier

Before you even start writing your screenplay, you should think about formatting. This may seem like a minor detail, but it's essential. You want your script to be taken seriously. In that case, you must be consistent with your formatting and use the industry standard format.

The standard script format is 12-point Courier font, with one-inch margins on all sides of the page. This is the font and format professionals use, and you should use it in your writing.

While you can use any word processor, you should also use standard software. Final Draft, Movie Magic, and CeltX are some of the most widely used scriptwriting software.

Get a Script Reviewer

Before sending your screenplay off to film festivals and competitions, you should get it reviewed or find a teacher or mentor who can help you. You can find script review services online but choose a reputable service.

Costs for script reviews vary, but you should plan to spend some money for a thorough, helpful review. Having your script reviewed will help you identify any issues with your writing and areas that need more work. A script review is a crucial part of the screenwriting process. It will make your script far more competitive in the festival circuit.

Make sure your script is well-edited

A well-edited script is a professional script. It shows that you put in the effort to make your writing as clean and polished as possible. Screenwriting competitions usually have a page limit, which is the maximum number of pages you can write while maintaining a professional quality level.

Enter a Great Screenwriting Contest

Here are a handful of the best screenwriting contests we think can actually advance your career:

  • Nicholl Fellowship
  • Austin Screenwriting Competition
  • ScreenCraft Screenplay Contest
  • Slamdance Screenplay Competition
  • BlueCat Screenplay Competition
  • Cinestory Foundation Fellowship

Add more dialogue for a shorter runtime

If your script is too long, adding more dialogue is one of the best ways to shorten it. Screenwriting is a form of literature heavy on dialogue, and shorter screenplays usually have more dialogue than longer screenplays. Most festivals have a maximum runtime, and a shorter script will always have a higher chance of being accepted than a longer one.

Add more action for a longer runtime

If your screenplay is too short and below the word limit of many festivals, adding more action is one of the best ways to lengthen it. Screenwriting balances dialogue and action, but most screenplays are heavier on dialogue than action. Of course, ensure the added action is relevant to the plot and characters and doesn't feel like filler.


Many aspiring screenwriters believe they must live in Los Angeles or New York to break into the film industry. This couldn't be further from the truth. You can live anywhere in the world and write screenplays. In fact, most scripts are written remotely.

What's important is that you make your screenplay as professional as possible and learn how to submit it to film festivals. There are hundreds of screenwriting competitions, with something for every genre and style of writing.

Apply for our 3-Month Mentorship: Launch Your Screenwriting Career with Taz Skylar

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