The Nicholl Fellowships annual screenwriting contest, has as many as six thousand scripts submitted each year. About 50 readers review and grade them, with only 5% making it to the quarterfinal stage. Ten scripts make it to the finals. A committee then selects five scripts which are awarded scholarships.
Personal note: This contest is probably the highest profile of its kind in North America (and as I know from personal experience includes an entry fee).
The Contest Administrator’s Perspective:
“You pick up a script and you start reading it, and you know right away: This person’s a writer… This person knows what they’re doing in terms of language, both in description and in dialogue. The second thing I notice is whether the person’s a screenwriter or not. Do they know how to put words to the proper service so that they’re not overwriting? Do they know how to be concise in their description, how to move the story forward?
These characters are doing something that’s interesting… You just want to keep turning the pages. You think, ‘I’m in the hands of a storyteller’.
There are people who love certain scripts and there are other people who will hate those same scripts, and there are lots of people who are in between on scripts… It’s just so subjective. There’s no way around that.
It takes time to really learn your craft… You have to learn how to know which stories work for the movies, as opposed to stories that work in other forms.
You have to persevere…. You have to keep sending your script out. You have to keep writing. That’s the single most important thing.
Sometimes…just reaching quarterfinals or semifinals has served as an encouragement, kept people writing – and the next script was the one that really broke through.”
Excerpted, including quotes from Greg Beal Tales from the Script (2010)