Ten, count ’em, ten movies for Best Picture at this year’s Academy Awards. It’s got the whole industry buzzing—for the first time, films as different as Avatar and The Hurt Locker will vie for a chance at the industry’s favorite gold statuette. Four out of the five nominees for Best Original Screenplay are included in the Best Picture nominees, so that bodes well for all you up-and-coming screenwriters out there.

In the spirit of healthy competition, the Writers’ Program is gearing up for its own annual screenplay competition, officially titled the UCLA Extension Screenplay Competition.The deadline to enter is in late March.

Entering competitions is a great way to get your name out there. As Jacqueline Craig, the first-place winner of last year’s competition put it: “I was very impressed with how UCLA Extension pushed the winners’ names into the industry. I received many requests to view my work, and offers to read my work in the future, which has been an incredible (and refreshing) change. I’ve also taken a few meetings that could potentially result in paying jobs. In short, the competition has been an incredible stepping stone. Have I said everyone eligible should partake in it?”

Did you know that some big names in the industry have a UCLA Extension Screenplay Competition placement under their belt? It’s true. Academy Award winner Gavin Hood (Tsotsi, Rendition,) placed 3rd in 1992 for his script “A Reasonable Man.” Stuart Beattie (G.I. Joe: The Rise of Cobra, Australia, Collateral, Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl), won first place in 1993 for his script, “Mayday.”

One excellent benefit of placing in the top three is the one-on-one mentorship with a Writers’ Program instructor in the months prior to the final judging by industry professionals. This consultation is valued at $700, but could probably be labeled “invaluable” for many of the winners. Not to mention that we send the winners’ loglines and contact information to over one thousand literary agencies, management companies, and production companies.

Matthew Moses, a top-three finalist in 2006 and 2007, had this to say about his experience, “I entered last year’s contest and came in second. UCLA Extension did a great job in terms of hook-ups with agents and managers. I went from having neither to having both. Last year, I was a finalist in three other prestigious contests, and won a couple of others. They were all supportive, but no one worked harder for me than UCLA Extension did. I appreciate the loyalty. I also made some good connections during the courses, with both students and [instructors].”

If that doesn’t convince you to start preparing your materials, then maybe the cash prizes of $1000, $500, and $250 awarded to first, second, and third-place finalists will spur your motivation.

Annabel Oakes, the 2008 first place finalist, had this to say about the competition, “The UCLA Extension Screenwriting Competition is part of a truly elite group of competitions in that it has been established to foster and promote the best in contemporary screenwriting. It’s a ‘pure’ competition: not established to sell seminars or study aids, not constructed to pay some producer’s rent—it’s all about the writing.”

So, all you screenwriters out there, get with the spirit of awards season, and ready your scripts for the March 25th deadline. If you want to learn more about the competition and download an official application packet, click here. We’ll be looking for your name in lights!

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Gabrielle Stephens is the Program Representative in Screenwriting (Onsite).

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