Screenwriting is hard work, and getting your script read by the people who matter can be even harder. And while there is no surefire way to break into the industry, there are some things you can do to increase your odds of making it in Hollywood.

As a screenwriting advisor for the UCLA Extension Writers’ Program, I tell students that one of the easiest ways to break into the biz is to apply to screenwriting competitions. It’s the one method that doesn’t require major networking and/or making endless queries/cold calls to agencies and production companies. With competitions, an excellent script is virtually all you need. No heavy lifting required.

The UCLA Extension Writers’ Program currently offers three such screenwriting competitions: feature film writing, TV spec writing, and TV pilot writing. These competitions have been launching pads for many writers, most notably Stuart Beattie (G.I Joe: The Rise of Cobra; Australia; Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl; 30 Days of Night; and Collateral), and Randi Mayem Singer (Mrs. Doubtfire).

Recently, Writers’ Program screenwriting student Markham Cook took first place in the feature film writing competition and subsequently landed an agent (who just happened to be one of the competition’s judges!). Other recent winners include: Denise Harkavy (1st place TV spec); Patrick Moss (2nd place TV spec); Chandra Wicke (2nd place feature film); Eric Borden (3rd place feature film); and Terrence Michael (2nd place feature film). Each one of these winners landed managers/agents or got hired for projects as a direct result of a UCLA Extension screenwriting competition.

Think the odds are stacked against you? Think again. Because entries are limited to students who have taken courses in the Writers’ Program in the past two years, you will likely be competing with fewer than 100 writers, and those are significantly better odds than participation in other well-known and well-respected competitions such as the Academy Nicholl Fellowships and Scriptapalooza, where the entries each year number well into the thousands.

Have I convinced you yet? Good for you, because now you’re just five easy steps away from one of the most important screenwriting career moves you can make.

Step # 1

Take courses.

In order to be eligible for the 2013 UCLA Extension Feature Film Writing Competition, you need to have three recent Writers’ Program feature film courses under your belt. For the TV Spec and Pilot Writing Competitions, you only need to have two.

Step # 2

Write an amazing screenplay, television spec, or pilot!

As long as you put in the time, dedication, and effort required in step # 1, step #2 should be in the bag.

Step # 3

Fill out the application form and submit it by the March 1, 2013 deadline.

You can find it here:

Step # 4

Wait.

The top ten semi-finalists are announced in May and the top three are announced in June. While you wait to hear if you placed, get busy working on your next script because one of the first things an industry exec will ask you as a competition finalist is: “What else have you got?”

Step # 5

Reap the rewards!

The top three finalists receive: a one-on-one mentorship with a professional writer ($775 value) who will help you revise your script for the final round of judging; a guaranteed read by an agent, producer, and/or creative executive; and a cash prize (1st Place = $1000, 2nd Place = $500, and 3rd Place = $250); plus announcements in the trades and mailings to studios and production companies.

Hollywood is always looking for the next big writer, and this year, it just might be YOU.

It’s as easy as 1, 2, 3…4 and 5.

Chae Ko is the Program Representative for Screenwriting (Onsite & Online). Contact him at cko@uclaextension.edu or (310) 206-2612.

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