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GREAT Exposure for Contest Winners & Finalists!

Early or Late?
Which Screenplay Contest Deadline Should You Choose?

By Jerry Traynor, Associate Editor,

Screenplay contests have become a popular avenue for aspiring screenwriters to gain recognition, secure representation, and even launch their careers. But a frequently debated question among entrants is whether it's better to submit your screenplay early or to wait until closer to the contest deadline. Each approach has its own set of advantages and potential drawbacks. This article explores both strategies to help you make an informed decision.

The Case for Early Submission

  1. Fresh Eyes on Your Work: Submitting your screenplay early means that the judges will likely read your script when they are still fresh and not yet fatigued by the sheer volume of entries. Early submissions can stand out more simply because the judges are more attentive and less prone to fatigue-induced oversight.
  2. Opportunity for Feedback: Many contests offer feedback services for an additional fee. Submitting early allows you to receive this feedback and potentially make improvements before the final deadline. This can be invaluable for refining your script and boosting its chances of success.
  3. Reduced Stress: Early submission can reduce the stress and pressure associated with impending deadlines. By planning ahead and submitting early, you can avoid the last-minute rush and the possibility of technical issues that might arise when everyone is trying to submit at the same time.
  4. Multiple Contest Submissions: Entering early gives you the flexibility to submit to multiple contests. If you receive feedback or realize that your script might be better suited to a different contest, you still have time to make those adjustments.

The Case for Late Submission

  1. Maximized Preparation Time: Waiting until closer to the deadline allows you to use the maximum amount of time to polish and perfect your screenplay. This extra time can be crucial for refining dialogue, tightening the plot, and ensuring your characters are fully developed.
  2. Incorporating Latest Trends: The film industry is constantly evolving, and what’s trending can change quickly. By submitting later, you can ensure that your screenplay incorporates the latest trends and elements that might appeal to judges.
  3. More Complete Feedback: If you’ve been part of a writers’ group or workshop, you might need the extra time to gather comprehensive feedback. Late submissions allow you to integrate this feedback thoroughly, potentially making your script more competitive.
  4. Strategic Considerations: Some screenwriters believe that judges might have lower expectations later in the contest period and may be more lenient with late submissions. While this is speculative, it’s a consideration that some writers take into account.

Practical Considerations

  1. Contest Rules and Policies: Before deciding when to submit, review the contest’s rules and policies. Almost all contests have tiered entry fees, with early submissions being cheaper. If budget is a concern, this could be a big factor.
  2. Volume of Submissions: Consider the contest’s typical volume of submissions. Contests that receive a high volume of entries might have more consistent judging criteria throughout the submission period, whereas smaller contests might have more variation.
  3. Personal Workflow: Reflect on your own workflow and writing habits. If you work best under pressure, a late submission might suit you. Conversely, if you prefer to avoid the last-minute rush, early submission is the way to go.


There is no one-size-fits-all answer to whether it's better to submit a screenplay early or late. The decision should be based on your individual circumstances, writing process, and strategic considerations. Early submissions can benefit from fresh eyes and reduced stress, while late submissions allow for maximized preparation and strategic timing. Ultimately, the best approach is the one that aligns with your personal workflow and maximizes the quality of your screenplay. Whether you choose to be an early bird or a night owl, the key is to ensure your script is the best it can be when it reaches the judges' hands.

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