Contests: Screenplays 2020


Frequently Asked Questions


What is the purpose of the contest?
The contest's aim is to seek out and encourage compelling new narratives for the screen, and to introduce the next generation of great screenwriters to today's leading production companies and agencies.

What are the prizes?
One winner will receive $5,000. The winner and top nine finalists will be considered for representation by a select list of agencies and their scripts will be considered for film option and development by leading production companies.

What is the deadline to submit?
The competition opens to submissions on July 1, 2020.
Submissions for the EARLY DEADLINE should be submitted online no later than August 1, 2020, at 11:59:59 p.m. Pacific Time.
Submissions for the FINAL DEADLINE should be submitted online no later than September 1, 2020, at 11:59:59 p.m. Pacific Time. PLEASE NOTE: The final deadline has been extended. Submissions should be submitted online no later than OCTOBER 1, 2020, at 11:59:59 PST. There will be no further extensions.

When will the winner and finalists be announced?
The top-ten finalists, consisting of one winner and nine honorable mentions, will be announced February 12, 2021, on the competition website and via email notification. The semifinalists will be announced at the same time.

How do I submit a script to the contest?
Visit, and submit your entry using our online submission system. Please use this system for screenplays as well as television pilot scripts. We do not accept hard-copy or paper entries. We do not make exceptions to this policy.

How will I learn whether I'm the winner or a finalist?
The winner and nine honorable mentions will be contacted directly by American Zoetrope via email on or before February 12, 2021. We also send a list of winners and finalists to all those who included an active email address with their submission. We do not send announcements by postal mail and we are unable to respond to individual requests for rankings, results, or scores.

Who's reading the scripts?
A handful of American Zoetrope staff and paid professional readers, who are bound by confidentiality agreements, read the scripts. The American Zoetrope staff and Francis Coppola will select the winner from ten finalists.

What are these readers looking for in a screenplay?
The readers are looking for a screenplay with the best story and execution, regardless of genre or budget requirements. We seek original voices whose work will contribute to the quality, diversity, and longevity of contemporary cinema. These standards are applicable to both television and film scripts.

Do you provide notes, coverage, or feedback to screenwriters?
No, we do not. We are sorry, but we are a tiny staff and just don't have the capacity. The contest's purpose is to introduce new writers to industry professionals and thereby help launch film careers.

How do I update my contact information if my email, mailing address, or phone number changes?
Please send a request to update contact information to


Are citizens of countries other than the United States eligible?
Yes. However, screenplay submissions must be in the English language.

Can I submit a screenplay adapted from another work?
Yes, an entry may be based on another work or on a true story. If the script is an adaptation or based on source material to which you do not own rights, you must indicate it as such on the title page.

Should I include my name on the title page? No. But if you forget to remove your name, there’s no need to contact us to correct it. Our submissions and judging process is blind, and we do look through the scripts before the judging commences to remove any lingering identifying information.

Can I submit a television pilot script?
Yes, we accept scripts for both one-hour and half-hour original television pilots. We do not accept spec scripts for television shows already in production or for previously produced shows. If the script is a television pilot, please include the word "pilot" in the file name. For example: The_Sopranos_PILOT.pdf. We recognize that today many of the most compelling cinematic narratives today are being produced for television or streaming. Our purpose is to introduce the next generation of great storytellers to producers and agencies, whether their stories are intended for the big screen or the small screen. There are no separate categories for film and television; all scripts are evaluated by the same judges, and compete against one another regardless of genre.

What happens if, after entering the contest, my script is sold or optioned, or I earn more than $50,000 as a screenwriter?
We require only that a writer and his/her script be eligible at the time of entry.


How can I confirm that my entry was received?
You will receive an automated confirmation email after completing the registration process.

What happens if there's a problem with my electronic file?
If there is a problem with your file, we will contact you, via email, and allow you to return a replacement file.

May I enter more than one screenplay to the contest?
Yes, absolutely; we welcome as many screenplays as you wish to submit. But please note that each submission requires a separate entry fee.

May I enter the same script from a previous year's contest?
You may, but we discourage writers from re-entering a script unless it has fundamentally changed since the previous entry. It's unlikely that, without substantive changes, a script would place differently from one year to the next.

If I revise my script after submitting it, may I replace the original version with the new one?
No. We are unable to swap in revisions or updated files under any circumstances, as noted in the Official Rules. Yet you are welcome to submit an updated draft as a new entry, should you wish to do so.

What is the page-count requirement?
Feature-length film scripts must be between 70 and 140 pages. One-hour television pilot scripts must be no longer than 70 pages. Half-hour television pilot scripts must be no longer than 40 pages. There are no exceptions.

What if my script is a few pages longer than the limit?
Unfortunately there are no exceptions to our page-limit rule. An essential part of writing for film is the ability to work within guidelines and constraints. The page-count lengths we have designated are the industry standard for unsolicited scripts; please follow them. (A good rule of thumb for estimating the length of your film is that one page of a script equals one minute of screen time.)

What is the U.S. Motion Picture industry standard screenplay format?
To learn more about correct screenplay formatting, you may consult any number of screenwriting books or screenwriting software. There are numerous resources on the internet for learning about standard film and television script formatting. You may also refer to Screenplay section of the member area of, where discussion threads may answer some of your questions about formatting. A small grammatical error or type will not disqualify your script, but please do your best to ensure that your screenplay is formatted correctly and is free of typos and spelling, punctuation, or grammatical errors. Please make certain that your script's pages are properly numbered.

Do I need to tell you my script is a pilot, and not a feature-length screenplay?
If the script is a television pilot, please include the word "pilot" in the file name. For example: The_Sopranos_Pilot.pdf. No other separate application or indication is necessary.

Will you disqualify my script if it isn't formatted correctly?
We'll consider scripts in which the formatting is fundamentally similar to standard screenplay format. We certainly understand that formatting may sometimes be lost or changed in electronic transfer; entrants will not be penalized in such cases. To ensure your formatting is maintained, please submit a PDF file.

What file types do you accept for online submissions?
We find PDF files to be the most reliable and easiest to work with, but we also accept Microsoft Word and Rich Text Format files. Please do not upload scripts in other formats. (To Final Draft and Screenwriter users: Both programs allow easy conversion to PDF and RTF files; please check the Help sections of those programs for instructions.) We do not accept hard-copy submissions; we do not make exceptions.

What do I do if my screenplay is in Final Draft or Screenwriter format?
Both software programs allow users to convert scripts easily to PDF and RTF documents. Please check the Help function of the program for instruction.

Should I include a logline or synopsis or, for television pilots, a show bible?
You will not be penalized for including a logline, but we do not read loglines or synopses. We do not and cannot read show bibles or other extra-entry materials. We prefer that each script speak for itself.


If I enter the contest, particularly if I'm the winner or a top-ten finalist, am I giving up rights to my script?
No. All entrants—including the winner and finalists—retain complete and exclusive rights to their work. Should a participating agency or production company (including American Zoetrope) wish to buy or option your script, represent you, or hire you for other work, you will be contacted directly by that party.

Must I register copyright of my screenplay before entering?
No, we do not require that the copyright of a script be registered (whether with the Library of Congress, the WGA, or another agency) before the script is entered into the contest.

Should I choose to do so, how do I copyright my work?
As noted in the Official Rules, you are responsible for ensuring copyright of your work. For answers to all U.S. copyright questions (e.g., about procedures, fees, etc.), consult the Library of Congress's copyright website at


What is American Zoetrope?
American Zoetrope is Francis Ford Coppola's motion picture production company. In our first thirty years, we have produced some of the most important films in American cinema, which have gone on to receive sixteen Academy Awards and seventy-two Academy Award nominations. Four Zoetrope-produced films are included in the American Film Institute's top one hundred American films.

American Zoetrope has constantly embraced the creative possibilities of technology, and the company is known for orchestrating alternative approaches to filmmaking and challenging Hollywood standards. American Zoetrope is headquartered in the historic Sentinel Building in San Francisco's North Beach neighborhood.

What is a zoetrope?
Zoetrope [fr. Gk. zoe, life + tropos, turning, changing]: an optical toy that converts a series of pictures of successive attitudes into the semblance of continuous motion: wheel of life: life revolution.