Build your World: The Other Worlds Austin SciFi Screenwriting Contest

From the birth of cinema, screenwriters have stretched our imaginations with stories from Other Worlds, taking us on A TRIP TO THE MOON, following the adventures of FLASH GORDON, or frightening us with THE DAY THE EARTH STOOD STILL. On the page, anything is possible, and really, what's more 'future' than writing a screenplay for something you hope will get made someday? Even a short that you intend to shoot yourself is an unrealized opportunity in the writing stage. As part of its ongoing mission to promote Science Fiction, Other Worlds Austin has announced its first SciFi Screenwriting Contest to reward creativity in its earliest stages and encourage writers to keep working in the genre. The contest will run alongside the film component of the festival and will be sponsored by No BullScript Consulting. In addition to feature scripts, OWA will also include a category for shorts and three teleplay categories: Pilots, Specs, and Retro-Specs.

Submissions for the contest are now open and are eligible for the Early Bird Discount until June 15, 2015. Until then, Features and Teleplays cost just $40 to submit and Shorts are $30. "Screenwriters start from ‘Fade In’ creating a specific world to show the reader: maybe it’s something pretty familiar, but often they’re painting our visual canvas with words,” says Bears Fonté, OWA Founder and Director of Programming. “And of course, SciFi screenwriters have to go one step further, convincing the reader to journey into the unknown, sometimes to a place or time that barely resembles the typical script setting.”

The top feature and teleplay will win cash prizes of $500 and the best short will win $250. The best feature, teleplay, and short will also receive a Development Notes Phone Consultation with Danny Manus, CEO of No BullScript Consulting, a top 15 script consultant according to Creative Screenwriting. "I'm so excited to team up with Bears and Other Worlds to give aspiring SciFi and genre writers a platform and access that they are sorely lacking right now despite the huge success of SciFi projects in film and TV the last few years,” says Danny Manus. In addition to the phone consultation, Manus promises that he will do his best to use No BullScript’s connections to get the winning scripts read by the agents, managers, and producers in Hollywood, people who can make something happen for the writers.

So few writers even attempt to write SciFi, yet with the success of INTERSTELLAR, GUARDIANS OF THE GALAXY, and EDGE OF TOMORROW, it's clear there will always be an audience for these trips to 'other worlds.' Also, SciFi can often get lost in the shuffle at larger contests or lumped in with other genre films. Other Worlds Austin wants to be a source of encouragement and a destination for these writers. "SciFi writers are more than just Trekkies and Star Wars fanatics,” says Manus.” I'd love to find the next Neill Blomkamp or Ben Ripley or Kurtzman/Orci or David Webb Peoples. And I know the execs who contact me looking for writers are searching for the same."

As CEO of No BullScript Consulting, Danny Manus is one of the most in-demand script consultants, as well as the author of “No B.S. for Screenwriters: Advice from the Executive Perspective.” He was ranked one of the Top 15 ‘Cream of the Crop’ script consultants in CS Magazine and named one of ScreenCraft’s 25 People Writers Should Follow on Twitter. “Danny is someone I met almost ten years ago in Los Angeles at a pitch fest,” says Fonté; “He knows exactly how the machine works, and everyday helps screenwriters navigate the industry.  He’s encouraging, and he’s honest, two things often in short supply in LA.” 

In addition to prizes for the winners, written feedback will be provided to every entrant of the contest, which Fonté says is the least a screenwriting contest can do to certify that each script is read with precision and professional concern. And unlike some other competitions, The Other Worlds Austin SciFi Screenwriting Contest is a celebration of writing skill, not feasibility of production. Although a basic understanding of what is possible in the industry is expected, entrants will not be penalized for writing big-budget scripts. “Our winners are not selected by production companies looking for low-budget scripts to option, subject to their own prejudices and preconceptions,” says Fonté. “We fully acknowledge that sometimes scripts are written as writing exercises and for fun. These scripts are just as worthy of being awarded prize money.”

If there is one category that makes the new contest revolutionary, it’s the Retro-Spec, a competition unlike anything else out there. This is similar in concept to screenwriter fan fiction. In this category, OWA will be essentially celebrating writers for bringing a fresh perspective to something everyone knows, something sacrosanct. Anyone can write yet another episode of Modern Family, but what we want to read is a new episode of Buck Rodgers in the 25th Century, or a pilot for CSI: Mars, or a television series adaptation of Lovecraft's Cthulhu stories.

To submit a screenplay to Other Worlds Austin, writers can go to OtherWorldsAustin.com/screenplays. There they’ll find submission guidelines, rules, and a helpful FAQ.

© 2014 OWA SciFi Film Fest, LLC