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Broaden Your Horizons: All about Dallas International Film Festival's screenwriting competition

October 11, 2021
2 min read time

The Dallas International Film Festival (DIFF) is scheduled to take place Oct. 8-15, giving emerging screenwriters an opportunity for their scripts to be read by award-winning judges. 

Broaden Your Horizons is DIFF's screenplay competition; it takes place annually and is managed by Event Horizon Films. The competition opened for submissions in March and closed in September.

Winning screenwriters receive a writer’s enrichment cruise, professional feedback, access to industry networking platforms and festival passes; while the winner of the "Script to Screen" category (Aug. 27 is the deadline here) will see their fully funded short film script come to life on the big screen at DIFF.

"The film industry is loved by mostly everyone, and many people want to be a part of it. However, no matter how talented someone may be, breaking into the industry is difficult without the right outlets," Jodi Frizzell, co-founder and president of Event Horizon Films, told Final Draft on the genesis behind the competition.

"The Dallas screenplay competition leverages Event Horizon Films to make the business of Hollywood more accessible to everyone."

Opportunities abound for winners, including the chance to secure professional representation by commissioning script readers who are currently working at top talent agencies and management companies, as well as placing the top stories in the hands of award-winning screenwriters and producers. 

In terms of what makes this competition stand out from others, Frizzell said from a prize standpoint, Dallas is the only competition that offers a writing retreat cruise to the winning screenwriter.

"It’s our belief that new cultural experiences help inspire creatives, giving them the opportunity to include more range and depth in their stories."  

It is also one of the few competitions to honor screenwriters who specialize on a specific story element. Through the biennial Dallas Screenplay Awards, writers are recognized for Best Characterization, Best Dialogue, Best Concept and more. Frizzell said they do this "as a way to help screenwriters build their professional brands." 

When it comes to a winning script, Frizzell said judges are primarily looking for strong character development.

"Beyond that, they want to see unique voices and perspectives. A strong, steady tone tends to make a story stand out from the rest, while an element of surprise always helps, too. They also emphasize that page one matters. The first few sentences establish the writer's voice for the entire script, so make sure it’s engaging," she said.

The judges for this year include Oscar®-winning producer and writer Jana Sue Memel (Ray’s Male Heterosexual Dance Hall, Lieberman in Love, So I Married an Axe Murderer), executive producer Aaron Rahsaan Thomas (S.W.A.T., Numb3rs and CSI: NY on CBS; Southland, Sleepy Hollow, The Get Down on Netflix; and Friday Night Lights on NBC), TV writer Jonathan Hurwitz (Lizzie McGuire on Disney+, Spidey and His Amazing Friends for Marvel, and Andi Mack on Disney Channel), screenwriter Bill Kelly (Disney’s Enchanted, Premonition, Blast from the Past) and Dallas filmmaker Johnathan Brownlee (Three Days in August, The Standoff at Sparrow Creek, Decoding Annie Parker).

As for why screenplay competitions are important for emerging screenwriters, Frizzell said they typically help to answer the most popular question from new writers: "We just finished our first script. Now what?"

Competitions, she says, are the simplest means for unknown writers to get recognized, signed, optioned, or produced.

"Those who make it to the quarterfinals and beyond will have a great mark on their résumés to qualify them for future writing opportunities.

"And most importantly, the feedback gives writers a good idea of what they can do to improve their script during the next rewrite, as no script is ever really finished until it premieres on the big screen."  

While the competition is a Dallas-branded initiative to help encourage all local and regional screenwriters to enter, all emerging, unknown or unemployed screenwriters are welcome to submit from anywhere in the world. You must be at least 18, and have earned less than $50,000 for professional writing services in the preceding year. 

For more information on the Dallas Screenwriting Competition, visit eventhorizonfilms.com

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