for Montclair Local

Are you a middle or high school student who wants to try your hand at writing the screenplay for your own film?

If so, Montclair Film wants to hear from you.

For the last 10 years, Montclair Film has offered its Emerging Filmmakers contest for students in sixth grade and up. Now, it is adding an Emerging Screenwriters competition for young people. 

“We knew there were so many talented screenwriters out there,” said Sue Hollenberg, Montclair Film’s education director. “We thought it would be a great way to celebrate them as well and give them an opportunity to compete as well.”

Students in grades eight through 12 are invited to submit their screenplays to the contest by Feb. 21.

The winners will receive feedback on their scripts from professionals in the industry. The grand prize winner’s script will be performed by actors doing a live read. 

“Very excited about it … I just think it’s a really great opportunity for them, and it’s something I wish I’d had when I was their age, so I think it’s going to be meaningful for a lot of kids,” said Ryan Moore, education program manager for Montclair Film. 

The idea came about as Montclair Film was staging its 10th annual Emerging Filmmakers competition last year. 

“It was really moving, and we realized how powerful these competitions were and how much they meant to the students who had put so much work into their submissions,” Hollenberg said. 

Additionally, Montclair Film is in the process of starting to move back to live events after the coronavirus pandemic forced most events and workshops to go virtual. Hollenberg noted that at the start of the pandemic, Montclair Film received lots of offers from local experts to help conduct online classes and workshops for students. 

She said that the screenwriters competition is taking place before the Emerging Filmmakers contest to allow students to produce and direct their films if they wish to do so. The deadline for submissions to the Emerging Filmmakers contest is April 27.

There are a lot of competitions for screenwriters, Hollenberg said, but she didn’t think there were a lot of screenwriting competitions that were specifically geared toward children and teens. Montclair Film is well positioned to put on a competition and provide mentoring and education opportunities, she said, because of all the programs that it currently provides for kids. 

“We’re talking to these kids, we’re teaching these kids, and we’re hearing what they want and what they need,” Hollenberg said.

A lot of the students who enter the contest may be doing so with the goal of eventually applying to film school. Considering how admission to top film schools is highly competitive, Hollenberg said, the screenwriting competition could give these students a boost. 

“You know, we were also seeing kids who were applying to film schools, and we knew it was not only a great way to celebrate these kids, but it was a great way to help them get their first laurels, build their portfolio,” she said. “It’s really a wonderful feather in their cap.” 

For the competition, Montclair Film has recruited a panel of judges that includes several Montclair residents who are well known in the film and television industry, including Susan Skoog, Ryan Spindell and Tim Greenberg. 

“To see kids who are just following their passion and telling their stories, and using their voice to tell their stories, it’s just so gratifying,” Hollenberg said. 

For more information about both the screenwriters and filmmakers competitions and how to apply, visit