Full Disclosure: I do not pay submission fees. At first it was mostly because I don’t budget for it, but the more I submit to play-writing contests, the more it just doesn’t jive with me. I liken it to the nearly-only-in-LA procedure of dues-paying ensemble companies. More full disclosure: I used to work for one and was partly responsible for collecting said dues.
It makes my stomach turn.
Submission fees for playwrights isn’t as sickening to me. I understand fees are sometimes considered part of the beast. I mentioned this topic to my husband and he automatically assumed you paid for your play to be in the contest, not just considered. The wide eyes when I explained…
Many people have differing opinions, so instead of this being merely my thoughts, I want to share what I learned as I investigated across multiple social media platforms.
It all starts on Twitter: Local LA playwright Brian Polak was the first to answer my general inquiry.
I detest submission fees. Producing entities unfairly pass the burden of contests and productions on to prospective writers. I believe if you want to have a contest or do a production, fundraise for it. Don’t make writers pay to play.
Brian doesn’t agree that submission fees are equivalent to dues-paying companies however, a situation I could not resolve in 140 characters or less .
Gedaly Guberek of Coeurage Theatre Company quickly agreed, as did Louise Penburthy who added:
I don’t pay submission fees anymore, except for prestigious places with work-shopping. Otherwise it’s obnoxious, [in my humble opinion].
The idea of a play getting work-shopped or a production seemed to matter to some people. Through Linkedin I found the following comments:
Vic Cabrera in LA: I would, and have, if I get a critique back.
Donald Drake & Evan Guilford-Blake both said yes because the returns can be beneficial. Evan: Last year I paid about $900 and won $3600.
Donald has also gotten more prize money with contests that charge, and sees another benefit: One of my best experiences in the theater came from a competition I paid to enter – the O’Neill, which provided me with a wonderful month in Waterford, Ct. with incredible actors and directors and a wonderful staged reading of my play. I can understand why small theaters can’t afford to pay for running a competition and I see the submission fee as a business expense on my part.
Honestly, the Playwrights Group on Linkedin is so interesting and varied that I encourage everyone to read it.
Ian Hornby‘s perspective was especially interesting: Having run a playwriting competition on behalf of The Playwrights’ Co-operative, there are two edges to this topic. We started with a small entry fee ($10), purely to fund a decent prize at the end. But we had so many sites that would not list us because we had an entry fee that we dropped the fee and made it free entry. What a mistake we made. Although it’s not the right kind of filter and has so many undertones of not providing equal opportunities for those unable to afford the fee, at least it was a filter. We were completely snowed under with entries, and our panel of judges didn’t have time to do anything more than speed-read all entries so as to arrive at a shortlist, which could then be read in detail. Without doubt we’d have missed some gems.
Regardless, he does applaud contests without a fee.
Tony Earnshaw from the UK has an interesting perspective: …in the poetry world it’s difficult to find any contests which don’t have a fee attached and I’ve heard no grumbles. I’ve recently entered a short play for a competition run by a small theatre and am one of the winners (there are ten of us). The read through, at which I met the other writers, the directors and the casts, was worth it in itself.
Anyway, 5 on Linkedin from all over the world say YES, 9 say NO and 1/3 of the NO’s will make exceptions in rare cases.
Gregory Fletcher believes: If a theater company wants to attach their name to my play as the premiere producer, then figure out how to evaluate my play without charging me. Do painters, musicians, dancers, actors, or anybody else in the arts pay to have their work considered for production?
The answer to that, of course, is yes, in some cases.
I then took to Facebook. The results are as follows: