Slamdance Screenplay Winners 2020

Joyce Sherrí Takes Home Grand Prize For Feature Screenplay “Sweet Sixteen” & Kinda Blue Burning Bright Receives Inaugural Mentorship Award Amidst Record Breaking Entries

LOS ANGELES, CA (October 8, 2020) – Slamdance today announced the winners of its 2020 screenwriting competition, awarding its Grand Prize to writer Joyce Sherrí for her first feature screenplay Sweet Sixteen. Additional prizes were awarded during a live-stream ceremony co-presented by Writers Guild of America, West and hosted by Slamdance alum Todd Berger across feature film, horror/thriller, TV pilot and short film categories. Slamdance awarded more than $16,000 to winners across all categories.

Sweet Sixteen is a coming of age tale infused with magical realism. Sweet, a 15 year old girl, tries to convince her parents to throw her a big sweet sixteen birthday party, but money and family problems lead Sweet down a destructive path. 

With over 6100 submissions this year, our readers were overwhelmed by a wealth of exciting new talent. It’s inspiring to see so many writers persevere and work on their stories even harder despite the tough challenges of this new world. We congratulate all the finalists and especially Grand Prize winner Joyce Sherrí with her first feature script Sweet Sixteen.” says Slamdance’s Festival Manager Alina Solodnikova.

“Black people are not a monolith and neither are our experiences. There is more to us than racial trauma. Sometimes we just want something as simple as a first kiss or a sweet sixteenth birthday party. I wrote Sweet Sixteen because I want to share a story that explores a universal rite-of-passage from an unfamiliar point of view.” says writer Joyce Sherrí.

The recipient of the inaugural Slamdance Screenplay Mentorship Award is McKinley Belcher III for his feature script Kinda Blue Burning Bright, about Tiger, a black homeless Renaissance man who tries to make sense of the world around him and find his artistic voice in the wake of his friend’s death. McKinley will receive mentorship and feature film development support from Oscar-winning Slamdance alumnus Damon Russell, as well as Slamdance President Peter Baxter.

“At Slamdance, it’s not just about awarding outstanding new talent. It’s also about supporting creators who show great promise. As an artist led organization there are many of us at Slamdance that can nurture talent and that’s why we decided to start the Screenplay Mentorship Award. We are proud to announce McKinley Belcher III as our first winner. Both Joyce Sherrí’s incredible achievement and McKinley Belcher III’s raw new work show when it comes to discovering talent and launching careers, independent and grassroots communities can do it themselves,” said President Co-founder Peter Baxter. 

Slamdance recognizes four categories in its Writing Competition and congratulates the top three screenplays in each category. The top three 2020 Slamdance screenplays in each prize category are as follows:



1st place: Sweet Sixteen by Joyce Sherrí

2nd place: Funeral Season by Jake Hirsch

3rd place: As You Wish by Suhashini Krishnan



1st place: Our Gods Within by Alex Luprete

2nd place: Dying on the Pass by Jackson Birnbaum

3rd place: Goodbye Lyrics by Daniel Russell


TV Pilot

1st place: Lifeline by Meredith Casey

2nd place: Below The Fold by Kevin Wolfe

3rd place: Mourning After by Rikki Bleiweiss



1st place:The Peregrine by Justin Giddings

2nd place: Youth Rejuv by Katherine Voigt

3rd place: How To Meal Prep During A Famine by Lindsey Ruggles


Over the past 24 years, the success of the Slamdance Screenplay Competition and its winning writers continues to attract the attention of industry professionals searching for the best new independent writing talent. Slamdance Screenplay Competition winners that have gone to production include Maria Full of Grace from writer Joshua Marston and The Woodsman co-written by Nicole Kassel and Steven Fechter. 2018 Grand Prize winner Jessica Sinyard has since signed with The Agency in the UK and Grandview in the US. Her Slamdance-winning TV pilot The Peak is now under option, and she has been commissioned by Sky to write a pilot script for an original thriller series with Left Bank Pictures and also by the BBC to write a pilot script for an original crime series with Wild Mercury.

The Slamdance Screenplay Competition is dedicated to discovering emerging writing talent. Since 1995, the organization has established a strong track record for identifying and supporting new screenwriters, and welcomes screenplays in every genre, on any topic, from anywhere in the world. 

The top three screenwriters in the Feature and Horror/Thriller categories are eligible for membership in the Writers Guild of America West’s Independent Writers Caucus, and winners in both of these categories receive $2,500 in legal services from Pierce Law Group, LLP. All winners also receive a collection of Slamdance merchandise and will be included in the 2020 Slamdance Film Festival program which is distributed to industry professionals in Park City and year round.

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