May 18, 2024

Slamdance has announced the winners of its annual screenplay competition, with Mike Ackerman’s feature-length script “This End Up” winning the grand prize.

Slamdance announced the awards — recognizing writers across the categories of feature film, horror/thriller, TV pilot, short film and a special mentorship award — during a ceremony held at Los Angeles’s Westwood Landmark Theater on Wednesday night. In total, the organization gave out more than $18,000 in prizes and industry services.

Per the official synopsis of “This End Up,” Ackerman’s winning screenplay follows “a sheltered man who lives his life quite literally, and physically, upside-down. When he finally meets a woman who accepts him as he is, her closed-minded family plants doubt as to whether his condition will stand in the way of her dream of an adventurous lifestyle.”

Anna Lee Lawson, the film festival and screenplay competition manager, commented on Ackerman’s work, saying, “Mike’s script is a unique story of overcoming obstacles and in a remarkably creative way disability.”

Lawson noted that Slamdance received over 4,000 screenplay submissions for this year’s competition. “We were all above-and-beyond impressed by this year’s submissions and the vast amount of creativity demonstrated,” she continued. “The 2023 winners and their scripts truly embody the Slamdance spirit in that they take risks and refuse to compromise. We are deeply honored to welcome these writers to the Slamdance family.” 

To help foster their burgeoning writing careers, the feature and horror/thriller winners are now eligible for membership in the Writers Guild of America West’s Independent Writers Caucus.

Elsewhere in the competition, Vanessa Magic won the Slamdance screenplay mentorship award in recognition of her series pilot script “I Want To Be Evil,” about a woman working a data entry job at a corporation for villains.

“Our alumni are thrilled to mentor Vanessa Magic and value deeply the fresh perspective she brings to the table,” stated Slamdance festival director Taylor Miller, adding that Magic’s film “crafts a narrative that aligns brilliantly with our ethos of championing disruptive, transformative, and innovative storytelling. Through her exploration of identity, legacy, and the blurred lines of morality set within a supervillain universe, Vanessa showcases her prowess. We are keen to witness the trajectory of this promising series.”

Previous Slamdance screenplay competition winners include Joyce Sherri, who is the head writer on Disney’s upcoming “Tiana” series, and Tyler Tice, whose grand prize-winning script “Day Shift” was produced by Netflix and starred Jamie Foxx.

The top three screenplays in the competition’s four categories were recognized by Slamdance. The winners are listed below:


1st Place: “This End Up” – Mike Ackerman

2nd Place: “Popcorn Prophets” – Reynaldo Leal

3rd Place: Scraps – “Matthew Francis” – Ryan Nordin


1st Place: “Sundown” – Nick Hurwitch

2nd Place: “Purgatory” – Brian Schwab

3rd Place: “07 Honda Civic” – John Schlirf


1st Place: “Do I Belong Here?” – Teri Rusike

2nd Place: “Prey For Us” – Zoe Kerr

3rd Place: “Ether Run” – Westin Lee

Short Film

1st Place:  “Free Martin” – Scott Thompson, Hayes Hart-Thompson

2nd Place: “An Ideal Life” – Keegan Stull

3rd Place: “Meat Baby” – Katherine Gauthier

(Pictured: Mike Ackerman)

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