Yeah, like I know.
But maybe I can help. I used to send my screenplays to just about any and every contest that came down the pike. What a waste of cash.
Are contests meaningless? Well, mostly. If you're going to enter some, pick the reputable ones, like Nicholl, BlueCat, Austin, Scriptapalooza. The Sundance Lab. They all at least have a track record and some in the industry do pay attention to who wins them (notably Nicholl).
But how many pay attention really? Here's the thing. I ALMOST won the Austin Film Festival's comedy competition in 2003 with my feature script, Cricket Hill. It came in 2nd place out of 3000 scripts. Not bad. And off of that, I didn't sell it. (had some meetings though, also my suck-ass manager at the time didn't help me situation). But the guy who won? Did he ever sell it? Not that I've heard.
One thing I do notice on some of these contests is the winners. Some of these winners have won multiple contests, I've seen quite a few winner's lists with the same names/scripts popping up on many of them. Awesome for them, I bet their script must rock.
But they haven't sold it yet. Contest cash is nice to get, but what's the point if no one is buying your shit?
I'm not against contests, hell, just a few months back I listed all the ones I had coming up and entered, etc. But I look back and see just how futile it is. You might have the best script EVER, and let's pretend it's a family drama. Well, the reader of whatever contest has just read 2 family dramas in a row and is sick to fucking death of them, so he skims it, and tosses it. And you're done. You should have wiped your ass with that $50 instead.
Not all are like this I'm sure. But I have RARELY seen even multiple winners of contests sell/option their work ever after taking top prizes, really with the exception of Nicholl and I believe Scriptapalooza had some options. But I doubt it was based soley on contest wins.
Market the shit of yourself. List them at places like Inktip.com & winningscriptspro.com. Do those work? Still a crapshoot, but it worked for me - Cricket Hill, that script that almost won Austin 2.5 years ago? Well, right now I'm adapting it into a TV series after some awesome kick-ass producers grabbed it off of winningscriptspro.com, as some of you guys know from my previous posts. And I had a close call just a few months back with another script called The Money Shot when some producers saw it on Inktip. These sites work, simple as that.
And go pitch, there are a few pitchfests each year, go and get your asses out there and pitch your shit, man! (That's how I got Manager #1 in 1998). I'm now on my 3rd (and best) manager.
Afraid somebody might steal it if you pitch it to them or list it on these websites? Well, then don't pitch it, I'm sure it'll do you a lot of good stuck on your hard drive.
So, contests are ok, but NOT THE ANSWER. If you can place in one or two, fine, but don't sit on your ass, you've gotta do more work and get your damn self out there. Also, one of the best things I can suggest is to have two scripts ready. Because if you get in the producer's office, they might like the script but not love it, and the next thing out of their mouth will be: "Well, what else do you have?"