Opinions vary greatly whenever the topic of screenplay competitions comes up.
One screenplay consultant I've talked to recently says contests are useless. The top screenplays chosen in any contest are just that: They're the best of the batch that were entered into the competition. Just because you're leader of the pack does not mean that your work is Hollywood worthy.
Another spokesperson, who not coincidentally happens to be a reader for one of the major screenwriting competitions, offered this sage advice in a recent forum:
"It depends what your goals are. Certainly Nicholl and Austin are two of the top competitions. I am a reader for one, and it is a very high bar with 4,000 to 7,000 entries, so make sure your script is perfect. Some will open doors for you even if you only advance to the second round. Nicholl top 10 are what interests decision makers. That said, there are many specialty competitions that may be better if you are in a genre such as horror or sci-fi, or even women. I can say this: It doesn't make a difference if you write a script set in say New Hampshire and then enter in the New Hampshire fest. A good script is a good script (period). It is a very subjective process of selection as is anything creative. If your funds are limited, I'd suggest getting a reputable script coverage done (at a reasonable cost) and then submit to one or two after making your script shine, instead of just entering the top 10 contests.
Do your homework too--are the prizes worth the entry? Do they offer feedback? Are the judges in your wheelhouse?"