You do not need to win a screenwriting competition to get into the industry, but it may help.
Here are some of the few screenwriting competitions that are possibly not a complete waste of time and money:
- The Academy Nicholl Fellowships in Screenwriting
- The Austin Film Festival – Attend their screenwriting conference if you can!
- Script Pipeline
- Imagine Impact
- Page International Screenwriting Awards
- Final Draft Big Break Screenwriting Contest
- see also: Lauri’s List of Screenwriting Fellowships, Labs, and Contests
Placing high or even winning a screenwriting competition is not going to be a golden ticket for breaking into the film industry, but may offer you an opportunity to contact agents and managers with more than your own “I think I’m good” behind you.
The vast majority of managers and producers are NOT following the screenwriting competitions. Some do, but most likely even if you win you’ll still need to reach out and tell people your script won something.
Sometimes your script may be read by the wrong readers for your material, these things are VERY subjective. A script that doesn’t place at all one year might win the next season.
Contests may also provide a brief opportunity to network with judges, sponsors, and other writers. Take advantage of it, but try to be open, not needy. This is a long road.
It’s highly unlikely you’ll be just contacted out of nowhere by the perfect manager or really anyone reputable simply because you won a contest, even a big one. You’ll still have a lot of work to do to connect with the representatives who are right for you, and you need to have more than just one solid script to show when you talk to them. See Access for more info.