1) There are three script contests that have any cache in the industry, Nicholl, Austin, Scriptapalooza. Pitchfest are of questionable value for a writer unless their script has been fully and professionally vetted and the writer has honed their pitch plus followed the submission requirements (Rules).
2) “Rules” today are B.S. tomorrow. Truth be known, a spec writer has to be way better than a working screenwriter just to get noticed. As I wrote earlier, approximately 44,000 scripts were registered with WGAw in 2011. Of those about 140 were optioned and a little over 40 bought during the year. You do the math. Consider the “Rules” as filters and don’t shoot the messenger. Anyone reading scripts needs to have a way to filter the good from the inundation of unfortunate attempts by some at writing a viable screenplay. Many are DOA at the delivery room.
3) Any reader at any level wants to move your script along. Why not make it easier and play along? Humor them and with a good script and they will become your champion. Trust me on this.
4) Actors want to act, Directors want to direct, Cinematographers want to “compose”, Production Designers want to create, etc. None can ply their trade until a lone writer / team puts words to paper. Just make it easy for each co-conspirator to partake of the feast that is your screenplay.
5) If you don’t write in a common language with understandable conventions (read rules) then don’t expect to be invited to the party. I.E. Don’t write for ‘Hollywood’. Go away and do your own thing.
6) Realize that NOBODY reading your script made up these rules. They evolved by convention and will continue to evolve as media change.
7) Any “adviser” that tells you “This is what you have to do” has no idea what they are talking about. The best you can realistically expect is “This is what works today”.
8) Don’t pay any attention to anyone (including me) who cannot provide or demonstrate examples to back up what they are advising you.
9) Do it ‘Their Way’, make your Gazillions, then and only then try what you want to do.
Even NASCAR drivers make only left turns. How long would one last who decided he or she want to make only right turns on the track at the Indie 500? Rules, Conventions, Suggestions, whatever, exist everywhere.
Write first. Then re-write, then write some more. Do it again until you are sick of your story.
Reach for the brass ring. Just don’t knock yourself out of contention because you don’t like being ‘forced” to adhere to conventional screenplay standards. Realize that at this stage in a spec writer’s career nobody gives a Happy Holy Flying Frisbee what you think or how you feel about The Rules.