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The Nicholl Fellowship

April 18th, 2008

Do you love movies? Have you always wanted to live in Hollywood and work in the Industry? Did you ever watch something awful at the local cineplex and thought to yourself “who writes this crap? I could write something better than this drivel?”. Now, how would you like to be paid $30,000 for the year to write a screenplay about whatever you want?

That’s the allure of the Nicholl Fellowship, officially known as The Don & Gee Nicholl Fellowships In Screenwriting. Run by the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, the same people who bring you the Academy Awards, the Nicholl Fellowship is the granddaddy of all the screenwriting contests.

Nicholl Fellowship

Started in 1985 by Gee Nicholl, this international screenwriting competition is the most significant contest for screenwriters in the entertainment industry. In addition to the large cash stipend of $30,000, this contest has launched the careers of many writers and screenwriters. Famous alumni of the Nicholl Fellowship include:

The Nicholl Fellowship has a $30 entry fee with a deadline of May 1st. At the present, there is no electronic submission process and only hard copies of your screenplay entry will be accepted. Adaptations are ineligible for competition and your screenplay must be written originally in English.

All scripts are read at least once in the competition. About half are read a second time and about one-sixth are read a third time. About 5 percent of entries advance to the competition quarterfinals, about 2 percent advance to the semifinals and about ten reach the finals.

All entrants will receive notification of their status by mail sent no later than August 1 of each year. Quarterfinalist letters are mailed by August 1; fellowship recipients are announced in late October. Entries are judged by industry professionals and Academy members. The finalist scripts are judged by the Nicholl Comittee.

Winners receive $30,000 distributed over one year in five installments of $6,000. The first installment on day one and the second through fifth at the end of each quarter. The winners are expected to finish one original screenplay of their choice in their fellowship year as the fellowship was designed to help writers write by paying for expenses and getting them away from a “day job”. Fellows have two years to complete their script to fulfill their fellowship requirements.

The entertainment industry views the contest as a great way to weed out all the bad scripts floating around. This is one of the reasons why this particular screenwriting contest is so significant. The ten finalists are virtually guaranteed a read by every company that matters in the film industry. From there the trickle down effect helps many of the semifinalists and even some of the quarterfinalists to get there scripts read. Tell a literary agent you won the Arkansas’s Best Screenwriting Competition and they’ll hang up on you. Tell them you’re a Nicholls semifinalist and they’ll probably read your script.

So what’re your chances of winning this thing? In 2007, there were 5,050 entries so your chances were five in 5,050. This year, there’ll probably be more but don’t let that stop you. Good luck.

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