Tell Me About The Nicholl Fellowship In Screenwriting.

Are you an aspiring screenwriter searching for the perfect opportunity to showcase your talents? Well, look no further than the Nicholl Fellowship in Screenwriting. With its prestigious reputation and incredible benefits, this fellowship is a dream come true for any writer. Offering a chance to win a staggering $35,000 grant, gain industry recognition, and receive invaluable support and guidance, the Nicholl Fellowship is the golden ticket to launching your career in the competitive world of screenwriting. So, let’s dive into the details and discover how this fellowship can propel you towards success in the film industry.

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What is the Nicholl Fellowship?

The Nicholl Fellowship in Screenwriting is an esteemed program run by the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences that aims to identify and encourage talented, emerging screenwriters. Established in 1986, this fellowship has become one of the most prestigious and sought-after opportunities for aspiring screenwriters.

Overview of the fellowship

The Nicholl Fellowship is open to both amateur and professional writers who have not sold or optioned a screenplay or teleplay for more than $25,000 or received a fellowship or prize that includes a “first look” clause, an option, or any other quid pro quo involving the writer’s work. It provides financial support, industry recognition, access to networking opportunities, mentorship, and guidance to the selected fellows.

History of the Nicholl Fellowship

The Nicholl Fellowship was created by Dr. Don and Mrs. Bonnie Nicholl as a way to support and encourage talented screenwriters. Since its inception, the fellowship has undergone significant growth and development. It has become a vital platform for aspiring writers to showcase their skills and gain recognition in the industry.

Eligibility Criteria

Qualifications for applicants

To be eligible for the Nicholl Fellowship, applicants must be at least 18 years of age and must submit an original, feature-length screenplay. The fellowship is open to writers from all around the world, regardless of their nationality. However, the screenplay must be primarily written in English.

Genre and format requirements

The fellowship welcomes screenplays in various genres, including drama, comedy, action, thriller, and animation. However, it does not accept stage plays, treatments, adaptations of books, television scripts, or documentaries. The submitted screenplay should be in standard industry format, with proper scene headings, dialogue, and action descriptions.

Tell Me About The Nicholl Fellowship In Screenwriting.

Application Process

Application timeline

The application process for the Nicholl Fellowship typically opens in early February and submissions are accepted until early May. During this period, applicants have the opportunity to carefully prepare and polish their screenplays before submitting them for consideration.

Submission guidelines

Applicants are required to submit their original, feature-length screenplays online through the official Nicholl Fellowship website. The screenplay should be saved as a PDF file, with the title page including only the script’s title to ensure anonymity during the evaluation process.

Required materials

In addition to the screenplay, applicants must also provide a completed online application form, which includes personal information, contact details, and a brief biography. Applicants may also choose to submit an optional synopsis of their screenplay, not exceeding two pages. It is important to ensure that all submission guidelines and requirements are met to avoid disqualification.

Selection Process

Screening and evaluation of scripts

After the initial submission period, the screenplays are carefully screened and evaluated by a diverse group of industry professionals, including Academy members, screenwriters, executives, and other experts in the field. The screenplays are read and evaluated multiple times to ensure fairness and thoroughness in the selection process.

Judging criteria

The selection process is rigorous, and screenplays are evaluated based on numerous criteria, including originality, storytelling, character development, dialogue, structure, and overall quality of the writing. The judges assess the potential for the screenplay to be turned into a compelling film that resonates with audiences.

Announcement of finalists and winners

In early September, the fellowship announces up to five finalists, whose screenplays are considered superior and stand out among the numerous submissions. From the finalists, typically one to three winners are chosen, who receive the fellowship’s prestigious accolades and benefits for the following year.

Tell Me About The Nicholl Fellowship In Screenwriting.

Benefits of the Fellowship

Financial support

One of the most significant advantages of the Nicholl Fellowship is the financial support it provides to the selected fellows. Each fellow receives a $35,000 grant to allow them to dedicate substantial time to their screenwriting projects and pursue their passion without financial constraints.

Industry recognition

Winning the Nicholl Fellowship instantly grants recognition and credibility within the film industry. The fellowship is highly regarded and respected, making the fellows stand out among their peers and potential employers.

Access to networking opportunities

One of the invaluable benefits of the Nicholl Fellowship is the access it provides to a wide network of industry professionals, including agents, managers, producers, and fellow writers. Fellows have the opportunity to attend exclusive events, workshops, and seminars that facilitate meaningful connections and potential collaborations.

Mentorship and guidance

Throughout the fellowship year, the selected fellows are assigned mentors from within the industry who provide guidance, support, and advice on the fellows’ screenwriting projects. These mentors are experienced professionals who help shape and refine the fellows’ scripts, facilitating their growth as writers.

Fellowship events and activities

The Nicholl Fellowship organizes various events and activities throughout the year, exclusively for the fellows. These events include meetings with industry insiders, workshops on screenwriting techniques, and panel discussions with renowned screenwriters. These opportunities allow fellows to expand their knowledge, gain insights, and nurture their creative talent.

Success Stories

Notable past recipients

The Nicholl Fellowship has an impressive track record of recognizing and fostering talented screenwriters. Some notable past recipients include Allison Anders, Jon Raymond, and Susannah Grant. These talented individuals have gone on to achieve significant success in their screenwriting careers, with their work being produced by major studios and earning critical acclaim.

Impact on winners’ careers

Winning the Nicholl Fellowship can be a transformative experience for aspiring screenwriters. It provides a stamp of approval and opens doors to exciting career opportunities, including representation by agents and managers, script development deals, and potential studio or indie film production. Many winners credit the fellowship as a launchpad for their successful careers in the industry.

Tips for Applying

Understanding the fellowship’s values

To increase your chances of success, it is crucial to understand the values and goals of the Nicholl Fellowship. The fellowship aims to champion quality storytelling and originality. Applicants should focus on creating screenplays that showcase their unique voice, creativity, and storytelling prowess.

Writing a compelling screenplay

Crafting a compelling screenplay is key to catching the attention of the fellowship judges. Pay attention to well-rounded characters, engaging dialogue, and a captivating plot. Avoid clichés and strive for freshness in your storytelling. Creating an emotionally resonant and thought-provoking screenplay can greatly enhance your chances of success.

Crafting a strong application

In addition to your screenplay, the application form and any optional materials such as a synopsis play a crucial role in showcasing your abilities. Take the time to craft a well-written and concise application that highlights your qualifications, passion for screenwriting, and unique perspective. Be sure to double-check for any errors or inconsistencies before submitting your application.

Seeking feedback and revisions

Before submitting your screenplay, consider seeking feedback from trusted peers or professional script readers. Their input can help identify areas for improvement and strengthen your screenplay. Revisions based on constructive feedback can significantly enhance the quality of your application.

Other Screenwriting Fellowships

Comparison with other fellowships

While the Nicholl Fellowship is highly regarded, there are other screenwriting fellowships that aspiring writers may also consider. Some notable examples include the Sundance Institute Screenwriters Lab, the Disney/ABC Writing Program, and the Warner Bros. Television Writers’ Workshop. Each fellowship offers unique benefits and opportunities, so it is important to research and determine which one aligns best with your goals and aspirations.

Similar opportunities in the industry

Beyond fellowships, there are other avenues for aspiring screenwriters to gain recognition and support. Screenwriting competitions, writing workshops, and film festivals often showcase emerging talent and provide opportunities for industry exposure. Exploring these options can expand your network and increase your chances of success.

Frequently Asked Questions

Is the fellowship open to international applicants?

Yes, the Nicholl Fellowship accepts applications from writers around the world, regardless of their nationality. However, it is important to note that the screenplay must be primarily written in English.

Can I submit multiple scripts?

Yes, applicants can submit multiple scripts for consideration. Each screenplay will be evaluated separately and will compete on its own merit.

Are adaptations and collaborations allowed?

No, the Nicholl Fellowship only accepts original screenplays. Adaptations of books, stage plays, and existing works are not eligible. Collaborations, where two or more writers contribute to the screenplay, are also not permitted.

What rights do I retain if I win?

Winning the Nicholl Fellowship does not require the fellow to sell or assign any rights to their screenplay. The writer retains full control and ownership of their work.

What happens after the fellowship year?

After completing the fellowship year, the fellows are no longer entitled to the financial support and benefits provided by the Nicholl Fellowship. However, the recognition and industry connections gained during their tenure can continue to open doors and pave the way for their future success.


The Nicholl Fellowship in Screenwriting is an exceptional opportunity for aspiring screenwriters to showcase their talent and gain recognition in the industry. With its illustrious history, rigorous selection process, and numerous benefits, the fellowship has become a highly regarded platform for emerging writers. By crafting a compelling screenplay, submitting a strong application, and embracing the valuable experiences and connections offered by the fellowship, aspiring screenwriters can take a significant step towards achieving their dreams. So, don’t hesitate – seize this opportunity and apply for the Nicholl Fellowship today. Your journey to becoming a successful screenwriter starts here!

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