Nicholl Screenwriting Finalists Unveiled

Beverly Hills, CA – Seven individual writers and three writing teams have been selected as finalists for the 26th annual Don and Gee Nicholl Fellowships in Screenwriting, presented by the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences. Their scripts will now be read and judged by the Academy’s Nicholl Committee, which may award as many as five of the prestigious $30,000 fellowships. This year’s finalists are (listed alphabetically by author):

- Chris Bessounian & Tianna Langham, Los Angeles, Calif., “Guns and Saris”
– Dion Cook, Altus, Oklahoma, “Cutter”
– K.E. Greenberg, Los Angeles, Calif., “Blood Bound”
– Ehud Lavski, Tel Aviv, Israel, “Parasite”
– John MacInnes, Los Angeles, Calif., “Outside the Wire”
– Aaron Marshall, West Hollywood, Calif., “Fig Hunt: The Quest for Battle Armor Star Captain”
– Khurram Mozaffar, Lisle, Illinois, “A Man of Clay”
– Matthew Murphy, Culver City, Calif., “Unicorn”
– Abel Vang & Burlee Vang, Fresno, Calif., “The Tiger’s Child”
– Paul Vicknair & Chris Shafer, Los Angeles & Hermosa Beach, Calif., “A Many Splintered Thing”

The finalists were selected from a record 6,730 scripts submitted for this year’s competition. The competition is open to any individual who has not sold or optioned a screenplay or teleplay for more than $5,000, 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.

The 2011 Nicholl Fellowships will be presented on Thursday, November 3, at a ceremony held at the Beverly Wilshire.

The Nicholl Committee, chaired by producer Gale Anne Hurd, is composed of writers Naomi Foner, Daniel Petrie, Jr., Tom Rickman and Dana Stevens; actor Eva Marie Saint; cinematographers John Bailey and Steven B. Poster; costume designer Vicki Sanchez; executive Bill Mechanic; producers Peter Samuelson and Robert W. Shapiro; marketing executive Buffy Shutt, and agent Ronald R. Mardigian.

    1. Yeah, I’m sure the kids from Oklahoma/Illinois and the dude in Israel really have this town/contest wired. Definitely fixed. Good call.

  1. Why are so many people from California? Yes, I understand that most aspiring screenwriters are there, but, still out of the entire PLANET? FAIL.

    1. Entries are read blind. There’s no conspiracy. It’s just that people who are really, really serious about becoming screenwriters move where their intended career is. And for the people who treat it like a hobby, it’s a self-fulfilling prophecy, because they don’t usually get good enough to succeed.

    2. Because people who want to be screenwriters move from all over the world to LA, learn to write and enter fellowship contests. Plus the entries are read blind, no one knows where they are from until they get to the finals.

      Congrats to all of them!

  2. Ahhh, it’s Deadline. Can’t wait to see the haters tear apart these scripts with nothing more to go on than their titles.

    Seriously, Congratulations and Good Luck to all!!

  3. Something’s off with this contest. I know two people who wrote masterful scripts that didn’t advance at all. I mean fucking MASTERFUL. Not sure who is reading and how, but I think the whole thing is fucked. In fact, I imagine the first filtering doesn’t involve reading at all but a quick, unwarranted pass based on loglines or first pages.

    1. With all due respect to Bob here, if their scripts were truly — TRULY — “fucking MASTERFUL”, then the two people mentioned would be too busy on one of their several OWAs or sold pitches to waste their time with Nicholl.

      I don’t disbelieve that you felt they were masterful, but a) It’s your opinion and b) I’m sure someone in Nick Swardson’s camp thought BUCKY LARSON was “masterful” — doesn’t make it so…

      Despite what you might believe, being “masterful” in Hollywood wouldn’t go unnoticed. It’s a business. Why would ANY business flat out ignore “masterful”?

    2. Um, no. Your “friends” may have written masterful scripts but that doesn’t mean these ten aren’t masterful. And I happen to have actual knowledge (that is, I know people who work for the Nicholl) that ALL of the scripts are read at least once in their entirety, no matter how bad some of them are. You seriously have no idea how dedicated these people are about getting it right. So please stop talking out of your ass. There is no quick skimming–although people who fail to advance often come up with delusional and paranoid theories because they can’t accept that their script just wasn’t quite good enough.

    3. At the end of the first round, they tell you where your script placed, ex. “Your script received two positive reads and placed in the Top 20%” or “Your script was one of the next 100 after the semi-finalists.”

      Also they post reader excerpts on their Facebook page every day…

      The Nicholls contest is a non-profit so there’s really no reason for them to fix it. Sounds like “your friend” should just accept that those two scripts weren’t as masterful as you thought they were.

  4. it’s unfortunate that this award is restricted to screenwriters who haven’t made any money at it. given how many writers sell a script for a little money and then nothing happens with the work for years – or ever- i think these awards should be open to all unproduced writers or those without a feature credit. emerging writers can all use a boost into the business.

    1. It’s restricted to people who haven’t made more than $5000, which yes isn’t a ton but still allows everyone who’s getting $1 options to enter. And there are definitely “emerging writers” entering, as many winners are already repped by established companies. Actually the finalist from Israel won the trackingb contest back in ’08 and was signed by a solid management company, so I’m surprised he was even still eligible for Nicholl considering it’s been three years now…

    2. It’s restricted to writers who haven’t made more than $5,000. Not “writers who haven’t made ANY money at it.” While I agree with you that a small success doesn’t mean one has really “broken in,” even A-list screenwriters also have to keep “breaking in” over and over — you’re never really “in.” But the Nicholl has to draw the line somewhere.

      For those with some success behind them, there are contests like the Hearst award for mid-career writers. (Though, I would warn that the SF awards committee doesn’t understand the difference between “screenwriter” and “filmmaker,” and favor weird arthouse stuff.)

  5. The two most overused responses to this annual announcement:

    1) – “It’s fixed.” This isn’t boxing. What motivation would the Fellowship have to “fix” it? Is there a suspicion that Greg Beal has money riding on the Finalists in Vegas?

    2) – “Why do they all live in California?” (must be FIXED!) It’s been speculated so many times it’s just boring now that the majority live in California because few people are going to uproot themselves and move here to be screenwriters if their writing sucks.

    I am sorry that you live in Wisconsin and the crappy script you wrote which you’ve spent the last 10 years pitching as THE BICYCLE THIEF meets STAR WARS has continually failed to make it to the quarters.

    Write something else or hang it up, but please, PLEASE stop bitching about the fact that there are people on this planet more talented than you despite the fact that your mom has loved every draft of the one script you have ever written.

    Congrats to the Finalists.

  6. congrats to the finalists!

    As the for the “you can only write if you’re in L.A. crowd” I seem to recall that Grand Torino was written in a bar in Michigan – and I’m pretty sure it grossed more that all the produced Nicholl finalists combined.

    So try not to sneer at a script with a non-LA zip code on the cover. Thanks a bunch, fellas!

    1. No names on the cover, flyover, so judges don’t know whether a script’s writer lives in LA, Michigan or Israel.

      And sometimes the now-living in LA writers were born in Bahrain, India or Great Britain.

    2. People in flyover land are always desperately trying to find one solid case to prove that you can have a successful screenwriting career from anywhere. But any time you examine these “exceptions,” they’re never what they seem. Schenk was not actually a first time screenwriter when he sold Gran Torino, he’d sold a script to Disney years earlier, and in the meantime he’d been commuting back and forth from Minnesota to Los Angeles — so, yes, technically he may have had his “home” in Minnesota but he was constantly in LA — because he took his career seriously.

  7. Hey I’m from wisconsin and I don’t think it’s fixed nor do I care that they’re all from California.

  8. I had high hopes this year for my submission but didn’t make it past the first round. Oh well, working on a better script for next year. I’ll keep it up till I win, or die trying. Congrats to all the winners!

  9. Can people just stop for a second and applaud these writers who have managed to achieve something.

    All to often Deadline comments resemble 8th Grade playground chat.

    If you don’t like other people doing something that gets recognised, stop putting your bitchy fingers on the keyboard and go and do some f&*ken work.

    Well done to these script writers.

  10. I don’t believe this is fixed, but I’m beginning to suspect there may be some familiarity with material. I know the scripts are submitted to readers without the writer’s info, but there’s such a proliferation of reader services these days, not to mention readers and assistants at prod co’s that the readers they do hire could be familiar with the material they are given to rate. Prove me wrong and I’ll shut up.

  11. From a proud Dad in Florida,I applaud all the efforts these people put forth in their efforts to be successful. I know my son has always made me proud of him and his writing skills is just one of a thousand reasons I feel this way.He has devoted years of his life to perfect and improve his skills and along the way has always remained an intellingent and caring individual.I wish him and the other writers the best of luck.To me,he has always been a winner.

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