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Nicholl Screenwriting Fellowship Program Receives a Record 4,440 Entries; Coordinator Beal Discusses

Nicholl Screenwriting Fellowship Program Receives a Record 4,440 Entries; Coordinator Beal Discusses

Entries; Coordinator Beal Discusses ’98 Competition

by Eugene Hernandez

The popular Don and Gee Nicholl Fellowships in Screenwriting Competition
presented by the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences has a received
a record 4,440 entries, fellowship coordinator Greg Beal told indieWIRE
yesterday. The annual competition, for writers who have not sold or
optioned work, distributes up to five grants of $25,000 each.

In 1989, the program received 1,395 entries, Beal told indieWIRE. The
following year the numer jumped to 2,880, and in 1991 submissions again
grew by another thousand. Since 1991, the fellowships have received
over 3,800 submissions, and entries have been above 4,000 for the last
three years. The winners willbe announced this fall.

Attributing the steady increase in annual entries, in part, to the perception
that the screenplay is the new “great American novel”, Beal added that, for
some, the screenplay competition is viewed as a sort of “lottery”. Given
the perspective that writing a script is a formulaic process where writers
think they can simply “fill in the blanks”, Beal believes that would-be
writers see finishing a 120 page script as a much more attainable goal
than writing a novel. “More of us have been affected by movies and television
than any other art form,” Beal added, comenting that some writers tend to
think, “This is really bad and I can do better.” Ultimately, Beal surmised,
“How can you read newpapers and magazines and not notice that people in
the film industry make an incredible amount of money. I think that has
something to do with it.”

Forty readers are taking an initial look at all submissions, scoring
screenplays on a variety of aspects. Discussing the 1998 entries, Beal
explained that the submitted scripts run the gamut from professional
quality work to approximately 20% which do not even meet the basic screenplay
formatting requirements. Near the upper end of the list, Beal, who has
been involved with the program for nearly a decade, explained that about
50 scripts usually lead the pack score-wise, while within the top 400
screenplays, the range of scores generally remains quite close.

As for the subject matter, Beal confirmed that in any given year submitted
scripts often reflect the previous year’s popular movies and television
programs. In 1990, Beal offered, “There were tons of Miami Vice buddy
cops searching for drug lords.” While, since the success of “The Silence of
the Lambs
“, scripts with serial killers have remained common. He
added, “There were more westerns after ‘Unforgiven‘,” and speculated,
“Maybe people will write more epics because of “Titanic“.”

The Nicoll Fellowship submission process includes entries from 20 countries
around the world, including first-time submissions this year from Malayasia,
Singapore, Slovakia, and Turkey. Beal commented that while some international
entries are set in “foreign locales,” interestingly many are set in the United
States. As for the large number of entries specifically from Europe, Beal
sees no major trends, other than the fact that the scripts are “on odd (sized)
paper often times.”

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