Five promising writers have been selected as winners of the 2019 Academy Nicholl Fellowships in Screenwriting competition, out of a total of 7,302 scripts and 12 finalists. The fellows will each receive a generous $35,000 prize, the first installment of which will be distributed at the Academy Nicholl Fellowships in Screenwriting Awards Presentation & Live Read on Thursday, November 7, 2019, at the Samuel Goldwyn Theater in Beverly Hills. For the seventh consecutive year, an ensemble of notable actors will read selected scenes from the winning scripts.
The 2019 winners are (listed alphabetically by author): Aaron Chung, “Princess Vietnam”; Karen McDermott, “Lullabies of La Jaula”; Renee Pillai, “Boy with Kite”; Sean Malcolm, “Mother”; and Walker McKnight, “Street Rat Allie Punches Her Ticket.”
Each writer comes from a unique background: Chung is a film intern at Entertainment One, with a master’s in screenwriting; McDermott is an attorney and English professor, according to her Twitter bio; and McKnight is a novelist, to name a few.
The Nicholl Fellowships have served as a launching pad for such talent as Destin Daniel Cretton, director and co-writer (with Andrew Lanham) of the upcoming awards-season hopeful and Bryan Stevenson portrait “Just Mercy.” Cretton will also helm Marvel Studios’ “Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings.” Susannah Grant was also a Nicholl fellow, and she is currently the showrunner and executive producer of Netflix’s popular, feminist detective series “Unbelievable.” Also a previous Nicholl fellow, Jacob Estes wrote and director Blumhouse’s “Don’t Let Go,” which premiered at the Sundance Film Festival in 2019.
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The Academy Nicholl Fellowships Committee is chaired by Academy Short Films and Feature Animation Branch Governor Jennifer Yuh Nelson. The members of the committee, which include several names you’ll recognize, are Eva Marie Saint (Actors Branch); John Bailey and Steven Poster (Cinematographers Branch); Marcus Hu and William Mechanic (Executives Branch); James Plannette and Stephen Ujlaki (Members-at-Large); Stephanie Allain, Albert Berger, Julia Chasman, Julie Lynn, Peter Samuelson and Robert W. Shapiro (Producers Branch); Bobbi Banks (Sound Branch); and Tina Gordon Chism, Eric Heisserer, Larry Karaszewski, Dan Petrie Jr., Misan Sagay, Kirsten Smith, Dana Stevens and Tyger Williams (Writers Branch).
Fellowships are awarded with the understanding that the recipients will each complete a feature-length screenplay during their fellowship year.