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This Year’s Academy Nicholl Screenwriter Winners Spotlight Five Up-and-Comers

Writers will present their scripts at a virtual table read in December, and follow in the footsteps of some of Hollywood's rising scribes.

Amy Ryan appears in Lost Girls by Liz Garbus, an official selection of the Premieres program at the 2020 Sundance Film Festival. Courtesy of Sundance Institute.All photos are copyrighted and may be used by press only for the purpose of news or editorial coverage of Sundance Institute programs. Photos must be accompanied by a credit to the photographer and/or 'Courtesy of Sundance Institute.' Unauthorized use, alteration, reproduction or sale of logos and/or photos is strictly prohibited.

“Lost Girls”


The Academy Nicholl Fellowships Committee has selected the five winning fellows of the 2020 Academy Nicholl Fellowships in Screenwriting competition, who were winnowed from ten finalists out of 7,831 scripts submitted for this year’s competition. Each winner takes home a $35,000 prize. Their scripts will be highlighted at the Academy Nicholl Fellowships in Screenwriting Awards and Virtual Table Read by an ensemble of actors on Thursday, December 3.

The 2020 winners are (listed alphabetically by author):

James Acker, “SadBoi”
Beth Curry, “Lemon”
Vanar Jaddou, “Goodbye, Iraq”
Kate Marks, “The Cow of Queens”
Jane Therese, “Sins of My Father”

The 2020 finalists are (listed alphabetically by author):

Kris A. Holmes, “The Seeds of Truth”
Fred Martenson, “Demons in America”
Robin Rose Singer, “The Lions of Mesopotamia”
David Harrison Turner, “Safe Haven”
Andrew Wankier, “Three Heavens”

The fellowships support each writer’s completion of a feature-length screenplay within the year. (The Academy neither acquires rights to the Nicholl-winners’ scripts nor gets involved commercially with their completed work.)

The Academy Nicholl Fellowships Committee is chaired by Academy Short Films and Feature Animation Branch governor Jennifer Yuh Nelson. The members of the committee are John Bailey and Steven Poster (Cinematographers Branch); William Mechanic (Executives Branch); James Plannette and Stephen Ujlaki (Members-at-Large); Julie Lynn, Peter Samuelson and Robert W. Shapiro (Producers Branch); Bobbi Banks (Sound Branch); and Eric Heisserer, Larry Karaszewski, Dan Petrie Jr., Misan Sagay, Dana Stevens, and Tyger Williams (Writers Branch).

The global competition, which identifies and encourages new screenwriters, has awarded 166 fellowships since its 1986 launch. Many winners have gone on to storied careers, but a look at last year’s winners is revealing.

Matt Harris is in post-production on his fellowship dramedy “The Starling,” which Netflix recently acquired for a reported $20 million based on the script and a four-minute sizzle reel. Also for Netflix, Michael Werwie adapted Robert Kolker’s true story “Lost Girls,” directed by Liz Garbus and starring Amy Ryan (the film debuted at Sundance in January).

Rebecca Sonnenshine is the co-creator of a new Netflix horror series based on the horror podcast “Archive 81.” Also for television, Terri Miller and Andrew Marlowe are showrunners for CBS’s “The Equalizer,” starring Queen Latifah.

On the film side, Alfredo Botello is co-writing Malcolm D. Lee’s animated “Space Jam: A New Legacy” (July 16, 2021, Warner Bros.), produced by Ryan Coogler. Writer-director Nikole Beckwith is in post-production on “Togetherish,” starring Ed Helms and Patti Harrison.

In the works, James Mottern is writer-director of the upcoming production “Summer Madness,” starring Anna Faris. Elizabeth Chomko is set to direct the upcoming film adaptation of the Bess Kalb memoir “Nobody Will Tell You This But Me,” from producers Julia Lebedev and Eddie Vaisman. Melissa Iqbal is adapting the novel “The First Fifteen Lives of Harry August” to the screen. And S.J. Inwards is writing a YA-centric musical “Lady Macbeth” feature project for Amazon Studios.

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