Archives For Screenwriting

Penn State University Writing Residency

Pennsylvania State University‘s Altoona Campus English Program is taking applications for a one-semester teaching residency in poetry and playwriting/screenwriting. The program is targeted at early career writers, preferably without a published book.

The residency is designed to offer an emerging writer substantial time to write and offers a salary of $10,000 in return for teaching one general education level introduction to creative writing workshop during the Fall 2016 semester (22 August to 16 December).

The resident writer will also give a public reading, visit other creative writing courses and work informally with English major students. The hiring committee is looking for a writer with a history of publication in poetry and staged readings/performances (and/or publications) in playwriting or screenwriting. . The successful candidate typically lives in the Altoona area during the residency; benefits and housing are not included.

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Seven Fellowships and Mentorship Programs for Screenwriters

Please check the relevant websites for full entry terms and conditions.

Film Independent’s Screenwriting Lab
is an intensive five-week program that runs two to three evenings a week in Los Angeles every Autumn. It is designed to help screenwriters develop and express their unique voices as writers and to take their current scripts to the next level. Lab Fellows connect with various established screenwriters and explicate their films, learn about their careers, and discuss the writing process. Additionally, Screenwriting Fellows have one-on-one meetings with established screenwriters, producers, and other industry professionals who act as advisers on the Fellows’ projects. Applications close 13 April.

Academy Nicholl Fellowships in Screenwriting
awards up to five fellowships of US$35,000 each year. This international screenwriting competition is open to writers based anywhere in the world, regardless of citizenship. All entrants must be aged over 18.The final entry deadline is 1 May.

Sundance Screenwriters Lab
is a five-day writer’s workshop that gives independent screenwriters the opportunity to work intensively on their feature film scripts with the support of established writers in ‘an environment that encourages innovation and creative risk-taking’. The next Screenwriters Lab will be held in January 2016, just before the Sundance Film Festival. Applications open on 15 March and close on 1 May.

CBS Diversity Institute’s Writers Mentoring Program
aims is to provide access and opportunities for talented and motivated diverse writers. The program is held in Los Angeles but writers do not need to be American residents to apply (there are no travel grants or subsidies though). Applications close 1 May.

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Applications Now Open for the $35,000 Academy Nicholl Fellowships in Screenwriting 2015

Recent movies by Nicholl Fellows

Applications for the prestigious and lucrative Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences Don and Gee Nicholl Fellowships in Screenwriting are now open for 2015.

This international screenwriting competition awards up to five fellowships of US$35,000 each year. Since 1986, 137 fellowships totaling $3,740,000 have been awarded.

Who Can Enter
The competition is open to writers based anywhere in the world, regardless of citizenship. All entrants must be aged over 18. Entry scripts must be the original work of one writer, or of two writers who collaborated equally, and must be written originally in English. Translated scripts are not eligible.

The fellowships are intended for new and/or amateur screenwriters. In order to be eligible, an entrant’s total earnings for motion picture and television writing may not exceed US$25,000 before the end of the competition.

It is a requirement that all fellowship winners complete at least one new feature screenplay in the year of their fellowship (the Academy acquires no rights to the work and will not participate in its marketing or in any other aspects of its commercial future).

The Prizes
Up to five $35,000 fellowships are awarded each year to promising new screenwriters.

In addition to the cash prize, winners of the Nicholl Fellowships will be invited to participate in awards week ceremonies and seminars in November. The successful applications are also expected to receive many networking opportunities to help complete their next script.

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Michael Arndt is the Oscar-winning screenwriter of Little Miss Sunshine. He wrote the first draft of this, his debut script, in just three days (but went on to do around 100 revisions before the film was finally made). His second script was Toy Story 3, for which he also received an Academy Award nomination.

In the following short film Arndt shares how a close examination of Toy Story 1, Finding Nemo and The Incredibles, and a better understanding of how the early stages of these scripts set up their characters, helped his own writing process.

Fellow screenwriter John August (Go, Big Fish, Charlie’s Angels) contacted Arndt about the insights he shares. Arndt explained:

I’m aware the model I set up here applies imperfectly to Toy Story 3 itself. (It applies much more cleanly [for example] to Tootsie, which I consider one of the best comedy first acts of all time.) The broader point is that the emotional fuel for your first act break is largely set up in your inciting incident — and that is something that does apply to Toy Story 3.

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Too Much Information: Why Writers Should Conceal Their Research

“I have to resist the compulsion to reference everyone of these.”

In this guest post Drew Chial paints a cautionary tale about letting your writing get too technical.

A few years ago, someone approached me about adapting a thriller into a screenplay. Reading through the first few chapters, I wasn’t sure where the script should begin. The first scene involved an autopsy where the pathologist missed the symptoms of a biological agent. The author took us through each stage of the autopsy including each instrument the pathologist used, where he made his incisions, and the weight of every organ.

It was clear the author knew what he was talking about, but he wasn’t telling a story, he was teaching a lesson.

The scene had no conflict until the author told us about the crucial detail the pathologist missed. The prologue read like it was supposed to function as the opening stinger of a crime drama. This might have worked if the pathologist had struggled to find a cause of death or started to show signs of the contagious infection, instead he gave an extremely technical description of a routine procedure with no conflict.

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“Maybe nobody’s perfect but Billy Wilder comes as close to it as you’ll find among filmmakers in Hollywood today, and also yesterday.” – Jack Lemmon

Six-time Oscar winner Billy Wilder is one of the most respected and beloved screenwriters and directors of the twentieth century. In 1999’s Conversations with Wilder by fellow filmmaker Cameron Crowe (Jerry Maguire, Elizabethtown), Wilder discussed his extraordinary career in detail and shared the following tips for writers:

  1. The audience is fickle.
  2. Grab ‘em by the throat and never let ‘em go.
  3. Develop a clean line of action for your leading character.
  4. Know where you’re going.
  5. The more subtle and elegant you are in hiding your plot points, the better you are as a writer.
  6. If you have a problem with the third act, the real problem is in the first act.
  7. A tip from [Ernst] Lubitsch: Let the audience add up two plus two. They’ll love you forever.
  8. In doing voice-overs, be careful not to describe what the audience already sees. Add to what they are seeing.
  9. The event that occurs at the second-act curtain triggers the end of the movie.
  10. The third act must build, build, build in tempo and action until the last event, and then –
  11. – that’s it. Don’t hang around.

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Judging Your Own Work

4 September 2014 — 3 Comments

Judging Your Own Work - Brian McDonald

By award-winning writer and director Brian McDonald
Excerpted from Invisible Ink: A Practical Guide to Building Stories that Resonate


A writer is someone for whom writing is more difficult than it is for other people.
– Thomas Mann

Don’t write for other writers. People are drawn to writing for different reasons and many people do it to seem smart. If you have a good first act, most will never recognize it, because they’re not really clear on what a first act does. They know nothing of construction, but will turn their noses up at the idea of it anyway. The less they know about it the more they will object to it.

The one thing I have noticed about people who are exceptional in their creative work is that they are always trying to get better. That’s how they got good in the first place. These people judge themselves against the best work. They aim for the top.

Just worry about the craft and the art will take care of itself.

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