Applications for the prestigious and lucrative Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences Don and Gee Nicholl Fellowships in Screenwriting are now open for 2020.
This international screenwriting competition awards up to five fellowships of US$35,000 each year. Since 1986, 176 fellowships totalling $4,580,000 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).
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.
How to Enter
Applicants must submit an original feature film screenplay. This screenplay may be no shorter than 70 pages and no longer than 160 pages. The recommended length is between 80 and 125 pages. The shortest script to earn its writer an Academy Nicholl Fellowship was 80 pages long; the longest was 153 pages.
Screenwriters may enter the 2020 competition up to three times; an entry fee is payable for each separate screenplay. Full-time students at an accredited college/university are eligible for a discount on their entry fee. Academy Nicholl Fellowships may not be held concurrently with other fellowships or any other similar award, or while completing a formal course of study. The fellowship year may be deferred to allow a student winner to complete his or her education.
Nicholl Fellowships 2020 Timeline
- 6 March – early bird entry deadline ($48 entry fee)
- 9 April – regular entry deadline ($63 entry fee)
- 1 May – late entry deadline ($88 late entry fee)
- 1 August – quarter-finalists notified
- Early September – semi-finalists notified
- September – finalists notified and asked to submit supporting materials.
- October – fellowship winners notified and announced
- November – fellows honoured at the Nicholl Awards Presentation Event
A total of 7,302 entries were received in 2019, down slightly from 6,895 in the previous year. All scripts are read at least twice in the competition. About 15 per cent are read a third time. About 5 per cent of entries advance to the competition quarter-finals, about 2 per cent advance to the semi-finals and about 10 entries reach the final round.
Genres of Successful Nicholl Fellows’ Entry Scripts (1989–2018)
- Action-adventure – 11
- Animated comedy – 1
- Comedy – 9
- Romantic comedy – 5
- Comedy-drama – 13
- Coming-of-age drama – 12
- Drama – 49
- Romantic drama-fantasy – 2
- Horror – 3
- Science fiction – 3
- Thriller / crime / caper – 23
- War / terrorism – 12
- Western – 3
Scripts submitted to the Nicholl Fellowship Competition should be written in master scenes without shot designations. The scripts should not include scene numbers, which are typically found on shooting scripts. For further information read the screenplay formatting guide.