Re: Nicholl 2019
What I'll state in the next few paragraphs applies to the period 1989-2017 when I administered the Nicholl program.
Over the years, dozens and dozens of big budget action scripts advanced beyond the first round of the Nicholl competition. There were years when two or three big budget scripts reached the finals. One writer had his 100+ million dollar budgeted action script reach the finals in two different years.
Well written, well crafted action scripts, or for that matter well written, well crafted "studio" scripts of any genre, were not mostly left behind in the first round. Those scripts advanced in about the same percentage as did well written, well crafted scripts of any genre (about 5% of entries in any particular genre advance to the quarterfinals each year).
I would love to be proven wrong about the following, but so far as I know no big budget action script that went on to be produced and have significant success in the theatrical marketplace has ever been entered in the Nicholl competition.
In my mind the Nicholl Fellowships has always been a best screenwriter rather than a best screenplay competition (while noting that only through the screenplays could the best writers be identified).
(By the way, dark, troubling scripts in various genres have done quite well in the Nicholl competition over the years. A number of Nicholl-winning scripts fit that description.)