Nicholl 2021

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  • #31
    Originally posted by Done Deal Pro View Post
    Think of it like high school or college. Do they give the valedictorian award or scholarships to some student who rarely went to class, shows little promise, gets terrible grades and frequently smoked pot behind the school? No. They give it to a student who never missed class, got straight A's, was the school president, was member of different school clubs, etc. They want to put the best person out there who represents who they are as a school or organization at that time. Doesn't mean that person will do this, that or the other great thing in the world; but at that time they again represent what they as a group, school or organization "stand for."
    That all makes sense. I suppose I think it's problematic in the same way that most awards shows are problematic. They tend to define merit in a narrow way, overrepresenting movies that foreground ideology over raw entertainment value. More of this and less of this. That's how movies like Crash and Green Book end up winning trophies while more popular and enduring movies go unrecognized in awards season.

    However, just like with the Oscars, you could say that the movies that need the most help are the low concept dramas, as opposed to the targeted genre fare. If you write an incredible contained thriller or horror spec, you'll probably be able to get some traction without the Nicholl. Likewise, horror movies don't need the Oscars in order to pull an audience. Something like Parasite or Portrait of a Lady on Fire (both incredible) is much more reliant on awards buzz to generate an audience because foreign language social dramas are not something that people are typically going to seek out at the multiplex.

    You can extend it into a bigger debate about how we define quality. I took a Hollywood industry lecture seminar when I was in college and our teacher was a former studio head at Fox. He was talking about the Oscars one day and claimed that King Kong (2005) deserved to win best picture that year. I found that to be such an odd take, yet it underscores the difference in how people can assess quality. To him, it was likely a combination of story, spectacle, and commercial appeal. To the Oscar voters, it was something else. The finalists for best picture that year were exclusively stereotypical prestige dramas that foregrounded overt social commentary (Good Night & Good Luck, Crash, Brokeback Mountain, Munich, and Capote).

    If the Nicholl is trying to be the Oscars of aspiring screenwriters then it makes sense that it will parallel that type of taste, gravitating towards "message" stories over simple commercial products. If you are a writer whose taste leans more into the realm of John Wick/Saw/The Fast & The Furious then you are at a slight disadvantage in that arena. I still believe that if you write a strong story that affects people, you'll have a reasonable chance to advance far regardless of your genre. I've read some really cool genre movies off the Nicholl in the past (St. Vincent, Armored, Snatched, Season of the Witch). It just seems like the dice are loaded slightly more in your favor if you are rolling with an "issues" drama compared with an action movie, thriller, comedy, etc. So while they're representing and identifying quality, it's perhaps skewed towards narrow sectors of what's actually a very broad spectrum.

    There are plenty of avenues to get a platform for your material though, so I think what most of us can probably agree on is that the first step should be to create something of real quality that resonates with readers in a powerful way, and then go from there.

    Comment


    • #32
      Originally posted by Done Deal Pro View Post

      The process does not line up with buyers or the industry, per se. They've never claimed it does. I don't want to put words in Greg's mouth, but I'm pretty sure he has noted over the years that it's not driven by what script they simply think will get made and make lots of money.

      The Fellowship, a key word here, is about investing in writers -- more precisely PEOPLE. It's not about what the hottest sounding project is or whether it will start a bidding war or it will make billions at the box office. It it many ways mirrors what the Oscars are like. They are searching for writers they feel have voices & views they want to support and encourage. The Fellowship isn't worried about the money. They're taken care of in so many ways financially by what Gee donated/gave in memory of her husband, Don, along with the entry fees.

      Some of the projects have been made. Some of the writers have gone on to have solid to terrific careers. Yes. It's more about finding a person worthy of the funding due to their voice, their background, their life experiences and their view/take on the world.

      Think of it like high school or college. Do they give the valedictorian award or scholarships to some student who rarely went to class, shows little promise, gets terrible grades and frequently smoked pot behind the school? No. They give it to a student who never missed class, got straight A's, was the school president, was member of different school clubs, etc. They want to put the best person out there who represents who they are as a school or organization at that time. Doesn't mean that person will do this, that or the other great thing in the world; but at that time they again represent what they as a group, school or organization "stand for."

      Heck that pot smoking dropout may become the member of the one of the biggest bands in the world. Or another high school student who did poorly for various reasons later becomes a billionaire and does amazing stuff in the world. It happens. But the judges are betting on the now of the five winners. They interview the writers. They learn about them as people.

      I've been to various Nicholl dinners and in more recent years the live readings. It will be frequently said that when they get down to the final 10 then 5, they debate for hours about who should get it. The judges are people. They make the best calls they can. They give money to a person/writer as an investment in their next script and their future as writers. Not the one submitted.

      At some point, the following was apparently part of instructions to the readers: "You could consider these scripts as 'writing samples' ... we're not seeking scripts; we will not buy any of the scripts submitted to us. Instead, we are seeking writers -- and the only means we have of identifying the talented writers is through their scripts."

      And as for the rest of the discussion, please don't simply write scripts only for the Nicholl Fellowship. Write scripts that are true to you and what you want to say, whether it be comedy, horror, sci-fi, drama, etc. That's all you can do. Then if your work is something that makes them want to invest in you as a writer, then great. But don't try to figure out "how to win" by thinking a certain idea is what they will like. Otherwise, you'll always chasing rainbows. They bet on you as a person and your personal story, in so many ways.
      Yeah that's pretty much spot on I think. They really do look for writers with unique voices and they do a great job of supporting you. I do think, however, that you can write a script that is catered more to Nicholl, in the same way directors or actors who have done big movies their whole career want to make a film that can earn them Oscar nominations. In the same way that an NBA player who's been averaging 25 and 15 their whole careers, but never wins, wants to go join a super team and try and win a championship. Not all Nicholl winners only want to write prestige kind of movies for their whole career, so I would say that people who want to win really should enter with the right type of material. Fast and Furious isn't going to win a fellowship. In my opinion.

      Comment


      • #33
        Originally posted by DaltWisney View Post

        That all makes sense. I suppose I think it's problematic in the same way that most awards shows are problematic. They tend to define merit in a narrow way, overrepresenting movies that foreground ideology over raw entertainment value. More of this and less of this. That's how movies like Crash and Green Book end up winning trophies while more popular and enduring movies go unrecognized in awards season.

        However, just like with the Oscars, you could say that the movies that need the most help are the low concept dramas, as opposed to the targeted genre fare. If you write an incredible contained thriller or horror spec, you'll probably be able to get some traction without the Nicholl. Likewise, horror movies don't need the Oscars in order to pull an audience. Something like Parasite or Portrait of a Lady on Fire (both incredible) is much more reliant on awards buzz to generate an audience because foreign language social dramas are not something that people are typically going to seek out at the multiplex.

        You can extend it into a bigger debate about how we define quality. I took a Hollywood industry lecture seminar when I was in college and our teacher was a former studio head at Fox. He was talking about the Oscars one day and claimed that King Kong (2005) deserved to win best picture that year. I found that to be such an odd take, yet it underscores the difference in how people can assess quality. To him, it was likely a combination of story, spectacle, and commercial appeal. To the Oscar voters, it was something else. The finalists for best picture that year were exclusively stereotypical prestige dramas that foregrounded overt social commentary (Good Night & Good Luck, Crash, Brokeback Mountain, Munich, and Capote).

        If the Nicholl is trying to be the Oscars of aspiring screenwriters then it makes sense that it will parallel that type of taste, gravitating towards "message" stories over simple commercial products. If you are a writer whose taste leans more into the realm of John Wick/Saw/The Fast & The Furious then you are at a slight disadvantage in that arena. I still believe that if you write a strong story that affects people, you'll have a reasonable chance to advance far regardless of your genre. I've read some really cool genre movies off the Nicholl in the past (St. Vincent, Armored, Snatched, Season of the Witch). It just seems like the dice are loaded slightly more in your favor if you are rolling with an "issues" drama compared with an action movie, thriller, comedy, etc. So while they're representing and identifying quality, it's perhaps skewed towards narrow sectors of what's actually a very broad spectrum.

        There are plenty of avenues to get a platform for your material though, so I think what most of us can probably agree on is that the first step should be to create something of real quality that resonates with readers in a powerful way, and then go from there.
        Walt, I don't think they are trying to be the Oscars I think they are pretty much intertwined because the people reading your script in the late rounds are Oscar winners themselves and several members from the actual Academy. So the tastes align, for sure. With all due respect, 99.9% of horror movies do not deserve to win an Oscar. Neither does John Wick.

        Comment


        • #34
          Originally posted by Vango View Post
          I do think, however, that you can write a script that is catered more to Nicholl, in the same way directors or actors who have done big movies their whole career want to make a film that can earn them Oscar nominations.
          Absolutely. One can and probably should pick an idea which might be much more suited for the Fellowship. My main point was don't just pick an idea for the sake of thinking you will win after you write it, since it sounds like that's what they might go for. Make sure it's something you are confident that you can do a great job with, so it can be also queried, as wisely noted by others. Otherwise, simply write what you love writing and do a terrific job with those scripts.

          After reading various posts on the subject over the years, I feel a few too many seem to be looking for an angle or "magical" in, rather than writing a story their are passionate about and have a connection with. Definitely enter with the right kind of material, if at all possible, as you point out. But be prepared to be pigeon-holed based on the type of script you get attention for, at least for awhile. What you write later down the road is up to you.
          Will
          Done Deal Pro
          www.donedealpro.com

          Comment


          • #35
            I am in with two this year. Both feel to me like "Nicholl friendly" scripts, so I think I've got that covered. Only success I've ever had in it was when I was a QF like a hundred years ago, but I almost always enter. It's like the lottery. Why not?

            Comment


            • #36
              I don't do the lottery and I think I win each week by saving the dollar. Just another take on it.

              Comment


              • #37
                They're posting reader comment excerpts as of yesterday: I love the excerpts.

                https://www.facebook.com/academygold

                Comment


                • #38
                  Originally posted by figment View Post
                  They're posting reader comment excerpts as of yesterday: I love the excerpts.

                  https://www.facebook.com/academygold
                  I did not know they did this. But that is some A level bullshit right there.

                  If anyone can guess what the movie is about from that "review" let me know... it's the same wording as a horoscope. Read any horoscope and you will agree with it as it's all positive statements.

                  Comment


                  • #39
                    I spent about 700 hours over the last 11 months writing something to enter. You don't have to win the Nichol to get your script in the hands of managers and agents. That's the best thing about the Nichol. If you hit the QF you will get requests without even querying. My script is a serial killer/detective story in a small town. The script doesn't go wide but hopefully the reader will feel it goes deep. I have like the last 15 pages to script and I have been revising from page 1 at least 5 times to get to this point. I like the story but it has its problems. Don't they all? I plan on getting it sent in by the May 4th deadline.

                    Comment


                    • #40
                      Originally posted by Cyfress View Post
                      I spent about 700 hours over the last 11 months writing something to enter. You don't have to win the Nichol to get your script in the hands of managers and agents. That's the best thing about the Nichol. If you hit the QF you will get requests without even querying. My script is a serial killer/detective story in a small town. The script doesn't go wide but hopefully the reader will feel it goes deep. I have like the last 15 pages to script and I have been revising from page 1 at least 5 times to get to this point. I like the story but it has its problems. Don't they all? I plan on getting it sent in by the May 4th deadline.
                      There you go. What I like to hear. Good luck Cy.

                      Comment


                      • #41
                        Does it say that on the NICOLL website or are you guys just assuming all QTs get read requests? I got Top 10% and no one cared. I think this is not true and just based on hope. I would guess finalist barely get read by most reps... most people still had to query their success to find interest from what I've heard. I wish it was true. I just don't think it is.

                        Enter Nicholl. And also query the spec. DO BOTH! AT SAME TIME!

                        Comment


                        • #42
                          Originally posted by Bono View Post
                          I did not know they did this. But that is some A level bullshit right there.

                          If anyone can guess what the movie is about from that "review" let me know... it's the same wording as a horoscope. Read any horoscope and you will agree with it as it's all positive statements.
                          They used to be much more specific in the past. The past couple years, I've noticed the reader comments that they post are more generic and devoid of story specifics than they used to be. It's way less fun the way they do it now.

                          Comment


                          • #43
                            I've made the QF twice and both times I got about a dozen emails from producers, managers, agents that were willing to read the script. Grant it, I have not entered in 8 years but that's the way it used to be. I think the QF is top 5% I could be mistaken. I remember last time I entered there were like 6200 entries and I was notified that I made the QF and was in the top 320 or so. From there they cut to 100 then they cut to 20 I think then they pick the fellows. That's the way it used to be if I remember correctly.

                            There's absolutely nothing wrong with entering the Nichol in hopes of getting your script into someone in the pipeline, could happen. Nothing wrong with blitzing queries out to appropriate managers/agents either, or maybe hosting on the blacklist.

                            Contests for amateurs is a way to see how you measure against your peers, a way to see what an outsider thinks of what's on the page. You ever write something that you thought was borderline brilliant and then when you ask a contemporary to read it, they murder it? I love that pain. Keeps you grounded. As someone who has read lots of amateur material, most of it is not good at all. That's just the way it is. It's that hard to write well. 99% of the scripts that get cold queried are pure sh!t. I feel comfortable making that statement based on my own material and the material I have read from others.

                            I remember one time I sent this dark, depressing logline to Kapplan/Perrone management. They are comedy writers/managers. Funny, they asked for the script though. I sent it with the highest hopes. I was in my mid 20s or so. The script prob had more problems than the Trump presidency, but I thought it was borderline brilliant. I remember as I was waiting for them to respond I decided to read the script and try to put myself in their shoes. After I was done reading it, I really thought they would like it. A few days later there was the email. I still have the rejection in my emails.

                            If you enter a script in a few of the big contests and never even make the first cut in any of them, should you think you have a strong script to query? I wouldn't think I would. If I send this script I've been working on to the Nichol and do not make at least the QF then it is a complete and utter failure in my eyes. By the time I'm done I will have spent close to 750 hours. I don't think I've spent that much time on one script before honestly. I guess if you're a pro on an assignment and you write 40 hours/wk then that's only 19-20 weeks which is about 5 months, so I guess that's on pace with the amount of time I pro would need to write a spec or complete an assignment.

                            When an amateur enters a contest they are looking for validation more than a prize. Have someone say - hey this ain't that bad. Someone who is not a friend or a relative. If you can't advance to the QF, Semis, or finals against your peers then there's no way you have market ready material. No way. So querying won't help you in 99.9999999% of the cases. I guess there's a razor thin chance that you have the next big idea and someone recognizes it and even though you can't execute it the idea is so good it can be sold. And all Rip Van Winkle wanted to do was take a little nap.

                            Comment


                            • #44
                              Originally posted by Cyfress View Post

                              If you enter a script in a few of the big contests and never even make the first cut in any of them, should you think you have a strong script to query? I wouldn't think I would. If I send this script I've been working on to the Nichol and do not make at least the QF then it is a complete and utter failure in my eyes.
                              This is faulty reasoning, because you can make the QF one year and not the next with the same script. It's happened to me multiple times. Just the same as you can get an "8" on the Blacklist (paid site) and then get a "5" for your next read, also happened to me.

                              A LOT depends on the luck of the draw reader-wise. Certain scripts just click with some readers, because it's their jam. I've had so many COMPLETELY opposite comments on the same script in the same contest, in the same year, it is truly head-scratching. That's why YOU, the writer, need to know if something is actually good or not, and what you may have to improve if it isn't. Otherwise, you're giving anonymous readers way too much power. You know, Little Miss Sunshine couldn't make Nicholl QF but won an Oscar.

                              Comment


                              • #45
                                Originally posted by figment View Post

                                This is faulty reasoning, because you can make the QF one year and not the next with the same script. It's happened to me multiple times. Just the same as you can get an "8" on the Blacklist (paid site) and then get a "5" for your next read, also happened to me.

                                A LOT depends on the luck of the draw reader-wise. Certain scripts just click with some readers, because it's their jam. I've had so many COMPLETELY opposite comments on the same script in the same contest, in the same year, it is truly head-scratching. That's why YOU, the writer, need to know if something is actually good or not, and what you may have to improve if it isn't. Otherwise, you're giving anonymous readers way too much power. You know, Little Miss Sunshine couldn't make Nicholl QF but won an Oscar.
                                Aye. One of my scripts has gotten top 10%, top 15%, and outside the top 20% in the Nicholl with very few changes. There's a bit of variance baked into the process simply because taste is subjective. Even just catching your reader in the wrong mood could affect your scores. This isn't a "they didn't understand my brilliant masterpiece" argument to suggest that everything they pass over is amazing. Generally, my bad scripts have done badly in the Nicholl. My good scripts have at least gotten some level of validation (top 10-20%). I think contests and things like the Black List (the website) will give you a solid approximation for how strong your material is, but it's not exact.

                                There's also a question of reader literacy and competence. When I was very young, I had some internships in LA. One was at a small talent management company and the other was at a production company on a lot with a first look deal. Part of my responsibility was occasionally writing coverage. They generally weren't giving me the A+ scripts that came in from the big reps. They were handing me the low priority stuff that they suspected would be crap, because that stuff was less important. All the same, it's a bit horrifying to think that a 23 year old kid with minimal industry experience and minimal reading experience was functioning as one of the filters for semi-professional specs. I think I did a decent job, but looking back on it, I'm not sure I was 100% qualified to be in that role.

                                When you enter a competition, you hope that the person reading your material is knowledgeable enough to recognize true merit. That may not always be the case though. Part of the challenge of a competition is creating a script that's basically "reader-proof". I've always said that in the big competitions, a script that 9/10 people "like" has better odds than a script that 3/10 people "love". On the spec market I think there's a little more room for niche material to get attention. You could even say that weird stuff can be really great in that context, since it tends to stand out from more conservative fare.

                                But these arguments can drift into a dangerous line of thinking ('I'm a genius and they just didn't get my work'). Given a decent sample size, the feedback I've gotten from places like the Black List and Nicholl has tended to mirror the eventual consensus of how strong that material was judged to be. So I think it's generally a good indicator of merit. However, there's a bit of a range there where a script can probably vary 10-15% in terms of where it lands in the overall field, so looking at it as an all-or-nothing binary type of verdict is probably not quite the best perspective.

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