Nicholl 2021

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  • DaltWisney
    replied
    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.

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  • ZAZluvr
    replied
    Originally posted by figment View Post
    The Blacklist is looking for the "Script." The Nicholl is looking for the "Writer." Those are both good things.

    Years ago when I quartered for the first time in the Nicholl I had, like, 8 people reach out to ask for the script -- names, even, Brooklyn Weaver, production companies. Of course they were probably reaching out to all of the Quarter Finalists, but still, that was nice. A bonus, in that you didn't have to win, you might still get attention or some reads. Now, nada. I think people have been burned too many times because there are so many contests. I still like Nicholl, though. I feel like they do care. I throw something in every year. Last year I got top 20 percent with a script whose plot was about an FBI agent who was tracking someone in the woods in order to assasinate them. So, they aren't ALL rainbows and butterflies being entered. It even had "KILL" in the title.
    This is just one person's experience, but just to springboard from figment's comments, a couple years back, I entered an in-your-face-violent female-led buddy western into Nicholl that made the QF's.  We all know westerns aren't dead, but they're tough sells.  I decided to buy the reader comments since I could get more bang for the buck -- six or so sets of comments -- for $45.  In line with what many have written on this thread, the reader reviews dealt only with the quality of the writing, how the script made the reader feel, and what meaning they could take from the script.  Not a word about market potential.

    I got a few reads off that placement, but that was only because I queried managers; they didn't reach out to me.  I'm not sure what that says about the cachet of a Nicholl QF script these days.  More likely, the market's not falling all over itself to find the next "Butch Cassidy" or "Unforgiven.”  And that's fine.  I wrote the script because it was the idea that interested me at the time. I learned how to write some semblance of a western, which is an achievement in and of itself.  I re-entered it again in Nicholl this year in the hopes of semifinaling.  Low expectations.  Meanwhile, on to the next one.

    Or, as Bono suggested:

    Originally posted by Bono View Post
    So if you enter Nicholl with a script, also query it if you believe in it. Don't just sit there and wait for months...
    Agreed. Query now if you’re high on your script. If you get no responses in April, but end up placing in Nicholl, you’ll have a great reason to re-query a few months from now.

    Leave a comment:


  • Bono
    replied
    I did write a script for the Nicholl around 2007. It made the Top 10%. But I did love the idea so it worked out. But I did think, well this idea of mine is more Nicholl than this other idea and I want to enter... so I went that way.

    Vango -- my man -- is a bit biased as he is one of the huge success stories and I know he will do well. But I still believe that writers like him that have talent would have done well (made it) with or without contests.

    I mean like anything, there were screenwriters long before there was even a book on screenwriting let alone a script contest. So enter if you want. But it's just one way in.

    I've said it before I did very well in another contest and got offered a rep, but I was also looking for a rep via query -- so I had 2 offers. Same script. So if I never entered that contest and just queried that script -- same result would have happened as i went with the firm I found on my own...

    So if you enter Nicholl with a script, also query it if you believe in it. Don't just sit there and wait for months...

    Leave a comment:


  • Done Deal Pro
    replied
    Originally posted by DaltWisney View Post
    My only point is that I'm not sure their judging process is lining up with what buyers might be looking for.
    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.
    Last edited by Done Deal Pro; 03-31-2021, 07:59 AM. Reason: Clarification

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  • figment
    replied
    Originally posted by DaltWisney View Post

    I'd be very happy to win the Nicholl or even to advance to one of the later rounds though, so I don't want to seem like a hater. It seems like a great avenue to get your foot in the door. My only point is that I'm not sure their judging process is lining up with what buyers might be looking for.
    The Blacklist is reps pushing their clients on a list. How many would be on there if they didn't? Half? I don't know. I think the Nicholl has stated that they are more about finding the best writers that "have something to say." Imo, that means, writing things that have stronger themes. "Magic and meaning" is a contest outlook -- does the script have magic and meaning?

    The Blacklist could be "magic and meaning" as well, but its also tons of action, popcorn stuff, and lots of biographies.

    The Blacklist is looking for the "Script." The Nicholl is looking for the "Writer." Those are both good things.

    Years ago when I quartered for the first time in the Nicholl I had, like, 8 people reach out to ask for the script -- names, even, Brooklyn Weaver, production companies. Of course they were probably reaching out to all of the Quarter Finalists, but still, that was nice. A bonus, in that you didn't have to win, you might still get attention or some reads. Now, nada. I think people have been burned too many times because there are so many contests. I still like Nicholl, though. I feel like they do care. I throw something in every year. Last year I got top 20 percent with a script whose plot was about an FBI agent who was tracking someone in the woods in order to assasinate them. So, they aren't ALL rainbows and butterflies being entered. It even had "KILL" in the title.

    I doubt very much that I would ever win a Nicholl -- but I'd like to get to the Semi's, because I think it'd help get reads, at least.


    --Finalact -- glad you entered!!

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  • finalact4
    replied
    I'm in.

    Leave a comment:


  • Vango
    replied
    Originally posted by DaltWisney View Post

    Interesting because I can't recall the last Nicholl QF+ to be produced, whereas several of the Black List projects I've read in the past 3-4 years have eventually been made into movies. I admittedly don't follow the Nicholl super closely, so perhaps I'm just not aware of some projects that were found there. I'm not trying to be argumentative. It's just been my sense that the Black List is in sharper alignment with the taste of actual industry decision makers, which makes sense given how it's assembled each year (even if the voting process is heavily politicked).

    I'd be very happy to win the Nicholl or even to advance to one of the later rounds though, so I don't want to seem like a hater. It seems like a great avenue to get your foot in the door. My only point is that I'm not sure their judging process is lining up with what buyers might be looking for.

    I think you're right with the taste of academy members being different than the taste of some decision makers. I'd recommend nicholl to anyone -- apply for it. You will get more than your foot in the door if you win. Good luck DaltWisney.

    Leave a comment:


  • DaltWisney
    replied
    Originally posted by Vango View Post

    The Nicholl is considered superior to the blacklist by the industry.
    Interesting because I can't recall the last Nicholl QF+ to be produced, whereas several of the Black List projects I've read in the past 3-4 years have eventually been made into movies. I admittedly don't follow the Nicholl super closely, so perhaps I'm just not aware of some projects that were found there. I'm not trying to be argumentative. It's just been my sense that the Black List is in sharper alignment with the taste of actual industry decision makers, which makes sense given how it's assembled each year (even if the voting process is heavily politicked).

    I'd be very happy to win the Nicholl or even to advance to one of the later rounds though, so I don't want to seem like a hater. It seems like a great avenue to get your foot in the door. My only point is that I'm not sure their judging process is lining up with what buyers might be looking for.


    Leave a comment:


  • Vango
    replied
    And then lastly I would say that language is important. I think language creates experience. So I think word choice is very important, the way you craft your sentences. A lot of the users in this forum, they comment on a sentence level, a word level, when pages are posted. That is the way to do it.

    That comes after the major things, like once it's been workshopped 10 times, and you've sorted out the story, the characters, you're taking a scene from an 8 to a 9 to a 10, and then the last order of business is the actual description. A movie is a moving picture, so let's get that description popping off the page.

    Leave a comment:


  • Vango
    replied
    Originally posted by Prezzy View Post

    Yeah. Don't mind me. I'm just playing.

    As far as becoming a Nicholl reader, it's probably a networking thing.

    Would "Rocky" win? I'm honestly not sure. Maybeeee.

    It might also not be social issuey enough. Also, not to sound like a conservative reactionary, but I can't remember the last Nicholl-winning script with a straight, White male protagonist. Those types of scripts have either been non-existent or in the vast minority of winners in recent years.

    You also have to keep in mind that just because a script won the Oscar doesn't necessarily mean it will do well in the Nicholl. "Little Miss Sunshine" won the Oscar for best original screenplay, but bombed in the Nicholl.

    I recommend you look at the loglines of Nicholl-winning scripts in the past half decade or so. Lots of scripts that either tackle social issues or feature heroes from underrepresented communities.

    Have more of a Oscar drama feel, but can have other genre elements like last year's "Goodbye, Iraq", which had some action-thriller elements. Comedy and fun, pulpy, popular feeling scripts probably aren't going to make the cut.

    I also recommend starting your script with a lazily written page one voiceover. Lots of Nicholl-winning scripts have had page one voiceovers in recent years.
    Imho, I think Rocky would win. It's one of those sports movies that just has a lot going on and is really timeless. What I would say is not to underestimate the value of entertainment in your script, because it matters.

    The best advice I can give would be:

    1) Write something different. Write something only you can write. If you're writing a script that 5 other people on DoneDeal could write using that premise, then I wouldn't be too confident in that script (as it pertains to Nicholl, that is).

    2) Write something that has a lot of heart. It could be personal, or something authentic, or just something you feel really passionate about. If you're writing a really powerful drama, then I should be crying when reading it. If you're writing this harrowing story, then my head should be turning, emotions flying all over the place.

    3) Try and comment (don't infuse your own comments/opinion, just objectively show it) on a global issue. Maybe one from the past that is still relevant today. Or something we're seeing now that will still be timeless. It doesn't have to be political. It could be about drug addiction. It could be about social media addiction. It could be about parenting. It could be about a certain disease. Or being gay. Or being an introvert. It can really be about anything. As long as there's this sense of power behind it.

    4) Characters are important, obviously. Some of the best scripts that have ever been written are character studies. A lot of Oscar contenders in all categories in fact are scripts that put a great amount of time into developing the characters. Because a great concept will interest you in page one. Now you have 100 pages to show why concept is only a fraction of what you can offer.

    The last one I would say, and this may be a bit more risky, as you don't often see it done, but I would say do not be afraid to subvert or invert genre. Something that makes it seem like the reader is in really good hands, and you're going to give them something they haven't seen before.

    For comedy, I do think it's tough, but one of the winners who won who is now a friend wrote a pretty funny script that dealt with a very serious topic. The Hangover is one of the best comedies ever, but it's not going to win a nicholl and it's not going to win an oscar for writing, because it's just not really a film with that type of substance.

    I would also say, don't worry about so much what has already won, and just study Oscar winning and nominated scripts. One of my favorite scripts of the last several years was Imitation Game. Just an amazing, amazing script.

    Leave a comment:


  • Vango
    replied
    Originally posted by DaltWisney View Post
    I'm a glutton for punishment, so I'll enter. Think I've had 4 different scripts in the top 10-15% over the years without ever quite clearing the QF hurdle.

    I'll probably chuck two of those back into the fray with minor alterations, along with one new thing.

    This will sound like sour grapes, but I'm just being honest: The Nicholl finalists I've read in recent years didn't wow me. I wonder if the competition is moving too far away from popular taste in favor of "message" movies. Admittedly, the sample size hasn't been large enough to draw firm conclusions. Some of the old winners I've read were just fun genre movies. The new stuff has felt more preachy and cloying. Not really my style. I know they've had some changes behind the scenes, so that could be an explanation. I'd be curious to hear if managers and industry folks still regard it with the same prestige as they did 10-15 years ago.

    I've been working through the 2020 Black List recently and I'm not sure I've come across a Nicholl semi finalist-finalist yet.

    Still very much worth a shot though, and a nice feather in your cap if you can advance.
    The Nicholl is considered superior to the blacklist by the industry. Most Nicholl finalists or winners or even top 50s can get on the blacklist if they ask their managers/agents to campaign for it -- getting on the blacklist is just about the reps getting all their buddies to say this was one of the best scripts I've read this year that wasn't produced. So there's really no point for a nicholl winner to go on the blacklist unless a few years have passed maybe and it still hasn't been made or purchased. I think the blacklist is a good way for scripts that aren't produced to get some traction going forward. Because maybe a year or two later, someone wants to make it.

    As far as the other comment, I think a lot of what you said has some truth to it. Many, in fact I'd say all, Nicholl scripts are message movies. But aren't all great movies message movies? I think the difference becomes how much of that message is in the subtext, or background.

    I see what you're saying though.

    But do not forget that when you get to the later rounds of Nicholl, those scripts are being read by Academy members, people who have made big blockbuster movies. So they're looking for great movies and good writers as well.

    All kinds of scripts and genres win Nicholl but I definitely think it's similar to the Oscars in that it's more catered to certain kinds of scripts.

    My script was an action thriller with a lot of violence, but there were a number of things happening with both the outward journey and the commentary of that journey (global issue) in the background. I think that most recent Nicholl scripts are more pure dramas, but I wouldn't fall into that trap necessarily. I would say that if you have a script, in any genre, of any budget, that checks off all the boxes -- and there are many of them -- you should apply.

    Leave a comment:


  • DaltWisney
    replied
    I'm a glutton for punishment, so I'll enter. Think I've had 4 different scripts in the top 10-15% over the years without ever quite clearing the QF hurdle.

    I'll probably chuck two of those back into the fray with minor alterations, along with one new thing.

    This will sound like sour grapes, but I'm just being honest: The Nicholl finalists I've read in recent years didn't wow me. I wonder if the competition is moving too far away from popular taste in favor of "message" movies. Admittedly, the sample size hasn't been large enough to draw firm conclusions. Some of the old winners I've read were just fun genre movies. The new stuff has felt more preachy and cloying. Not really my style. I know they've had some changes behind the scenes, so that could be an explanation. I'd be curious to hear if managers and industry folks still regard it with the same prestige as they did 10-15 years ago.

    I've been working through the 2020 Black List recently and I'm not sure I've come across a Nicholl semi finalist-finalist yet.

    Still very much worth a shot though, and a nice feather in your cap if you can advance.

    Leave a comment:


  • Prezzy
    replied
    Originally posted by Prezzy View Post
    For the record, I was indeed joking.

    The hotel I'm going to be stuck in is in P-Town. I'm pretty sure all the hookers there are burly, gay men.

    I love the gay and LGBT community, but not in the sexy way.
    A necessary update. I just spent my first day in P-Town, which for many years was depicted to me as a gay Mecca tourist town.

    I am severely disappointed by the lack of rainbow flags, women holding hands, men in tight pants, and the fact that there is no restaurant named Big Gay Al's Flaming BBQ.

    Just seems like every other town on Cape Cod. But hey, at least I got to see a famous actor I like.

    Leave a comment:


  • Prezzy
    replied
    Originally posted by Bono View Post
    He meant Julia Roberts from Pretty Woman. Or he meant real life versions like Ashley Dupree. Or he's into some stuff we don't know about and that gets very specific and pricing goes up. But most likely he was just joking. Most likely...
    For the record, I was indeed joking.

    The hotel I'm going to be stuck in is in P-Town. I'm pretty sure all the hookers there are burly, gay men.

    I love the gay and LGBT community, but not in the sexy way.

    Leave a comment:


  • WRITERRIVERS
    replied
    Originally posted by Bono View Post
    Listen I've entered Nicholl and made top 10%. Not humble brag. I did write a spec "for them" that was more Little Miss Sunshine meets Clerks to do it. But what I didn't do was write a spec ONLY for them. It was still something I really loved and cared about. But I did recognize that my sports comedy spec wasn't going to be for them, so I sent them something else.

    If you write only sports comedies, I'd say skip entering.

    Also 99.999999% of the writers that are screenwriters didn't do well in this contest, let alone win. Maybe not even entered it once.

    So this is all to say, enter or don't -- but don't put some much power into it. Just treat it like any contest. Enter many. Enter none. Your career will most likely turn out the same way.
    Good for you. Do you have samples of the script? And who are some recent winners who got their script produced?

    Leave a comment:

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