What's a fellowship?



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  • What's a fellowship?

    Having entered the Nicholl Fellowships, and now prepping for Disney, it struck me that the fellowships for which I'm applying aren't clearly defined. At least not beyond the monetary grant each fellow receives.

    I imagine Nicholl fellows enjoy periodic meetings with high profile advisors, in addition to all the recognition for winning. What else is there?

    Do Disney fellows report to a studio desk each day to carry out their writing work?

    Just wondering.

  • #2
    My understanding of the Nicholl program is that fellows receive their fellowship money over the course of the year (quarterly, I believe). I don't think they are required to meet with anyone, but I believe they ARE required to hand in pages to show that they are keeping their end of the bargain, which is to write at least one script over the course of the year--no script, no final check. (I was a finalist, not a fellow, so although I'm pretty certain this is right, I won't be shocked if Greg Beal jumps in to correct me on some of the details.)

    The Disney, I believe, is quite different. Fellows are expected to move to the LA area (Disney will pay for this, I believe) and come to the Disney lot often (daily?!). They work closely with executives on scripts and are essentially working as in-house scribes, as far as I understand. Again, *sigh*, I was a finalist, not a fellow, and Disney finalists aren't treated nearly as well as Nicholl finalists, so all the above caveats and more apply.

    You really can't go wrong winning either one, however. That much I'm sure of.


    • #3
      now that you mention it...

      As I recall, Purple Curtain, you are one of the working pros who kindly contribute to this board. Was your finalist status in either of those programs what propelled you into the ranks of the WGA or was it through some other means? Again, just wondering.


      • #4
        Re: now that you mention it...

        I don't think Disney pays for your relocation, btw. But yes, it is full-time and you have to live in LA.



        • #5

          They put you in a hotel for a month. I read the fine-print.


          • #6
            Re: now that you mention it...

            Was your finalist status in either of those programs what propelled you into the ranks of the WGA or was it through some other means?
            Disney got me nothing but two agent reads, neither of which led anywhere.

            The Nicholl absolutely helped. I had already made some inroads myself in the few months before hitting the finals; I had hooked up with a well-connected director who had pitched the project to an A-list production company a few weeks before the Nicholl finalists were announced. When I found out I made the finals, I called the director and told him this would be a good time for him to recommend me to an agent. He called a good friend of his at a major agency. She read the script that night and offered me representation the next day. The following Monday, the A-list production company said they wanted to be involved in my project. The combination of having a project set up at a major company, the cache of having a Nicholl pedigree (even though I didn't actually win a fellowship) and a great agent at a major agency--and let's not forget a solid writing sample--led to many meetings over the course of the following months, one of which led to my first assignment and WGA membership (about six months after signing with the agent).

            Was the Nicholl 100% responsible for that? No. That said, I don't think the director would have been motivated to recommend me to an agent then (and maybe not ever) had there been no exterior pressure. But realizing that the Nicholl announcement would cause my phone to start ringing (and ringing and ringing and ringing and RINGING--it was exhilarating and finally irritating!) both he and the agent--and the production company, for that matter--felt they had to move quickly or risk losing a chance at me and/or the project. So I think the Nicholl did play an important role in my career, and it still comes up in meetings I have even though it was several years ago now and I have several assignments under my belt.

            PS: Thanks, cafebuzz, for the clarification. I knew Disney paid for something relating to relocation. And while we're at it, if you are a Nicholl finalist who is outside of Los Angeles, the Academy will give you a free trip to LA for a few days to participate in the seminars, dinners and the awards banquet (and whatever meetings you can get with agents and producers in your down time...).


            • #7
              Re: now that you mention it...

              Interesting post PurpleCurtain. Thanks for going into depth.

              I guess it shows how hard it is to break through when it still took you six months to get a writing assignment after all that.

              Surprising to hear that reaching the finals of Disney didn't really amount to anything. Had it been necessary, you probably could've leveraged your finalist status into some more reads by mentioning it in queries, but luckily the Nicholl saved you the trouble.

              Must've been a helluva good script.


              • #8
                A bunch of dwarves and weird folks who take this magic ring and...


                • #9
                  Fellowships = Dramas (?)

                  I have a theory about these fellowships and contests. Seems like only dramas, like "Finding Forrester," place. I doubt my romantic comedy would go far in these contests regardless of the quality. Can anyone dispute this?

                  Purple curtain, if you don't mind me asking, what genre was your script(s) that made you a finalist so many times?

                  Others, feel free to pipe in too! Thanks!


                  • #10
                    Re: Fellowships = Dramas (?)

                    My script was a period drama. Same script (slightly different draft) made the finals in both Disney and Nicholl. For that matter, it was also a quarter- or semifinalist in the Chesterfield and placed somewhere in Austin (It didn't do great in the last competition, but it advanced a wee bit).

                    One of my fellow Nicholl finalists got there with a romantic comedy that had some fantasy elements. All of the fellowship scripts in my year were dramas...but as far as I know, the romantic comedy finalist script was the first one to sell, and the writer was among the first of us to get an assignment and has probably been the most successful of the 10 of us who made the finals.

                    An exceptionally well-written romantic comedy has as good a chance of getting a Nicholl fellowship as an exceptionally well-written drama. "Exceptionally well-written" is the key part of the equation, not genre. I read all 10 of the finalist scripts in my year. I probably would have chosen a little differently had I been in charge, but it was hard to fault the Nicholl Committee's choices given the 10 scripts they had to judge because every last one of them had a compelling story, well-drawn characters, good conflicts, etc. etc. Did my friend's romantic comedy ultimately suffer because it was judged "too light" compared with some of the heavier dramas? Who knows. And really, who cares? The ultimate goal isn't a fellowship but a career, and he's certainly achieved that one.

                    I guess it's human nature to prejudge things and decide, for example, that it's not worth entering a romantic comedy in the Nicholl because, well, "they just don't like them." But I have to say that had I listened to that kind of stuff, I never even would have written my period drama because I've since read so many times that "first-time writers should NOT write period scripts," "you'll never get anywhere unless you write something commercial, something that could star Tom Cruise or Tom Hanks," etc. And thank goodness I stubbornly followed my gut because, boy, I'd hate to think where I'd be if I hadn't written that script...