Nicholl 2019

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  • #16
    Re: Nicholl 2019

    Originally posted by Iceman View Post
    That's amazing wenonah! Congratulations! What a testament to perseverance.

    Did you learn anything particularly important over the years of writing and submitting that you think might be helpful?
    Thank you :-) I feel like I've always known and it's been said many times all over that Nicholl favors drama heavy with a slant toward social issues or at least issues that you may have a personal story or association with. My semi-final script the year before was a great depression era zombie script in the Oklahoma dust bowl. While I feel it's a high-concept, well-written fun ride I can see now why it didn't go further. I imagined sitting in those seats at the big oscar theater and having these esteemed committee members talk about these deep, life-affirming, socially impacting, personal tales... and wenonah's zombie script ... and I would have felt a bit silly.

    Horsehead Girls (the Nicholl script) is definitely a thriller. It has vengence, a murder mystery, sex trafficking and violence. (non of which I'm personally involved in) It's also female-driven, Native American, and about protecting your children. Those last three are what connects it to me and what makes me able to be passionate about the project. I also think the current climate for women minority writers is really good right now and I can say that 18 years ago it wasn't so hot.

    If you look at the other winners last year they all have some sort of flavor (for lack of a better word) A family facing the opioid epidemic, An amateur mathematician in prison and a neighborhood fall out shelter. Knowing the writers and their passion for their works sort of set off a lightbulb for me. I'm not sure if I could replicate my script again or if it would have the same result in another year but it was the right time, the right subject matter and right script. Will any of these sell? Who knows - not mine, yet. I do know that if I were to submit this year I would take a lot of time finding that story so that I wouldn't feel silly sitting in that seat being introduced to give a speech about dust bowl zombies.

    Comment


    • #17
      Re: Nicholl 2019

      Lots of inspiring stuff here, with an emphasis on perseverance.

      I was especially amused by your dust bowl zombie story. As I see how much I can afford to submit this year- one, two or three submissions - the most likely script to go is my dust bowl dramedy (circa 1933, written in 2016). It's in the Frank Capra vein, and fortunately contains no zombies - though over the years I have done several about the undead!

      Comment


      • #18
        Re: Nicholl 2019

        Originally posted by DaltWisney View Post
        I didn't mean four quadrant in the conventional sense of some huge blockbuster. What I meant is a script that will be relatively satisfying to everyone without offending or alienating anyone.

        Maybe we can use food as an analogy. Almost everyone likes pizza and ice cream. On the other hand, sushi is a slightly more niche thing. Some people are really passionate about it, but other people find the mere thought of it repulsive.

        As far as the Nicholl goes, I think you want a script that's more pizza than sushi. In order to make a deep run in the competition, your script needs to earn high marks from a variety of judges, who each have their own tastes and preferences. With that being the case, something really bizarre or off-center is unlikely to clear all those different hurdles. On the other hand, a well-executed and relatively safe script should do pretty well.

        You can argue that this is both a strength and weakness of the Nicholl, as winners are likely to be solid scripts, yet some of the stuff that has strong niche potential will probably flame out. You wouldn't necessarily expect an Inception, Donnie Darko, Idiocracy, Drive, Fight Club, There Will Be Blood, Royal Tenebaums, Step Brothers, or Moonlight to dominate in this type of competition. These are NOT necessarily films that I love (or even like), but they've been relatively successful in some respects despite featuring content and creative choices that are likely to repel some people.
        yes, that's a good analogy. the 4Q threw me off. i understand what you mean.

        to clarify, i don't think there's anything wrong with the Nicholl or the way they select winning screenplays. they're helping writers every year and that's commendable. my only real comment, which i think we agree, is that the better you understand the mission and mandate of a contest the better decision a writer can make about where they're going to focus their dollars and can even play a part in the type of script they choose to write.

        to me, it seems prudent to show that you can tackle more than one kind of film. i have the utmost respect for the Nicholl.

        i'm considering a contained thriller with only a few characters myself, set in the wilderness, but still with a sci-fi spin that isn't immediately obvious. it might be a good fit. don't know yet. have a high concept rom-com and an action with a female lead that should be ready in a month or two.

        originally Posted by wenonah
        I'm very proud of myself and my accomplishments. My family is proud of me. I'm excited to transition to a working professional writer and I'm ready to do the work. I struggle with anxiety and self-doubt and the hustle is not easy for this old lady but I've worked hard to get here and I'm going to ride this opportunity out to the fullest.
        damn, props to you. i'm proud of you, too. an amazing journey. i'm so happy that you have your time, it's clearly well earned and well deserved. an inspiration to all writers, or anyone, really chasing their dream.

        Horsehead Girls, love the title and it sounds like a very compelling story. i would've loved the zombie fare, i mean, who doesn't love a good zombie movie. haha.

        this is also a testament to what it means to have "real" representation. i signed with a manager/producer who was really very interested in producing my two big budget films. both are good in their own right, and both had an option on the table. neither came with the terms necessary for me, at my lawyer and manager's agreement, to take the option. people just want your ip for nothing.

        he didn't set up one meeting even though there was interest in me for assignment writing and i could have had meetings, he just didn't focus on it because i was in Connecticut at the time.

        he really wasn't interested in managing, more selling. both scripts are great samples. i had another manager who really wanted to rep me within a day of my manager and i can honestly say, that i might be in a different place had i taken that manager up on his offer to rep me.

        my manager really loved my writing, they both did. it felt really good to have two people want to rep me, BUT you have to be really smart about who you go with, i think. he wasn't a true manager, but a producer.

        and don't get me wrong he is amazing at asking you all the right questions that allow you as a writer to elevate an already very good script.

        so, i find myself without a manager, but with a strong connection to a producer who has gotten my work into top execs at studios and moderate sized prodcos: sony tv, screen gems, warner bros. you get the idea.

        i'll be looking for a manager after the rom-com is ready to market in the next month or so, and then follow up with the action thriller that will be ready shortly thereafter. just finished my new website last week, so, i'm hopeful. getting things in line to put my best foot forward.

        i've blathered long enough. haha. good luck to all.
        "Learn the rules like a pro, so you can break them like an artist,- Pablo Picasso

        Comment


        • #19
          Re: Nicholl 2019

          Originally posted by wenonah View Post
          Hey guys! First of all, I'm beyond happy to be a spectator on this one. I hope one (or more) of you becomes a fellow this year - I'm rooting for you! My script that won last year (and also won Austin) was indeed what I would consider more niche or independent due to the setting, characters and subject matter. However, I've heard from so many people that it's a thriller at heart and a "page turner" and has served as an incredible calling card/writing sample for me. Winning the Nicholl has changed my life. I am currently repped by UTA who read my Nicholl script and asked what else I had. Because I've been writing for so long and have a big body of work in multiple genres I was able to send them a high concept comedy (which won PAGE gold in 2011) and those two scripts landed me my feature agents. I also had a tv pilot that was a finalist in the sundance episodic labs and that added a tv agent in the same company.

          During the Nicholl week (and the week following) last November I went on 30 general meetings with all the major studios and many amazing production companies with these three writing samples. I subsequently went on another 15 generals in Juanuary. Needless to say I went from never meeting a producer to having 45 meetings under my belt. It's been an incredibly surreal, exciting, exhausting and sometimes nerve-wracking experience. (I'm a full blown introvert)

          In the last 3 months, I've pitched on an open assignment to a major studio (my first pitch.) I've read half a dozen books sent to me to consider for adaptation. I've had multiple producers reach out to me to work on their tv projects and (knock on wood) I think I'm optioning one of my specs next week. I love my agents, they work extremely hard for me and I feel they have my back. I don't have a manager. I am not yet in the union.

          It's HAPPENING!!!

          As far as the Nicholl goes, I've been applying since 2003 and rarely with the same script twice. I've submitted dramas, comedies, horror, family adventure, etc. The main thing I've noticed is that I slowly started going from no placement to QF to SF to a win over the course of the years, no matter what genre. I became a better writer, chose better scripts and maybe just got a little luckier this time around.

          I'm very proud of myself and my accomplishments. My family is proud of me. I'm excited to transition to a working professional writer and I'm ready to do the work. I struggle with anxiety and self-doubt and the hustle is not easy for this old lady but I've worked hard to get here and I'm going to ride this opportunity out to the fullest.

          Good luck to all of you.
          +1
          "I was dreamin' when I wrote this, forgive me if it goes astray." - Prince

          Comment


          • #20
            Re: Nicholl 2019

            Originally posted by wenonah View Post
            As far as the Nicholl goes, I've been applying since 2003 and rarely with the same script twice. I've submitted dramas, comedies, horror, family adventure, etc. The main thing I've noticed is that I slowly started going from no placement to QF to SF to a win over the course of the years, no matter what genre. I became a better writer, chose better scripts and maybe just got a little luckier this time around.
            So happy for you, Wenonah! Thank you for sharing what your life has been like since winning both Nicholl and Austin. It's great to get a firsthand account of what these contests can do for your career (don't think many former winners have done so on DDP).

            A quick question -- did you query HORSEHEAD GIRLS with any managers/agents/prodcos prior to winning the contests? And if so, did some of those same places that showed no interest before become interested after you won? Just curious, as I experienced this the first time I had a Nicholl QF script. Of course, you don't have to give any specific companies/names.
            "I love being a writer. What I can't stand is the paperwork.-- Peter De Vries

            Comment


            • #21
              Re: Nicholl 2019

              Originally posted by finalact4 View Post
              my manager really loved my writing, they both did. it felt really good to have two people want to rep me, BUT you have to be really smart about who you go with, i think. he wasn't a true manager, but a producer.

              and don't get me wrong he is amazing at asking you all the right questions that allow you as a writer to elevate an already very good script.
              Hey finalact4, thanks for providing this insight. It seems that you thought both managers were strong contenders. Just curious about what made you ultimately choose one over the other. Were there more than a few factors? And did you not get a sense of his producorial leanings when considering him? I get the sense that writers should ask this question upfront so they can know what to expect.
              "I love being a writer. What I can't stand is the paperwork.-- Peter De Vries

              Comment


              • #22
                Re: Nicholl 2019

                Originally posted by UpandComing View Post
                So happy for you, Wenonah! Thank you for sharing what your life has been like since winning both Nicholl and Austin. It's great to get a firsthand account of what these contests can do for your career (don't think many former winners have done so on DDP).

                A quick question -- did you query HORSEHEAD GIRLS with any managers/agents/prodcos prior to winning the contests? And if so, did some of those same places that showed no interest before become interested after you won? Just curious, as I experienced this the first time I had a Nicholl QF script. Of course, you don't have to give any specific companies/names.

                I finished up Horsehead Girls the first week of March a year ago for a local Minnesota screenwriters fellowship (McKnight foundation) which I also won. I submitted the finished script to the Nicholl the same week and Austin shortly thereafter so the script was brand spanking new and nobody had laid eyes on it prior to my submissions. I also submitted to PAGE but only made QF with it so that's a testament to the subjectivity and proof that not all competitions are looking for the same thing.

                Comment


                • #23
                  Re: Nicholl 2019

                  Originally posted by wenonah View Post
                  Hey guys! First of all, I'm beyond happy to be a spectator on this one. I hope one (or more) of you becomes a fellow this year - I'm rooting for you! My script that won last year (and also won Austin) was indeed what I would consider more niche or independent due to the setting, characters and subject matter. However, I've heard from so many people that it's a thriller at heart and a "page turner" and has served as an incredible calling card/writing sample for me. Winning the Nicholl has changed my life. I am currently repped by UTA who read my Nicholl script and asked what else I had. Because I've been writing for so long and have a big body of work in multiple genres I was able to send them a high concept comedy (which won PAGE gold in 2011) and those two scripts landed me my feature agents. I also had a tv pilot that was a finalist in the sundance episodic labs and that added a tv agent in the same company.

                  During the Nicholl week (and the week following) last November I went on 30 general meetings with all the major studios and many amazing production companies with these three writing samples. I subsequently went on another 15 generals in Juanuary. Needless to say I went from never meeting a producer to having 45 meetings under my belt. It's been an incredibly surreal, exciting, exhausting and sometimes nerve-wracking experience. (I'm a full blown introvert)

                  In the last 3 months, I've pitched on an open assignment to a major studio (my first pitch.) I've read half a dozen books sent to me to consider for adaptation. I've had multiple producers reach out to me to work on their tv projects and (knock on wood) I think I'm optioning one of my specs next week. I love my agents, they work extremely hard for me and I feel they have my back. I don't have a manager. I am not yet in the union.

                  It's HAPPENING!!!

                  As far as the Nicholl goes, I've been applying since 2003 and rarely with the same script twice. I've submitted dramas, comedies, horror, family adventure, etc. The main thing I've noticed is that I slowly started going from no placement to QF to SF to a win over the course of the years, no matter what genre. I became a better writer, chose better scripts and maybe just got a little luckier this time around.

                  I'm very proud of myself and my accomplishments. My family is proud of me. I'm excited to transition to a working professional writer and I'm ready to do the work. I struggle with anxiety and self-doubt and the hustle is not easy for this old lady but I've worked hard to get here and I'm going to ride this opportunity out to the fullest.

                  Good luck to all of you.

                  Comment


                  • #24
                    Re: Nicholl 2019

                    Originally posted by wenonah View Post
                    I finished up Horsehead Girls the first week of March a year ago for a local Minnesota screenwriters fellowship (McKnight foundation) which I also won. I submitted the finished script to the Nicholl the same week and Austin shortly thereafter so the script was brand spanking new and nobody had laid eyes on it prior to my submissions. I also submitted to PAGE but only made QF with it so that's a testament to the subjectivity and proof that not all competitions are looking for the same thing.

                    Thanks! To me the fact that the script also placed in PAGE and won the McKnight Fellowship is just more evidence that a lot of people liked it. Wishing you continued success.
                    "I love being a writer. What I can't stand is the paperwork.-- Peter De Vries

                    Comment


                    • #25
                      Re: Nicholl 2019

                      Thanks everyone. I honestly would not be here without having my DDers support throughout the years. As a new (not in LA) writer looking for a community to learn from and ask questions and commiserate with year after year of not quite breaking in, it was/is my safe place. I'm all about paying it forward and being available and keeping you all close and informed. In the end we're all just hunkered over the keyboard spilling our guts and trying to get paid. If i ever get to a place where i can truly help out and make a difference I will try my best. Carry on.

                      W

                      Comment


                      • #26
                        Re: Nicholl 2019

                        Originally posted by UpandComing View Post
                        Hey finalact4, thanks for providing this insight. It seems that you thought both managers were strong contenders. Just curious about what made you ultimately choose one over the other. Were there more than a few factors? And did you not get a sense of his producorial leanings when considering him? I get the sense that writers should ask this question upfront so they can know what to expect.
                        if i'm honest, and i like to be, my manager was very excited about my spec. i mean, i couldn't believe how excited he was about it and i just had a really great feeling. i had just started sending it out and they both requested it within a day of receiving my query ad read it immediately.

                        i'd had about 14 read requests from cold queries and black list 8s and 9s really helped with that. i even emailed every manager that requested it to read and told them when it was no longer available out of respect for their time. they were gracious and every single one congratulated me.

                        the second rep, who i will be reaching out to when my new spec it ready, was just as excited. said he was "so bummed," and when i told him that i signed with someone, he immediately called him, on his own, i didn't give him his number or contact info, just to tell my manager how lucky he thought my manager was.

                        and i'm not sure, but maybe part of the problem with the option, that i would not have been privy to, was the fact that my manager was attaching as a producer. maybe the other party wasn't so keen on that, i'll never know. i wouldn't have been a party to those conversations. who knows.

                        i was just so happy to have a manager, i just let things slide after the first two specs. and in my opinion he is excellent at guiding you to make the script shine. you know, things that are in your head and no quite on the page.

                        i could tell he wasn't into 'managing' and really only wanted to develop things he was interested in.

                        i was pretty disappointed that one day i had a manager and like that, i didn't. no meetings. sent me some copies of the emails he sent out, but didn't cc me on anything.

                        i'd like to know from other writers how they keep track of who's been sent your spec? does your manager just tell you "it went out to such and such and this was their response" or are you, as the writer, cc'd on everything? it would seem the party receiving the information might be more forthright with their opinion of the script if the writer was not on the cc.

                        i'm hesitant to tell this story, but i think women need to hear it--

                        i will say, one thing that happened that i thought was the most disappointing. i was invited to a location set where they were filming a pilot and it was amazing. i really learned a lot just watching the actors, director and crew.

                        i met one of the actors and we chatted about passion for our craft and how he got started and how i got started. a real nice, professional feeling conversation.

                        it took me like 3 1/2 hours to get there, including a ferry, and after i left to go home, i got a call from my manager saying that the actor was really impressed with me and wanted to know if i would come back for to have dinner with him.

                        i mean, he was trying to play it off like it was all innocent and funny, but he kept coming back around to getting me to travel back. this actor was in a very famous movie in the 80s, so he's like my father's age. i'd just spent almost 7 hours traveling. ugh.

                        i finally had to say, "tell him i've got a boyfriend." he was pushing pretty hard and i felt very uncomfortable and when he pushed one last time, "so it's a no?" i said firmly, "yes, it's a no." i don't think i've ever been so insulted. i've dealt with that kind of **** my whole life. i learned a very good lesson, i think. i'll be more up front this next time with my expectations. i know he just wanted to make the actor happy, but damn, i'm not a ****ing booty call.

                        anyway, i'm hoping this is a good year. right now i'm fortunate enough to be writing full time. not sure how long it will last, but busting my ass everyday to get as much writing in as possible.

                        good luck to all.
                        "Learn the rules like a pro, so you can break them like an artist,- Pablo Picasso

                        Comment


                        • #27
                          Re: Nicholl 2019

                          Thanks for sharing your thought process. It's good you know there's another manager out there who's passionate about your work, and thus should be receptive to your new projects.

                          Sorry to hear about that icky set situation. I know actors/actresses are used to it, but you'd think as screenwriters we'd be somewhat protected from that kind of sleaze in this town. Guess not.
                          "I love being a writer. What I can't stand is the paperwork.-- Peter De Vries

                          Comment


                          • #28
                            Re: Nicholl 2019

                            Originally posted by finalact4 View Post
                            this is just my opinion, but i do think Nicholl prefers a 'type' of story. And when i say this, i in no way mean that these are not quality stories worth winning or placing.

                            independent leanings
                            lower budget
                            smaller cast
                            non-specific location (ie small town vs multiple, big city)
                            character driven focus vs plot driven
                            internal struggle (journey) stronger than external (journey)
                            primary genres drama and comedy

                            here is a link to their judging criteria. https://www.oscars.org/nicholl/about

                            clearly, i do not have empirical knowledge. it's just what i believe after reviewing loglines.

                            there's no way to know what the overall submissions are, but i think anyone might reasonably assume that since it is the most prestigious amateur competition that everyone, regardless of genre, would enter.

                            then again, i didn't, so maybe there are others that feel as i do. don't know.

                            so, imo, if you write or have written a high concept, highly commercial, epic sci-fi/fantasy, or high budget plot driven script (yes, i know plot is driven by character), maybe this is not the competition for you.

                            and, just because you don't win or place in the Nicholl does not mean you aren't an excellent writer or your story isn't amazing. it's still very subjective.

                            what i think is interesting is writers submit the same script year after year. i understand if it's gone through an overhaul rewrite, maybe, but i read one person who said they sent in the same script twice and both times they were a semifinalist. i mean, if you're a semifinalist i'm pretty sure you get to keep the title forever, right? it's just a curious thing to me.

                            i'll bet there've been writers who placed then submitted the next year and didn't place at all, right? like, count your blessings-- i mean, it's that subjective.

                            or even a writer who entered one year didn't place and the next year did, right?

                            maybe i'd feel different if i was a semi and really wanted to get the win. but it's like, okay, you tried twice, move on and accept your place. they've already told you you were good.

                            maybe it's the fellowship they're after?

                            Haha, I guess I am to blame for this discussion. I was kind of surprised to see that an off the cuff comment by me has generated a 3 page discussion. But, I love the interesting discussion.


                            You articulated it better than me. I assumed it was general knowledge. I've heard managers on podcasts make similar comments. And I've had discussions with industry readers that had set me straight to be cognizant of the type of material to submit for the different contests - i.e. if I ever decide to enter Nicholl to have one that Nicholl would be more receptive to. I was steered to look at the loglines of the past finalists to get a sense and I realized that I didn't have a project that fit that mold yet. One of these days I'll look into it, but so far I can't come up with an idea in that range. As for contestants that submit scripts that placed highly in contests year after year, I thought writers who place highly one year aren't eligible to submit that script the following year? I had checked with a contest organizer when she gave me the good news about the question of if a contestant placed highly, but wasn't the overall winner....and she said no, they weren't eligible. Anyways, it's kind of nice that done dealers are so hard core about the craft. It seems like almost everyone on this board has done well in contests and are seriously dedicated to the craft.

                            Comment


                            • #29
                              Re: Nicholl 2019

                              Originally posted by wenonah View Post
                              Hey guys! First of all, I'm beyond happy to be a spectator on this one. I hope one (or more) of you becomes a fellow this year - I'm rooting for you! My script that won last year (and also won Austin) was indeed what I would consider more niche or independent due to the setting, characters and subject matter. However, I've heard from so many people that it's a thriller at heart and a "page turner" and has served as an incredible calling card/writing sample for me. Winning the Nicholl has changed my life. I am currently repped by UTA who read my Nicholl script and asked what else I had. Because I've been writing for so long and have a big body of work in multiple genres I was able to send them a high concept comedy (which won PAGE gold in 2011) and those two scripts landed me my feature agents. I also had a tv pilot that was a finalist in the sundance episodic labs and that added a tv agent in the same company.

                              During the Nicholl week (and the week following) last November I went on 30 general meetings with all the major studios and many amazing production companies with these three writing samples. I subsequently went on another 15 generals in Juanuary. Needless to say I went from never meeting a producer to having 45 meetings under my belt. It's been an incredibly surreal, exciting, exhausting and sometimes nerve-wracking experience. (I'm a full blown introvert)

                              In the last 3 months, I've pitched on an open assignment to a major studio (my first pitch.) I've read half a dozen books sent to me to consider for adaptation. I've had multiple producers reach out to me to work on their tv projects and (knock on wood) I think I'm optioning one of my specs next week. I love my agents, they work extremely hard for me and I feel they have my back. I don't have a manager. I am not yet in the union.

                              It's HAPPENING!!!

                              As far as the Nicholl goes, I've been applying since 2003 and rarely with the same script twice. I've submitted dramas, comedies, horror, family adventure, etc. The main thing I've noticed is that I slowly started going from no placement to QF to SF to a win over the course of the years, no matter what genre. I became a better writer, chose better scripts and maybe just got a little luckier this time around.

                              I'm very proud of myself and my accomplishments. My family is proud of me. I'm excited to transition to a working professional writer and I'm ready to do the work. I struggle with anxiety and self-doubt and the hustle is not easy for this old lady but I've worked hard to get here and I'm going to ride this opportunity out to the fullest.

                              Good luck to all of you.

                              Totally random story. A few weeks ago, I was having a rotten day, so I took off to see a movie. Waiting for the movie to start, I had read some article about a writer that won both the Nicholl and Austin. I found it made me feel better, lifting my spirits. Sometimes a feel good story works like "Chicken Soup for the soul." It's cool that you came on here to share some uplifting words. Just out of curiosity, what do you think were the actions you took that got you over the hump. I started entering contests a year and half ago. I placed highly in the first major contest I entered, but now find myself not quite getting over the hump. Doing well enough in contests to soothe my bruised ego, but not really winning anything. I only stick to the major contests.

                              Comment


                              • #30
                                Re: Nicholl 2019

                                Lisa, very sorry for your experience. That's lousy.

                                As for rep communications, I'm rarely cc'd on anything. Maybe two or three times has it happened. Other times I'll be forwarded responses from someone. Usually it's an aside to a phone call or a text conversation saying "out to Producer X- or a note that someone reached out from a company wanting to read. I have a pretty high level of trust with my manager and we're friends so I don't feel the need to be looped in on everything. A large percentage of folks his talking to I've met at this point and we have had our own separate side conversations. I usually keep him involved in those exchanges if it's anything substantive relating to actual work.

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