Nicholl 2020

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  • Not that anyone wants my opinion, but I actually guessed the entire logline of Vango's script with the exception of the Sadam Hussein assassination angle based on the title and the fact that it won the Nicholl alone.

    I even said to myself, I bet a 13 year-old Iraqi girl is one of the main characters.

    This isn't a knock against Vango. I'm sure the script is great. But the Nicholl is that predictable.

    Comment


    • Originally posted by Prezzy View Post
      Not that anyone wants my opinion, but I actually guessed the entire logline of Vango's script with the exception of the Sadam Hussein assassination angle based on the title and the fact that it won the Nicholl alone.

      I even said to myself, I bet a 13 year-old Iraqi girl is one of the main characters.

      This isn't a knock against Vango. I'm sure the script is great. But the Nicholl is that predictable.
      Exactly. And you're far from alone in thinking so despite the demonisation attempts by one individual.
      Also, your opinion is valid and doesn't need to be requested, despite the implication to the contrary.

      Comment


      • Thanks, Sundown. I typically refrain from giving my thoughts on what I really think about the Nicholl and contests in general because I understand that it can make me look bad to others, but since I've already broken my rule, I'll give my raw take on the Nicholl.

        My beef with the Nicholl isn't how they conduct their judging, but how they advertise themselves. They say they're looking for the best writers, but what they really mean is the best writers of a certain ilk. The ones that win like Vango are no doubt talented, but I think they shut out equally talented writers in the early rounds because their style doesn't match the contest's biases. Hell, Michael Arndt won an Oscar with a dark comedy script that didn't even get a positive score in the first round of the Nicholl.

        In my case, as a comedy writer, I gave up on the Nicholl long ago. I started to think I was a terrible, unfunny writer because I wasn't making the semi-finals or whatever, then I started paying for feedback on some of my scripts. To my surprise, this would be the general gist of the judges' feedback on my scripts:

        Fresh and original voice. Entertaining plot. Fun and endearing characters. Strong craft. Strong description. Especially strong dialogue. Good structure. Clever. Laugh out loud funny. Hilarious. The theme is too silly. The message isn't important enough.

        My interpretation of this is the Meaning and Magic category for their grading rubric feels like this wild card that is used to arbitrarily elevate the "Nicholl-worthy" scripts and to keep out the riff raff.

        Comment


        • Originally posted by SundownInRetreat View Post
          Yes but the Nicholl is also an out-of-touch band of smug luvvies. Did you see this year's finalists (or any year's, for that matter)??? Talk about depressing. Just look at the titles - Lemon, Sins of my Father, The Seeds of Truth, Goodbye, Iraq... - you know exactly what they are without any further details: introverted, introspective, kitchen-sink, 'drama'. Artsy types will applaud whilst everyone else will avoid. The Nicholl is living on its reputation, which cuts less ice year after year, precisely because of its poncy approach.
          This is what I said and here's what I've managed to find out about this year's finalists:

          Lemon - when Lemon’s agoraphobic mother dies suddenly, five-year-old Lemon goes outside for the first time in search of her father. Beasts of a Southern Wild meets Room.
          The Cow of Queens - Sonya and her dying dad go on one last adventure to save an escaped slaughterhouse cow loose on the streets of Queens.
          Sins of my Father - a young woman in Ireland grapples with the love she has for her father after bringing charges of abuse against him rocking a country when his sentence is suspended.
          The Lions of Mesopotamia - based on the true events of the Iraqi National Football Team's quest to qualify for the World Cup during the reign of Saddam Hussein, and the hope they inspired in one young boy growing up in Baghdad. A rare, humanistic look at a nation plagued by violence and conflict.
          Goodbye, Iraq - no logline but the writer stated: 'I wanted to write something that encapsulated the paranoia and PTSD symptoms experienced by victimized Iraqi people during Saddam’s reign....but the heart of it is a love story between a traumatized father and his incorruptible daughter as they journey through this dark and violent expanse.

          No details for the other finalists though Andrew Wankier (I kid you not) previous penned:
          Vine Street Betty - after her older brother is sent to a detention center and awaits trial for a crime committed by a neighborhood witch, a young girl must prove the witch’s real identity before her brother’s conviction. But her dysfunctional home life and a local predator stand in her way.
          The Gentry - an atheist psychologist reluctantly returns home for a Christmas baptism and clashes with her traditional Irish-Protestant family, but when a sinister spirit forces her to face her skepticism, she must delve into her family’s dirty secrets in order to save them all'.

          Also, a sample of Beth 'Lemon' Curry's other screenplays:
          Moonflower - in 1928 Mississippi, a white woman and black woman have an affair while battling the racial tensions of a small town.
          Vara - Vara is an innocent and highly imaginative girl; a trapeze artist in the 1950’s Paris Circus. Surrounded by lies, she fights to uncover her truth and finds love along the way.
          Shel - Set in the rodeo world, a young intersexual boy struggles with his identity as a child, a teen, and as an adult after being raised as a girl.
          The Wonder Yard - after the death of her husband, the once co-dependent, seventy-three year old Dinah, rediscovers herself by building a wonderland out of junk in her front yard.
          The New Nathan - an angsty fifteen-year-old, Abby, moves from Portland to Dallas, she discovers notes left in her new house by the previous occupant, Nathan, fifteen and dying of cancer. Abby follows the notes and starts to be of service, as Nathan was, and ultimately heals herself.


          So in consideration and reflection of my 'luvvie, artsy, introspective drama' comments about Nicholl that irked SC purely because she knows someone who won: I rest my case.

          Comment


          • Why are people bashing Nicholl for being Nicholl?

            You somehow want Nicholl to bend to your own comedy/action/thriller tastes? But you have... let's see... every other contest for that.

            I will say this -- imo, Nicholl likes "meaning." To me, "meaning" = theme. So if your comedy, or action, or thriller has a strong theme, it might fare better in the Nicholl. Most recently, I got the top 20 percent with a thriller. The protagonist is tracking people in the woods to shoot them to death while also dealing with his family. It was probably the "dealing with his family" part that interested Nicholl -- and that's also the part where the theme was most evident.

            Comment


            • Congratulations Vango! It's a great achievement. Best of luck, I hope something fantastic comes out of it.

              Comment


              • As someone who has also placed in the Nicholl multiple times, I'm not bashing it per se. The Nicholl can be whatever it wants to be. Again, I just wish they wouldn't market themselves as looking for the best writers in all genres when they have a grading criteria that skews heavily in the favor of select genres.

                If you're looking for weighty themes. That's fine. But if you're grading a comedy and a drama on that criteria like there's no difference between the two, it's like putting Mike Tyson in the ring with your grandma. Granny might get some shots in here and there, but Iron Mike clearly has the advantage.

                It feels like they're taking the money of genre writers to fund their search of mainly drama writers, which I don't think is bueno. It's the principle of it.

                As an aside, one funny thing I've noticed from my experience is that the Nicholl is very particular in the ways they search for meaning in a script as the judges I've run into are virtually impervious to the concept of satire when judging the meaning and message of a comedy.

                I reiterate, I don't have a personal stake in this, nor do I ultimately care what the Nicholl does as I frankly don't have an interest in actually winning it myself. Honestly, answering the essay questions they give to finalists sounds more fun to me. These are just observations I have made.

                Comment


                • Originally posted by SundownInRetreat View Post


                  No details for the other finalists though Andrew Wankier (I kid you not) previous penned:
                  Vine Street Betty - after her older brother is sent to a detention center and awaits trial for a crime committed by a neighborhood witch, a young girl must prove the witch’s real identity before her brother’s conviction. But her dysfunctional home life and a local predator stand in her way.
                  The Gentry - an atheist psychologist reluctantly returns home for a Christmas baptism and clashes with her traditional Irish-Protestant family, but when a sinister spirit forces her to face her skepticism, she must delve into her family’s dirty secrets in order to save them all'.

                  Also, a sample of Beth 'Lemon' Curry's other screenplays:
                  Moonflower - in 1928 Mississippi, a white woman and black woman have an affair while battling the racial tensions of a small town.
                  Vara - Vara is an innocent and highly imaginative girl; a trapeze artist in the 1950’s Paris Circus. Surrounded by lies, she fights to uncover her truth and finds love along the way.
                  Shel - Set in the rodeo world, a young intersexual boy struggles with his identity as a child, a teen, and as an adult after being raised as a girl.
                  The Wonder Yard - after the death of her husband, the once co-dependent, seventy-three year old Dinah, rediscovers herself by building a wonderland out of junk in her front yard.
                  The New Nathan - an angsty fifteen-year-old, Abby, moves from Portland to Dallas, she discovers notes left in her new house by the previous occupant, Nathan, fifteen and dying of cancer. Abby follows the notes and starts to be of service, as Nathan was, and ultimately heals herself.


                  So in consideration and reflection of my 'luvvie, artsy, introspective drama' comments about Nicholl that irked SC purely because she knows someone who won: I rest my case.
                  I get it... you have some strong opinions about the Nicholl Fellowship. Fair enough. However, I don't see why you need to call out the writers themselves or trot out their previous loglines as a basis for... what exactly? Rationale that somehow supports your argument about Nicholl just because they have previously written in a particular genre?

                  These are (mostly) amateur writers or at least writers who were fortunate enough to get a great opportunity with the Nicholl competition and it just feels like something of an unnecessary cheap shot at the writers, too... as if they're undeserving. Seems like poor form to me.

                  Comment


                  • Originally posted by Prezzy View Post

                    I just wish they wouldn't market themselves as looking for the best writers in all genres when they have a grading criteria that skews heavily in the favor of select genres. ... It feels like they're taking the money of genre writers to fund their search of mainly drama writers, which I don't think is bueno. It's the principle of it.
                    Early, in the beginning of my writing, when I had a broad comedy advance in 4 out of 5 competitions, one high as a finalist, I researched why it didn't advance in that one competition, which was the Nicholl. In looking at a 14 year span of their winners, every genre, with the exception of one, according to the ratio between genres entered and the genres that advanced, performed as expected or higher. The one genre that underperformed were comedies. It became obvious that broad comedies are at a disadvantage when competing in the Nicholl competition.

                    Just like with their Oscars, you're not gonna see a fun, escapism entertainment like "Dumb and Dumber" beat out a weighty and uplifting emotional drama. It would need dramatic elements like Jack Lemmon's "The Apartment."

                    Comment


                    • Originally posted by figment View Post
                      Why are people bashing Nicholl for being Nicholl?
                      We're not bashing Nicholl for being Nicholl. Prezzy explained his/her issue with it, one which I empathise with, and my comments were in answer to a post saying Nicholl is the only big contest and its judges/influence are without rival. I didn't even voice disagreement - though I don't think Nicholl stands alone re: prestige, judges and traction - I just addressed the elephant in the room. Someone gushed about the Nicholl but left out the major caveat of 'as long as you write what Nicholl like to see' and it turns out he does just that.

                      You somehow want Nicholl to bend to your own comedy/action/thriller tastes? But you have... let's see... every other contest for that.
                      Not at all and I actually target other contests and give Nicholl a wide berth as I don't write what they champion and I disagree with their ethics.


                      I will say this -- imo, Nicholl likes "meaning." To me, "meaning" = theme. So if your comedy, or action, or thriller has a strong theme, it might fare better in the Nicholl.
                      I think Nicholl's criteria goes deeper than that. It's clear from their history as to the types of subject and genre they prefer. Here's two made-up loglines, one is ripe for Nicholl and it doesn't take a rocket scientist to figure out which:

                      1) When an alien prison ship crashes on earth, unleashing six murderous creatures, a loner police detective must team up with an intergalactic bounty hunter to save the world
                      2) A young nun operating a sanctuary during the Nazi occupation of her homeland must confront her growing attraction to a benevolent farmhand whilst caring for her autistic sister
                      Last edited by SundownInRetreat; 10-13-2020, 12:52 PM.

                      Comment



                      • Originally posted by acquaformosa View Post
                        I don't see why you need to call out the writers themselves
                        I didn't call out the writers, I only called out the Nicholl and even then it wasn't calling out but noting a caveat about their predilections.


                        ]or trot out their previous loglines as a basis for... what exactly? Rationale that somehow supports your argument about Nicholl just because they have previously written in a particular genre?
                        The answer is very clear. So much so that I'm shocked you're even asking. But here, goes (and for the final time)......

                        SC111 tried to take me to task for a perfectly fair and innocuous comment about the types of scripts that the Nicholl favours. With a bee in her bonnet she tried to make me out as being incorrect, unfair, and just lashing out in jealousy so I posted supporting evidence. Sure, I could have sat back instead, safe in the knowledge that pretty much everyone agrees with my sentiments, but seeing as she felt fit to go to print, I felt it was reasonable to do the same, especially as my silence could've been misconstrued as guilt.


                        it just feels like something of an unnecessary cheap shot at the writers, too... as if they're undeserving. Seems like poor form to me.
                        It seems like poor form to you because you lack basic comprehension skills (hence your confusion above). Not once did I attack the writers or question the quality of their scripts. Every writer is clearly exceptional and way more talented than I am. I even congratulated Vango. All I did was justify my fair and widely-shared opinion of Nicholl when assaulted.

                        That you, and those who liked your post, missed all of this and require macro-level explanation of plain English is a damning reflection of your reading comprehension and if none of you like being told so, then learn to understand what's written before commenting or liking.

                        Now, I'm done with this ridiculous hoo-ha over my innocuous and legitimate opinion of Nicholl.
                        Last edited by SundownInRetreat; 10-13-2020, 12:49 PM.

                        Comment


                        • Originally posted by Prezzy View Post
                          I reiterate, I don't have a personal stake in this, nor do I ultimately care what the Nicholl does as I frankly don't have an interest in actually winning it myself.
                          You've entered a contest multiple times, paying each time, but have no interest in winning it? Sure. Why not. Whatever. Made me laugh, anyway.

                          ---

                          Btw, congrats to Vango! It's a huge accomplishment.

                          Comment


                          • Originally posted by figment View Post
                            You've entered a contest multiple times, paying each time, but have no interest in winning it? Sure. Why not. Whatever. Made me laugh, anyway.
                            I am a comedian. But exactly. Why not? I don't really get to do that much for fun due to my wonky work schedule that takes up literally all of my time during the warmer months where I live, so I have more than enough money to burn on a lottery ticket once a year to satisfy my general amusement and curiosity while potentially spicing up a query or two.

                            My rationale for not wanting to win the Nicholl is that I'm aware I'd have to change my style dramatically to write a script that would conceivably win the Nicholl, which would get me pigeonholed into that style within the industry. That's not very punk rock.



                            Comment


                            • Sundown: in another thread, I pointed out the irony of you responding to Vango about your low opinion of Nicholl winners, unaware he wrote one of the winning scripts you described as "kitchen sink" etc., etc. My take was your comment sounded like sour grapes.

                              Then Will moved those comments here and since that move you've posted a few thousand words just to prove your "case" it wasn't sour grapes. Hmmmm.

                              Edited to add: These comments are not "innocuous" as you claim:

                              Yes but the Nicholl is also an out-of-touch band of smug luvvies. Did you see this year's finalists (or any year's, for that matter)??? Talk about depressing. Just look at the titles - Lemon, Sins of my Father, The Seeds of Truth, Goodbye, Iraq... - you know exactly what they are without any further details: introverted, introspective, kitchen-sink, 'drama'. Artsy types will applaud whilst everyone else will avoid. The Nicholl is living on its reputation, which cuts less ice year after year, precisely because of its poncy approach
                              .
                              Advice from writer, Kelly Sue DeConnick. "Try this: if you can replace your female character with a sexy lamp and the story still basically works, maybe you need another draft.-

                              Comment


                              • A few Nicholl log lines and titles:

                                A delusional homeless woman and a young drug dealer have to help each other to recover the money from a drug deal gone bad. In the process, they save each others’ lives.

                                In an unforgiving wilderness, a reformed hunter tracks a vicious killer who may have kidnapped his daughter.

                                NICKY FLYNN FINALLY GETS A LIFE (animated comedy)

                                INNER EARTH (adventure fantasy)

                                DRUNK-DIALING (comedy)

                                A by-the-book FBI profiler must track down a serial killer with the help of an illiterate 24-year-old psychic.

                                An ex-Marine working in Iraq saves a young, single-mom in US Army from assassination by his powerful employers. Two Americans on the run in the most dangerous place on the planet with hostile insurgents, militiamen...

                                When his father is suddenly killed after being coerced into the CIA's Secret Army, twelve-year-old Tou must decide whether or not to follow in the same footsteps in order to provide for Cheng, his five-year-old brother.

                                FIG HUNT: THE QUEST FOR BATTLE ARMOR STAR CAPTAIN (action comedy)

                                PARASITE (action horror)

                                A MAN OF CLAY (horror)

                                A MANY SPLINTERED THING (romantic comedy)

                                A Soviet secret police officer in the era of Stalin's purges struggles to solve a mystery while also dealing with his hidden doubts about the regime he serves.

                                Based on a true story, a promising young law student fights an oppressive legal system and growing public scrutiny when his routine traffic stop snowballs into shocking criminal charges, imprisonment, daring escapes, ...

                                A hitwoman is called home by her mother who has a dying request... one the hitwoman cannot bring herself to honor…

                                LIFE COPY (science fiction)

                                RETURN OF THE DIPSTICKS (comedy)

                                Just days before he is to leave a life of warfare behind him, a Roman Centurion must assume command of a group of misfit soldiers trapped deep within hostile country.

                                The son of a Nobel Prize–winning novelist via a genius sperm bank is determined to follow in his father's footsteps, but suddenly finds himself on a wild odyssey with his real father... (comedy)

                                HEART OF THE MONSTYR (horror)

                                THE CUPID CODE (romantic comedy)

                                SLINGSHOT (science fiction)

                                When Jefferson finishes writing the Declaration of Independence, Washington and Franklin take him out to celebrate. After a night of debauchery they realize the document's missing.

                                In a world where forever never ends, Lily lives the perfect immortal life. But when she's diagnosed with the "melancholia," the incurable desire to die, she pays "The Death Engine" for the perfect death.

                                EARTHWALKERS (horror)

                                GRAVE HEARTS (action horror fantasy)

                                ARCADIA (action fantasy)

                                After negligently killing a hunter with their patrol car, a Sheriff’s Deputy and her superior must decide what to do with the only witness to their crime - a death row inmate only days from execution.

                                In a last ditch effort to save the boutique publishing house her father has left her, an ambitious young editor goes on a book tour with the bitter, booze-addled author who put the publishing house on the map. (comedy)

                                American-born teen, Ravinder aka Ravi Singh wants nothing more than to win the ultimate Spin DJ competition, date a Latina beauty and fit into society. But his traditional father wants him to prepare for a centuries-old turban tying ceremony.

                                Summer 1969: A teenage girl pursues her dream of becoming an astronaut by making friends with the wild astronaut groupies who hang out at her aunt’s Houston motel.

                                A grieving widower's plans for revenge are thwarted by the 150th incarnation of God Almighty: a kidnapping, bank-robbing black woman named Marlene.

                                A lone astronaut in an orbiting space station witnesses the Earth’s explosive destruction. The event creates a black hole that catapults him backwards in time. He now has just 24 hours to save the world.

                                When the most notorious woman in publishing history decides to legitimize her reputation, Judith Regan, aka the Queen of Sleaze, must get O.J. Simpson to confess to murdering his wife in a book deal and TV interview.

                                When a notorious hitwoman from Detroit’s gritty east side takes on one last job before having a baby, she becomes entangled with a crooked homicide detective who wants her to take out his wife.

                                A young black girl's family in 1960s Mississippi decides to harbor two human-looking refugees who have mysteriously fallen from the sky.

                                A 14-year old girl kidnapped by human traffickers and sold as a child bride plots her escape, even as her father, a hunter, lets nothing stand in his way in his pursuit to recover her.

                                A series of river killings plague a small Wisconsin town. Two young Sheriff Deputies must unravel the case, before it unravels them.

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