Did I mention? Both scripts were turned down by the Nicholl.
I was heartbroken.
Well, no, not really. But a little disappointed. It does feel good to be in the majority, though. From the Nicholl:
With a record number of entries and a readily apparent increase in quality, this year’s Nicholl Fellowships was more competitive than in any previous year. Now that scores have been tallied for all 6,380 entries, we have to inform too many writers of scripts featuring compelling stories, intriguing characters and excellent craft that they have not advanced into the next round. Regrettably, Grampa Was A Superhero was not one of the 321 entries selected as a Quarterfinalist in the 2009 Nicholl Fellowships in Screenwriting.
You should realize that while we strive to make the evaluation of screenplays as objective a process as possible, it is inherently both a personal and an extremely subjective matter. A lack of success here may not have any bearing on your reception in the marketplace where a sale is the ultimate measure of success. I’ll even venture a prediction: several non-advancing writers will become professional screenwriters in the near future.
To tell you a little about the process: each script was read once. After receiving an initial positive evaluation, over 2,700 scripts garnered a second read. Just under 800 scripts were read a third time. Each read resulted in a numerical score being awarded. Scores for each entrant’s script were totaled, and the Quarterfinalists were selected on the basis of highest scores.
Since then I talked to a friend who talked to an L.A. reader, who said:
Yeah, Nicholl. We’ve met finalists before. Nothing seems to happen for them. They’re in the same boat. Good script, looking for work…
Then talked to another good friend who has quarterfinaled in the Nicholl twice. His comment (to paraphrase):
Yeah, it didn’t do anything for me. Maybe ten requests to see the scripts, nothing came of it, here I am.
Me, I’m so glad I couldn’t reach those grapes. They look so sour.
Maybe they’ll be ripe next year.
Well, I’ve submitted two screenplays to the Nicholl Fellowship competition.
Grampa Was A Superhero, written with Sean Meehan,
Rocket Summer, my first feature.
Grampa is our first feature collaboration, and it’s received very positive feeback from readers. It’s a strong story with a heartwarming family appeal.
Rocket Summer was tied up in an option for two years shortly after it was completed, so I kept it out of any competitions. Now it’s freed up, and I’m excited to see what happens.
JULY – Quarterfinalists announced.
AUGUST – Semifinalists announced.
OCTOBER (early) – Finalists announced.
OCTOBER (late) – Winners announced.
I’ll be pleased to make it to the Quarterfinals, completely satisfied with the Semis.
Send good feelings!
I’ve done lots of poking around and by and large the people who should know these things say that the Nicholl Fellowship is the gold standard. It’s run by the Oscars (which is also the source of one of my favorite reputable screenplay format documents – PDF) and it’s got the best track record for providing a real boost to the careers of folks who make into final rounds, not to mention winners.
And now it’s time for the 2009 submissions! Hurry, you’ve got till May 1st 2009.
Sundance Screenwriters Lab also has a great reputation.
I’ve heard some good things about Bluecat — they offer written analysis for every script, which may just be worth the price of submission.
One other consideration is the genre contest… a good friend won the H.P. Lovecraft Film Festival and CthulhuThon Screenplay Contest 2008 (whew!) and while the niche is very specific, the fanbase of said niche is dedicated. Jeff Palmer’s “The Sleeping Deep” screenplay has gained some well deserved attention (and it’s little known that his winning version was a first draft) and now he’s on to shooting a trailer to generate more interest in mounting a production. So if your screenplay fits a niche genre, the benefits of a lesser-known niche contest may be worth considering.
Beyond that, tread carefully. While the contests may be legit (and no, they aren’t all legit), the point is that you want your win/place/show to add perceived value or legitimacy to your script. If nobody’s heard of the contest, how’s that gonna help?