Five new writers were selected to receive the 2001 Don and Gee Nicholl Fellowships in Screenwriting, presented by the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences. Each received the first installment of the accompanying $30,000 prize at a dinner in Beverly Hills on November 15, 2001, at which Academy Award winning screenwriter Stephen Gaghan ("Traffic") delivered the keynote address.
The winning scripts were chosen from a group of eleven finalists, which had been selected from nearly 5,500 entries submitted for this year's competition - a record number. The competition is open to any individual who has not sold or optioned a screenplay or teleplay for more than $5,000 or received a fellowship or prize that includes a "first look" clause, an option, or any other quid pro quo involving the writer's work.
Final judging of the competition was conducted by the Nicholl Committee, chaired by writer Fay Kanin and comprised of writers John Gay, Susannah Grant, Hal Kanter, Dan Petrie Jr., Tom Rickman and Dan Taradash, cinematographer John Bailey, editor Mia Goldman, actor Eva Marie Saint, producers Gale Anne Hurd (who serves as committee vice-chair), David Nicksay, Peter Samuelson and Buffy Shutt, and agent Ronald Mardigian.
Fellowships are awarded with the understanding that the recipients will each complete a feature-length screenplay during the fellowship year. The Academy acquires no rights to the works of Nicholl fellows and does not involve itself commercially in any way with their completed scripts.
A total of 73 fellowships have been presented since the program's inception in 1985 and there are numerous success stories among the fellows. Most recently, Grant, a 1992 Fellow who joined the Nicholl committee this year, received an Academy Award nomination for her "Erin Brockovich" screenplay. The most recent project of 1986 Fellow Allison Anders is "Things behind the Sun," which she co-wrote and directed and which premiered at the 2001 Sundance Film Festival. Gabrielle Burton (2000 Fellow) wrote "Manna from Heaven," which premiered at the 2001 South By Southwest Film Festival. In addition, Deborah Pryor's 1989 Nicholl-winning script "Briar Patch" is in post-production, as is Karen Moncrieff's 1998 Nicholl-winning "Blue Car." In 2000, Raymond De Felitta (1991) directed his Fellowship-year script, "Two Family House," which premiered at the Sundance Film Festival and was released theatrically last October; Ehren Kruger (1996) wrote "Reindeer Games" and "Scream 3," Andrew W. Marlowe (1992) wrote "Hollow Man;" Randall McCormick (1987) received co-story credit on "Titan A.E." and Mike Rich's 1998 Nicholl entry script, "Finding Forrester," directed by Gus Van Sant and starring Sean Connery, was released. Numerous other winners have sold their Nicholl entry screenplays and other work.