Six new screenwriters, two who wrote collaboratively, have been selected as recipients of the 21st Don and Gee Nicholl Fellowships in Screenwriting, presented by the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences. Each writer or writing team received the first installment of the prestigious fellowship’s $30,000 prize money at a gala dinner in Beverly Hills on November 16, at which writer-director-actor Kevin Smith was the keynote speaker.
This is the fourth consecutive year that a script written by a team earned its writers a fellowship; collaborative efforts were first allowed into the competition in 2001.
Final judging of the competition was conducted by the Nicholl Committee, chaired by writer and 1992 Nicholl fellow Susannah Grant and composed of writers Naomi Foner, Fay Kanin, Hal Kanter and Dan Petrie Jr., cinema-tographers John Bailey and Steven Poster, editor Mia Goldman, actor Eva Marie Saint, executive Bill Mechanic, producers Gale Anne Hurd, David Nicksay, Robert Shapiro and Buffy Shutt, and agent Ron 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.
Since the program’s inception in 1985, 98 fellowships have been awarded, and a number of the fellows have achieved considerable success. Doug Atchison, a 2000 fellow, directed his Nicholl-winning script, “Akeelah and the Bee,” and the film was released theatrically earlier this year. 2001 fellow Robert Edwards’s Nicholl-winning script, “Land of the Blind,” which he directed, premiered at this year’s Rotterdam Film Festival. Raymond De Felitta, a 1991 fellow, directed “’Tis Autumn: The Search for Jackie Paris,” a documentary feature that premiered at the 2006 Sundance Film Festival. De Felitta also directed last year’s “The Thing about My Folks,” and prior to that directed “Two Family House” (from his Nicholl fellowship-year script) and “Cafe Society.” Susannah Grant shares writing credit on the upcoming “Charlotte’s Web.” She wrote and directed “Catch and Release,” which premiered at the Austin Film Festival and is scheduled for release in January 2007. She also wrote last year’s “In Her Shoes,” and in 2000 received an Academy Award® nomination for her “Erin Brockovich” screenplay. In addition Grant earned writing credits on “28 Days,” “Ever After” and “Pocahontas.” “The Dead Girl,” written and directed by 1998 fellow Karen Moncrieff, will premiere at the 2006 AFI Fest next month. Moncrieff also directed 2002’s “Blue Car” from her Nicholl-winning script. “The Nativity Story,” written by 1998 fellow Mike Rich, is scheduled for release in December. Rich also wrote “Radio,” “The Rookie” and “Finding Forrester,” the latter of which originated as his 1998 Nicholl-winning script.
In 2005 three films written by 1996 fellow Ehren Kruger were released: “The Ring Two,” “The Skeleton Key” and “The Brothers Grimm.” Kruger’s previously produced credits include “Arlington Road,” ”The Ring,” “Scream 3” and “Reindeer Games.” Other notable successes include the critically acclaimed “Mean Creek,” written and directed by Jacob Estes from his 1998 Nicholl-winning script. Estes also adapted the screenplay for “Nearing Grace,” currently in limited release. “Dirty Dancing: Havana Nights” was co-written by 1993 fellow Victoria Arch. “Admissions” (aka “Island of Brilliance”), from Dawn O’Leary’s 1993 Nicholl-winning script, premiered at the Mill Valley Film Festival in 2004. Allison Anders, a 1986 fellow, is the co-writer and director of “Things Behind the Sun” and the writer-director of “Gas Food Lodging” and “Mi Vida Loca.” 1992 fellow Andrew Marlowe wrote “Air Force One,” “Hollow Man” and “End of Days.” 1986 fellow Jeffrey Eugenides won a 2003 Pulitzer Prize for his novel “Middlesex.”