Skip to main content




Scripts to be performed at live read in November

LOS ANGELES, CA – Five individuals have been selected as winners of the 2019 Academy Nicholl Fellowships in Screenwriting competition. The fellows will each receive a $35,000 prize, the first installment of which will be distributed at the Academy Nicholl Fellowships in Screenwriting Awards Presentation & Live Read on Thursday, November 7, at the Samuel Goldwyn Theater in Beverly Hills. For the seventh consecutive year, an ensemble of actors will read selected scenes from the winning scripts.

The 2019 winners are (listed alphabetically by author):

Aaron Chung, “Princess Vietnam”
Karen McDermott, “Lullabies of La Jaula”
Renee Pillai, “Boy with Kite”
Sean Malcolm, “Mother”
Walker McKnight, “Street Rat Allie Punches Her Ticket”

A total of 7,302 scripts were submitted for this year’s competition. Twelve individual screenwriters were selected as finalists. Their scripts were then read and judged by the Academy Nicholl Fellowships Committee, who ultimately voted the winners.

The 2019 finalists are (listed alphabetically by author):

Paul Ashton, “Slater Berricks Is a Dead Man”
Matthew Fantaci, “Scandalous!”
Lynn Esta Goldman, “On the Wing”
Gary Patent, “Cosmonaut”
Joel Sinensky, “The Lie Factory”
Toy Styles, “Concrete Beach”
Jack Zafran, “Justice, Justice”

Fellowships are awarded with the understanding that the recipients will each complete a feature-length screenplay during their 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.

The Academy Nicholl Fellowships Committee is chaired by Academy Short Films and Feature Animation Branch Governor Jennifer Yuh Nelson. The members of the committee are Eva Marie Saint (Actors Branch); John Bailey and Steven Poster (Cinematographers Branch); Marcus Hu and William Mechanic (Executives Branch); James Plannette and Stephen Ujlaki (Members-at-Large); Stephanie Allain, Albert Berger, Julia Chasman, Julie Lynn, Peter Samuelson and Robert W. Shapiro (Producers Branch); Bobbi Banks (Sound Branch); and Tina Gordon Chism, Eric Heisserer, Larry Karaszewski, Dan Petrie Jr., Misan Sagay, Kirsten Smith, Dana Stevens and Tyger Williams (Writers Branch).

The global competition, which aims to identify and encourage talented new screenwriters, has awarded 161 fellowships since it began in 1986. In 2019 several past Nicholl fellows added to their feature film and television credits:

• Destin Daniel Cretton directed and co-wrote (with Andrew Lanham) Warner Bros. Pictures’ “Just Mercy,” which premiered at the Toronto International Film Festival. Cretton will also be directing Marvel Studios’ “Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings.”
• Jacob Estes wrote and directed Blumhouse’s “Don’t Let Go,” which premiered at the Sundance Film Festival.
• Susannah Grant is showrunner and an executive producer of the Netflix series “Unbelievable.”
• Ehren Kruger wrote Walt Disney Studios’ “Dumbo.”
• Kurt Kuenne directed episodes of NBC’s “The Blacklist.”
• Tianna Langham and Chris Bessounian are staff writers and story editors on Fox Television’s “The Resident.”
• Creighton Rothenberger co-wrote the story for Lionsgate’s “Angel Has Fallen.”
• Stephanie Shannon is a story editor and writer on the Apple TV+ series “For All Mankind.”
• Rebecca Sonnenshine is a co-executive producer and writer on the Amazon series “The Boys.”
• Michael Werwie wrote the Netflix movie “Extremely Wicked, Shockingly Evil and Vile” from his Nicholl-winning script. The movie premiered at the Sundance Film Festival.

Tickets for the 2019 Academy Nicholl Fellowships in Screenwriting Awards Presentation & Live Read are now available at Casting for the live read will be announced at a later date.