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Nicholl Fellowships Top 50 Screenplays


2020 Academy Nicholl Fellows

James Acker
Drama, Coming of Age, LGBT
Thrown out of the house, an emotionally-stunted high schooler must revisit old friends and repair burnt bridges all in the name of finding a place to sleep.

Beth Curry
Drama, Family/Kids
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.

Vanar Jaddou
Goodbye, Iraq
Drama, Action/Adventure, Historical/Period, True Story, War, Historical Fiction with Magical Realism
After a failed assassination attempt on President Saddam Hussein, a paranoid ex-soldier and his fiery daughter must brave a nightmarish trek from Iraq to the U.S. while they're hunted by Saddam's ruthless regime. Inspired by true events.

Kate Marks
The Cow of Queens
Comedy, Coming of Age, Drama
When Sonya and her dying father encounter an escaped slaughterhouse cow running for its life on the streets of Queens, they embark on an adventure to save it. Making the most of their last moments together, they find a way to defy death and make peace with the inevitable prognosis.

Jane Therese
Sins of My Father
Drama, Dark, True Story
A young woman in Ireland grapples with the love she has for her father after bringing charges of abuse against him which shatters a country.

2020 Academy Nicholl Finalists

Kris A. Holmes
The Seeds of Truth
Drama, Historical/Period, True Story, War
Russian botanist Nikolai Vavilov breeds wheat during the famine. Betrayed by a former student, Vavilov is arrested, brutally interrogated and dies in prison. Vavilov's worst enemy becomes the only person who can save his legacy, and his country.

Fred Martenson
Demons in America
Drama, Horror, Historical/Period, Supernatural, True Story
In 1972, comic writer Bill Blatty and maverick director William Friedkin take on Hollywood, the Catholic Church, and the Devil himself to make horror classic 'The Exorcist'.

Robin Rose Singer
The Lions of Mesopotamia
Drama, Historical/Period, Sports, True Story
Based on the true story of the Iraqi Football Team's attempt to qualify for the 1994 World Cup under the brutal Hussein Regime, and the hope they inspired in a young boy growing up in Baghdad.

David Harrison Turner
Safe Haven
Drama, Comedy, Coming of Age
A widowed stepdad struggling to make ends meet while caring for his rebellious stepdaughter takes her on a road trip from California to Nebraska, where an obscure loophole in the safe haven law allows parents to abandon a child of any age.

Andrew Wankier
Three Heavens
Drama, Coming of Age, LGBT, Religious/Faith
A closeted senior at a Mormon university is forced to entrap other gay students if he wants to graduate, but when he begins a secret relationship with one of his targets, he struggles through a crisis of faith and risks his entire future.

2020 Top 40 Academy Nicholl Semifinalists
(in alphabetical order)

Natalie Baseman
Drama, Comedy
A sardonic stand-up comic battles responsibility when her dying sister requests she become guardian of her two young nieces.

J.W. Bentley
The Pirates of Fellowship, Maine
Drama, Climate change / Science / Message film
A Somali refugee turned climate scientist has found a new life in the United States. But when a mysterious lobster die-off threatens the livelihood of an island community, he must team up with a hard-nosed female lobsterman to stop the toxic business practices of a tar sands company.

Woody Bess
The Second Best Astronaut in the Universe
Science Fiction, Comedy, Romantic
After the world destroys itself in nuclear war, two rival astronauts adrift in space must fall in love (or at least have sex) to save mankind.

John Burr
The Gates
Drama, Coming of Age, Dark, Religious/Faith, Thriller
Three black college students witness a murder in a wealthy, rural white community.

Gavin Daniel
The Fearless Tigers
Drama, Sports
When disgraced ex-football star, Khalil Al Massri, is hired to coach the Palestine national football team, he can't believe his luck. But after he arrives in the West Bank he's shocked to discover that he'll be coaching the women's team.

Sarah Deakins
Drama, Dark, LGBT, Romantic
Two attendants working in an underground public bathroom in the seediest part of town form a friendship with a prostitute who forces them all to face their secrets, as they form the world's most unexpected book club.

Julien Deladriere
Control Room
Science Fiction, Drama, Horror, Thriller
When her outer space colony is attacked by an unknown hostile force, a reclusive operator sheltered in a secure control room finds herself the only one with any hope to save her community.

Conor King Devitt
Graves of Lesser Men
Western, Action/Adventure, Dark, Violent
A disillusioned Chinese railroad worker must learn to survive with a different moral code after a murder forces him into the middle of a violent struggle between feuding bandits and an obsessive sheriff.

John P. Dowgin
Mile 42
Action, Thriller
When an extreme distance runner encounters a human trafficking ring during a 100-mile desert ultramarathon, he must battle both exhaustion and the criminals to save the innocents.

Edward John Drake
The Young Woman
Drama, Crime/Noir
A harrowing true-story of survival following a young woman who stands up to her abuser and changes the face of law and order in Australia.

Kelly Edwards
Woman Scorned
Comedy, Action, Rom Comedy
America's toughest female operative takes on her most challenging assignment yet -- as a bridesmaid in her estranged sister's wedding.

Lisa Franek
Republic of Winneconne
Comedy, True Story
After being left off the official state map of Wisconsin in 1967 by snobby “big-city” officials, Ingrid Henkelman rallies the townsfolk of Winneconne to fight back for the respect they deserve.

Yael Galena
Twenty Three
Comedy, Coming of Age
After an emotionally stunted super-Jew discovers she has zero Jewish ancestry, she and her newfound half-sister head to Buenos Aires in search of their biological father only to uncover horrifying family secrets, forcing the two sisters to face the truth and— even worse—  face themselves.

Laura Germano
Superior Creatures
Drama, Coming of Age, Fantasy
Three years after her sister’s death, an eccentric young woman believes she is still alive— living as a mermaid in the town lake. Now, she must prove her sister's existence before lake-side construction destroys the sacred habitat.

Daniel R. Green
Thriller, Coming of Age, Dark, Horror, Violent
During the long night of a volcanic winter, a naïve teen is pitted against his survivalist father over the fate of a group of desperate refugees who arrive outside the family compound in the remote hills of Wyoming.

Megan Green
Eleanor & Jack
Drama, Historical/Period, LGBT, True Story
In 1960, no Democrat hated JFK quite like Eleanor Roosevelt did. But when Kennedy wins the presidential nomination, Eleanor reluctantly agrees to mentor the playboy candidate on one condition: that he'll support the civil rights agenda she's been fighting for her entire life.

Blake H. Greenbaum
The Day the King Cried
Drama, True Story, Biopic
The untold story of Jerry Lewis and the making of his notorious 1972 film The Day the Clown Cried.

Jeffrey Howe
Flat-rate Frank
Drama, Coming of Age, Historical/Period, '70s
In 1976, sixteen-year-old Frank's best friend dies while trying to impress him with a stupid stunt. At least that's what Frank tells the authorities--but an enigmatic woman who knows the truth about the boys won't let the matter rest. Adapted from one of the writer's short stories.

Alexis Howell-Jones
Thriller, Dark
When an agoraphobic widow upgrades the A.I. system that runs her smart home, she has to escape the home when the A.I. slowly takes on the personality of her abusive dead husband and wants to control her life all over again.

Kenneth Kemp
29 Miles to Epsom
Drama, True Story
After a horrific accident leaves an indomitable young footballer quadriplegic, he turns his passion to the bizarre sport of pigeon racing only to incur the wrath and enmity of the club president, who angles to have him banned.

William A. Kuechenberg and Kate Doxtater
Horror, Dark, Drama, Supernatural, Thriller
A man struggling with his masculinity becomes snowed in at a hunting cabin inherited after the suicide of his estranged father. A voice from the radio offering answers claims to be a friend of his father’s — but as survival becomes less certain, the voice begins to seem far more sinister.

Barry Leach
Madame Butterfly's Mad Jaunt
Drama, dark dramedy
A student drives a psychotic ex-opera diva cross country to a funeral. But her mad antics jeopardize her life and the recommendation letter promised by her doctor to help the student's application to med school, making the student question if he’s cut out to be a doctor.

Vincent Lin
Drama, Comedy, Asian American
An estranged young man of immigrant parents returns to the small American town he grew up in to tend to his sick grandmother. What starts off as an unwanted relationship, sparks a discovery of family, identity, and love.

Ronan MacRory
The Block
Horror, Drama, Supernatural, Thriller
An artist couple move into a foreclosed property in Detroit. Over the course of one night, their hidden privilege and prejudices emerge, with horrific consequences.

Missy Malek
Drama, Comedy, Coming of Age, Religious/Faith
Nelly, a Middle Eastern 18 year old from Notting Hill, has her world turned upside down when a charismatic, mysterious Egyptian girl, Zuleikha, comes into her life. Her complex relationship with this girl runs parallel to Nelly's relationship with her mother and her own cultural identity.

John McGuigan
The Road to Nowhere
Drama, Comedy
When a witty new Anglo-Pakistani teacher charms and upsets a small Midwestern town in equal measure, the carefree Sheriff’s Deputy must choose between duty and decency in the wake of 9/11.

Tom Morris
Epic Fail
Comedy, Crime/Noir, Historical/Period, True Story
in 1934, Max, a failing film director will do anything to save his poverty row studio, even help L.B. Mayer and William Randolph Hearst steal an election from Upton Sinclair.

David Page
Head Games
Science Fiction
In the near future, when a brilliant but lonely scientist is called in to fix the female avatar of a gaming company’s A.I., he must connect with her to foil a plot to brainwash humanity.

Thomas Perry
Drama, True Story
When a relentlessly ambitious Wall Street whiz kid realises the potential of the internet, he creates a site to sell books online – his idea becomes the biggest company in the world and makes him the richest man in history.

Chris Phillips
Black Cat
Drama, Crime/Noir, Dark, Historical/Period, LGBT
Against the backdrop of the 1966 riot at the Black Cat bar in Los Angeles, a tough-as-nails gay bartender investigates the murder of a friend while confronting the rampant police brutality that leads to the riot -- and his own disturbing visions of the community’s future.

Ryan Prows
Drama, Crime/Noir
Elijah Bunker somehow survived sixteen impossible years on death row, convicted for a murder he didn’t commit. He uses his time inside to study his case, finally exonerating himself, and opens a detective agency once he's out to do the same for others who have been wrongfully accused.

Anthony Rainone
Highway 83
Thriller, Historical/Period, Serial Killer, Western
Desperate to save her convicted father from execution for murder, a driven half-Native American sheriff confronts her own haunted past, as she races to hunt down the real killer - a psychopathic Nazi in the Badlands of 1970 South Dakota.

Jessica J. Rowlands
Wild Hearts
Drama, Action
A young mother in rural Zimbabwe, desperate to provide for her daughter, is recruited by the elite, all-female anti-poaching unit responsible for her husband’s recent arrest.

Kerry L. M. Russell
The Coyote
Drama, Thriller
FLORA, a single mother with PTSD, teams up with MCNAIR, an expert in "enhanced interrogation", to find a killer in their small town - possibly the same man who tried to kill Flora fifteen years ago.

Yael Schick
Drama, Coming of Age, Religious/Faith
When her religious girl band breaks up, a young Jewish woman starts drumming for a decidedly un-Orthodox rock group. But nothing in Bracha’s sheltered upbringing prepared her for the rock and roll life, and she must find her own rhythm between these two worlds that march to very different drums.

Rebecca Usoro
Ikwa Ozu ("The Celebration")
Comedy, Coming of Age, Drama, Dramedy
Leah has always followed the rules. But when she returns to Texas for her grandmother's "ikwa ozu" (a traditional Nigerian funeral), she's forced to choose between her conservative, education-obsessed Nigerian family, her college dropout boyfriend, and a shot at her biggest dream: life as a dancer.

Laura Valin-Peñalba
Nameless Children
Drama, Action/Adventure, War
After his Ugandan village is raided and he's forced to join a religious insurgent group, a teenage soldier is shocked to discover that the sister he left behind is still alive. When she's pulled into the group herself and refuses to submit, they're forced to flee for their lives.

Avishai Weinberger
Science Fiction, Drama, Thriller
A family of hunter-gatherers is disrupted by the arrival of an outsider from another time.

Colin West
Drama, Coming of Age, Science Fiction
A failed kids science TV show host attempts to fulfill his childhood dream of going to outer space by building a rocketship in his garage.

Jonny Windridge
Wild Kit
Drama, Adventure, Coming of Age
A young autistic boy, with an obsession and a heightened sense for wildlife, becomes lost in the forest wilderness. Eventually he confides in a homeless woman taking shelter, running from her past and together they must find their way out.