Nicholl Block

Nicholl Block

Happy Thursday! I know that I missed a week. I got sick from the airplane ride back to Los Angeles and needed recovery time. But I’m back at it this week. So… I’m going to talk about what I call “Nicholl Block.” And yes – it’s a variation on the phrase involving male anatomy. Why is this relevant? Let me explain. My guess is that some of you will be able to relate.

If you’re not familiar with the Nicholl Fellowship, it’s put on by the Academy of Arts and Sciences. Yes. The Oscars come from them too. Here’s more info: Nicholl Fellowship There is the idea that one’s screenwriting career is “made” if you win. They give out the Oscars for God’s sake. Right? The fine print is that you can’t make more than $25,000 from your feature script. And this is well below the Writer’s Guild of America’s Schedule of Minimums. This suggests that this fellowship is geared towards more beginner writers except this is false.

Huh? It’s like the ongoing conversation on places like LinkedIn where everyone talks a lot about business: Fellowships being marketed as “entry-level” mean pay rather than experience. As the competition is so fierce for this, the Academy does exactly that with the Nicholl. Do you see where I’m going here? I spent a long ass time not trying to really market my work to remain eligible for the Nicholl.

Life was also as such that I didn’t seem to have enough quality time to write a dynamic script. And the Academy kept their library closed for a long ass time due to Covid. Why does this matter? They have copies of Nicholl-winning scripts there. I had wanted to go there to read them since they don’t have an electronic lending library. Their library is open now for those interested. My schedule is now where I don’t have time to make it in since its of open hours are still highly limited.

The good news is that the Nicholl has started to make reader’s comments available for a fee. I can tell based on their progression over the years that my writing continues to improve despite my scripts not placing. Some people complain about having to pay for notes. But I know that I’ve also got a better chance of getting better quality notes from paid ones than free ones. I’ve also found their notes to be actionable for the most part. I love notes from cold reads.

And this is the part where it’s been a block for me: I haven’t really tried to market my scripts and movies beyond a few script competitions and film festivals to remain eligible for the Nicholl. Yes. I know. I know… I’m stubborn since many a person would have moved on a while ago. But there is something magical about it except… A whole slew of people have successful scriptwriting careers without having won the Nicholl.

My purpose now is not to poop on the Nicholl. It’s a perfectly fine fellowship that can be super helpful to those who place. I just don’t have it in me to wait another year of not trying to put myself out there in hopes of winning. It’s like a hamster wheel for me. I also have let it chew away at the back of my mind in terms of going forward i.e. I let it stop me.

And my deal now is that I’m going to hustle my scripts when they’re ready. This is targeting specific representation and production companies that would be a good fit. IF I still meet their eligibility next year, I’ll apply. I’m also going to still do whatever I can to make it to their library to read some of the winning scripts to help better understand their expectations. This is whether I end up applying or not. Reading quality scripts is key to learning quality writing. I’m now just formally going to work on my hustle.

I took the time to write this out because I assume that I’m not alone. Plus, I know that this hardly applies to just the Nicholl alone. How about you? I’d love to know if you have things in your life that you use to stop you from moving forward like this?

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