UPDATE: I’m keeping this post around but I ended up having to abandon plans for the Nicholl that year pretty quickly after posting. Such is life
April 30, 2011 is an important day. April 30 is the Nicholl Fellowship deadline. If you’re a screenwriter you ought to already be familiar with this, but for those of you who aren’t – the Nicholl Fellowship is a screenwriting competition put on by the Academy of Motion Pictures and Science. Yes, that Academy. They’ve got an awards ceremony coming up. The most prestigious screenwriting competition around and one of the small handful that’s worth entering.
We have a bit of a history.
2006 was the first year I entered. I did so with a screenplay that deserved the first round elimination it got. That script had some strong elements but it had (and still has) serious structural problems.
2007. Better screenplay. Same placing (i.e., not at all). At least unlike the 2006 screenplay this one doesn’t need as much work to get to a place where I would be happy with it.
When I entered in 2008, it was with a third script. I learned what I needed to from writing those earlier scripts and we work ever forward. This was a fun sci-fi actioner in the vein of The 6th Day or Minority Report. I thought both script and story were good and had a lot of promise. The Academy agreed and I was a quarterfinalist that year.
Using That Forward Momentum
Then, 2009, when I entered…. Well I didn’t. Yeah, seriously, What?
Being busy is hardly an excuse but 2008 happened to be the year I started doing for myself. Started Valley Wind Productions and wrote/directed/produced the mini-series, Untamed Lands. Plus I went back to school for 08/09, taking a one year intensive scriptwriting program. There’s always learning to be done – and the peripheral benefits have paid off in dividends.
The trick to this story is one of the rules of the Nicholl. You can’t enter with adaptations. The feature length I wrote through the program was a video game adaptation I’d wanted to take a stab at for a long time – and it turned out well – but had I actually thought about it, I might have preferred doing something I could enter in the 2009 Nicholl.
And, uh, I continued doing adaptations. The next screenplay I did was Legend of Oz (which we also produced) and while it was a huge departure from the source material, it still broke the letter of the Nicholl’s adaptation exclusion.
That meant that in 2010, I also had no new screenplay to enter with. Unhappiness. So instead I went and entered the 2008 screenplay again. I did it because at least that was entering something. This time it came up in the group that missed quarterfinals by a tiny margin – such is the subjective nature of the business.
Another Chance in 2011
The deadline hasn’t changed by the way. April 30, 2011. I’ve known it was coming for just about a year now. So what did I write in the last year in preparation of that looming deadline?
Another adaptation. I’ll go on record and say that as adaptations go, this is more original than source, but it was still heavily inspire by the source. But no matter how much I may love Legend of the Looking Glass, it’s ineligible.
Which brings us to today. Febraury 22, 2011. And the choice.
Option 1) Forget about it. There’s every possiblity that this will be the last year I’ll be able to enter but I’ve got enough going on that sanity suggests I should just let it go.
Option 2) Get off my ass and write a new damn script. April 30, 2011 is still two months away. Plus an extra week!
And so I welcome you to Mackey’s Great Race to the Nicholl. Over the next two months, the plan is to write a new script that I’ll be able to enter. Hell. I don’t mind saying it. The goal is to write a script that I’ll be able to take to the end. This writing will be in addition to the usual rigamarole and real world nonsense.
In short, I’m making a ton of extra work for myself.
So why do it?
- I’ve got a mainstream drama (which is rare for me) that I’m pretty in love with. The rumour is that mainstream does better in the Nicholl than genre fare.
- I’m a better screenwriter now than I was in 2008. I’ve done a lot since that’s both helped me hone my skills and taught me to write quickly. I need to test that.
- I need to spend time focusing on my career outside of Valley Wind Productions. Valley Wind was meant to be another path to get exposure. Lately, it’s been the only path.
- Perhaps most importantly. I’m a writer. I need to be creating new material. And writing goals are a great way to do that.
In the end, I may not get this script to a level I’m happy with in two months. I may fail epicly. Even if I don’t, I may end up ineligible during the competition. I’m probably crazy for even trying. But that’s never stopped me from doing anything.
What will be extra fun is if I can encourage a fellow screenwriter or two to join the race. Mutual encouragement towards goals is a great bonus. You in?