Academy Announces Nicholl Screenwriting Fellowship Finalists for 2009

Eleven writers have been selected as finalists for the 24th annual Don and Gee Nicholl Fellowships in Screenwriting, presented by the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences. Their scripts will now be read and judged by the Academy’s Nicholl Committee, which may award as many as five of the prestigious $30,000 fellowships.

This year’s finalists are (listed alphabetically by author):

Matt Ackley, Los Angeles, “Victoria Falls”
Vineet Dewan and Angus Fletcher, Los Angeles, “Sand Dogs”
John Griffin, Los Angeles, “Dream before Waking”
Hiram Martinez, New York City, “Ansiedad”
Marleine Pacilio, Shadow Hills, Calif., “Born Elizabeth Jane”
Adriana Brad Schanen, Montclair, N.J., “Gifted”
Neil Swaab, Astoria, N.Y., “Eddie Fantastic!”
Nidhi Anna Verghese, Los Angeles, “Jallianwala Bagh”
Dan Lee West, Vancouver, Canada, “Abroad”
Jeff Williams, Wake Forest, N.C., “Pure”

The finalists were selected from a record 6,380 scripts submitted for this year’s competition. The competition is open to any individual who has not sold or optioned a screenplay or teleplay for more than $5,000, or received a fellowship or prize that includes a “first look” clause, an option, or any other quid pro quo involving the writer’s work.

The Nicholl Committee, chaired by writer and 1992 Nicholl fellow Susannah Grant, is composed of writers Naomi Foner, Daniel Petrie, Jr., Tom Rickman and Dana Stevens; actor Eva Marie Saint; cinematographers John Bailey and Steven B. Poster; executive Bill Mechanic; producers Gale Anne Hurd, David Nicksay, Peter Samuelson and Robert W. Shapiro; marketing executive Buffy Shutt; and agent Ronald R. Mardigian.

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.

Since the program’s inception in 1985, 108 fellowships have been awarded, and a number of fellows have achieved considerable success. Recently Ehren Kruger, a 1996 fellow, co-wrote the box office success “Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen”; “City Island,” which was written and directed by 1991 fellow Raymond De Felitta, premiered at the 2009 Berlin and Tribeca film festivals; and James Mottern directed “Trucker,” slated to be released this month, from his 2003 Nicholl-winning script. Additionally, 1992 fellow Andrew W. Marlowe created and executive produces ABC’s “Castle.”

Nicholl Committee chair Susannah Grant adapted the screenplay for “The Soloist,” which opened earlier this year. She wrote and directed 2007’s “Catch and Release,” and in 2000, she received an Academy Award® nomination for her “Erin Brockovich” screenplay. She also earned writing credits on “Charlotte’s Web,” “In Her Shoes,” “28 Days,” “Ever After” and “Pocahontas.”

Several other Nicholl fellows have had success in the film industry; to read more about them, visit http://www.oscars.org/awards/nicholl/fellows/notable.html

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