SCRIPT GODS MUST DIE: Getting Bounced From Nicholl Fellowship In Style

Nicholl fellowship

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“Don’t feel bad. You had a good run…”

“To even get to the Quarterfinals of Nicholl is a victory! Think about how many people don’t get that far…”

“You wrote a great script. They blew it. Your script will find a sympathetic eye, just wait…”

And wait…

And wait…

This one goes out to the thousands of you waiting on word from Academy Nicholl Fellowships in Screenwriting. I know how you sweated to make the deadline. I also know how Unrepresented you are, and how Nicholl represents one of the few chances you have to actually change your situation. I’m with you, and one of you. I don’t have a dog in this year’s Best In Show parade. The comments you see above were from a couple years ago when I made Quarterfinals. I got bounced. My friends were supportive, as you see. Like you, I had high hopes. Alas…

Unless you pay extra, you never know why your script got bounced which, of course, is maddening. You also never know who it was exactly that passed on your script and what THEIR qualifications are. But that’s a constant and works both ways. For most contests, you’ll never find out why you advanced. The process is a mystery.

Latin_screenplay_of_AeneidPerhaps you got a reader– and I’m honestly not trying to be cute here– who ate some bad shellfish the night before. Maybe before reading your script the reader’s car got towed. Maybe they yawned their way through three other scripts that day before reaching for your magnum opus. Maybe they have no clue how to write a screenplay themselves. Maybe it’s simpler. Maybe your script just wasn’t good. Maybe that withering, pithy voice you thought infused every page never really did. Maybe maybe maybe. This is subjective, the whole enchilada.

You want proof?

I’ve gotten past the initial rounds at Nicholl with four different screenplays. Several years ago I made the Semifinals. It was quite something to see, within one week, the 25 requests coming in from production companies like Benderspink and Jerry Bruckheimer, a well-established agent at Endeavor, not to mention a bunch of managers I never heard of coming out of the woodwork, all clamoring to see my casino thieves script Crossroaders. They had no clue of my existence before that week but getting Semis at Nicholl put me on the map. Maybe I was worthy to be one of the Country Club. Maybe I could make them a few bucks. They were sniffing around…

Nothing actually happened from that. Lots of folks sniffed but nobody ponied up a solid offer. I didn’t make Finals and the script rests now where it has for quite a few years, as an excellent door stop for my office. That doesn’t change the fact that, in a world filled with casino flicks, Crossroaders might be the only one actually written by a working craps dealer. With real knowledge of the game. Don’t you hate casino flicks when they show stupid stuff, like someone shaking the dice with two hands? Can’t happen in a real casino.

Sahara_Hotel_and_Casino

But here’s where we get back to the subjectivity story. Do you know, the following year I got ambitious. I sent the very same script back to Nicholl hoping to make the Finals.

I didn’t get past the first round.

See, your script might be terrific, or it might not be. But very much into this equation comes the random set of eyes looking it over. So please, don’t get down on yourselves.

Sure, it’s wonderful exposure and why people pony up the ever-increasing entry fees for Nicholl and other screenwriting contests. Because without an agent, if you need other people’s money to make your project happen, where the hell are you going to turn? If it ain’t Micro you’ll likely have to go Old School and get signed, take meetings, the L.A. thang.

Nicholl Quarterfinals are nice. But just nice, know what I mean? Talk about kissing your cousin…more like kissing the drooling Schnauzer. It’s something you put on a resume but it’s likely not going get your script much action. (*Cue the emails from folks finding representation and making deals only making the Nicholl Quarters.) If only, if only, IF ONLY you could have gotten to the next round!

Here’s what I want you to do when you learn you got bounced from Nicholl Fellowship….

Realize that you can control only what you can control. Don’t agonize over rejection. Get by it, get over it. Move on. Get bounced with style.

Bukowski-by-origaMe? I usually buy airline tickets. And open up some Charles Bukowski. I’ll leave you with a Bukowski excerpt about style, from the poem of the same name:

“Style is the answer to everything.
Fresh way to approach a dull or dangerous day.
To do a dull thing with style is preferable to doing a dangerous thing without style.
To do a dangerous thing with style, is what I call art.
Bullfighting can be an art.
Boxing can be an art.
Loving can be an art.
Opening a can of sardines can be an art.
Not many have style.
Not many can keep style.
I have seen dogs with more style than men.
Although not many dogs have style.
Cats have it with abundance.
When Hemingway put his brains to the wall with a shotgun, that was style.
For sometimes people give you style.
Joan of Arc had style.
John the Baptist.
Jesus.
Socrates.
Caesar.
Garcia Lorca.
I have met men in jail with style.
I have met more men in jail with style than men out of jail.
Style is a difference, a way of doing, a way of being done.
Six herons standing quietly in a pool of water, or you, walking
out of the bathroom without seeing me.”

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