Five individuals have been selected as winners of the 2021 Academy Nicholl Fellowships in Screenwriting competition. The fellows will each receive a $35,000 prize and mentorship from an Academy member throughout their fellowship year.
The 2021 winners are (listed alphabetically by author):
Haley Hope Bartels (Los Angeles, CA), Pumping Black
After a desperate cyclist takes up a team doctor’s dangerous offer, he seems on course to win the Tour de France. But as the race progresses and jealous teammates, suspicious authorities, and his own paranoia close in, he must take increasingly dark measures to protect both his secrets and his lead.
Karin delaPeña Collison (West Hollywood, CA), Coming of Age
In 1965 Britain, Charlotte, a sheltered, studious schoolgirl, lands on a British Farce tour her mother stage-manages, where private tutoring by company members replaces her formal schooling, with surprising success, and she experiences a Lolita-like flirtation in the morally wobbly era of Free Love, which leads both her and her mother to ‘come of age.’
Byron Hamel (Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada), Shade of the Grapefruit Tree
When a severely abused white boy befriends his sci-fi obsessed Black landlady, his fantasy of becoming a robot empowers him to recklessly confront his murderous stepdad.
R. J. Daniel Hanna (Los Angeles, CA), Shelter Animal
A fiery, female prison trustee working at the county animal shelter finds purpose in rehabilitating an abused pit bull, but her attempts to rally employees and the broader community for shelter reform puts her own freedom at risk.
Laura Kosann (New York, NY), The Ideal Woman
Set in American suburbia during the Cuban Missile Crisis: A 1960’s ex-actress and housewife finds her house-of-cards world begin to tumble as she continues to be pitted against two identities.
A record number of 8,191 scripts, from 89 countries, were submitted for this year’s competition. The first and quarterfinal rounds were judged by industry professionals, including graduates of the Academy’s Diverse Reader Training Workshop, a free referral-only program established to train individuals from underrepresented communities to be story analysts.
The semifinal round was judged by Academy members across the spectrum of the motion picture industry. Ten individual screenwriters were selected as finalists. Their scripts were then read and judged by the Academy Nicholl Fellowships Committee, who ultimately voted the winners.
The 2021 finalists are (listed alphabetically by author):
- Adam Everett, “Aurora”
- Takeo Hori, “American Infamy”
- Michael Ouzas, “Third Man”
- Jesse White, “Stronghold”
- Aaron C. Wong, “Garamba”
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.
From November 8 to 12, one fellow per day will be featured on the Academy’s YouTube channel, in content including conversations with filmmakers Destin Daniel Cretton, Phil Lord, Our Lady J, Rawson Marshall Thurber and Olivia Wilde.
A Look at Past Fellows
The global competition, which aims to identify and encourage talented new screenwriters, has awarded 171 fellowships since it began in 1986. In 2021, several past Nicholl fellows added to their feature film and television credits:
- Alfredo Botello co-wrote the story for Universal Pictures’ F9: The Fast Saga.
- Allison and Nicolas Buckmelter’s Nicholl-winning script, American Refugee, will make its debut on EPIX and Paramount Home Entertainment on December 10.
- Destin Daniel Cretton directed and co-wrote, with fellow Andrew Lanham, Marvel Studios’ Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings.
- Anthony Grieco’s Nicholl-winning script, Best Sellers, was released by Screen Media and stars Michael Caine and Aubrey Plaza.
- Matt Harris’s fellowship year script, The Starling, was released by Netflix and stars Melissa McCarthy.
- Geeta Malik wrote and directed India Sweets and Spices, which debuted at Tribeca Film Festival. The film was adapted from her Nicholl-winning script, Dinner with Friends.
- Andrew W. Marlowe and Terri Edda Miller are executive producers and showrunners on season two of CBS’s The Equalizer, starring Queen Latifah.
- Stephanie Shannon was executive story editor and a writer on Apple TV+’s augmented reality experience For All Mankind: Time Capsule, which won an Emmy for Outstanding Innovation in Interactive Programming.
- Rebecca Sonnenshine was the executive producer and writer on an episode of Amazon Prime’s The Boys that was nominated for an Emmy for Outstanding Writing for a Drama Series. She is currently showrunning Netflix’s “Archive 81.”
The Academy Nicholl Fellowships Committee is chaired by Academy Short Films and Feature Animation Branch governor Jennifer Yuh Nelson. The members of the committee are John Bailey and Steven Poster (Cinematographers Branch); William Mechanic (Executives Branch); James Plannette and Stephen Ujlaki (Members-at-Large); Julia Chasman, Peter Samuelson and Robert W. Shapiro (Producers Branch); Bobbi Banks (Sound Branch); and Eric Heisserer, Larry Karaszewski, Dan Petrie Jr., Misan Sagay and Dana Stevens (Writers Branch).