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August 29, 2008

The Nicholl Fellowship

I've gotten a lot of questions about the Nicholl Fellowship, so I just wanted to put information here for all to read.

1) It's the premiere screenwriting competition in the world. It's run by the Academy of Motion Pictures – the same group of people who award the Oscars. And the judges are the same group of writers. directors, actors and producers who vote on the Oscars. This is the main reason, I think, why it's so respected in the industry. These are the same people who bestow the highest honors on produced films!

2) There is only one more round. If I make the next cut, I'm one of the 10 winners for this year. And the prize is $50,000. But at this point I would like to advance, but making it to this spot is already amazing in terms of recognition and contacts. Making it to the Semis is a huge step in a writing career.

3) It's hard to make it to this level. In my whole program here at UCLA - which is the best screenwriting school - it's only myself and one other person who placed. Of the 5,224 scripts that are submitted, 5% made it to the Quarterfinal round, and 2% made it to the Semifinal round.

4) I'm feeling really lucky, blessed, whatever. Look at those odds! It's a good script, in fact I love it... but come on. I obviously got the right people to read it, somehow.

5) The funniest thing about this particular script is that I could tell the instructor who ran the workshop at UCLA where I wrote it wasn't completely thrilled with it. He really helped me a ton with it, so I don't begrudge him his opinion, but it was clear to me that he thought it needed a MASSIVE rewrite. But I have a very trusted friend and fellow student in the program - Matt Pedrolie - who read it, loved it, and gave me extensive notes which really helped me. I did one rewrite based on his notes (and also stuff from my instructor that I felt were true to the story I wanted to tell) and submitted that. I was on the border of not submitting it at all because of how much work my instructor thought it needed... but then he told me he did not like No Country for Old Men or There Will Be Blood and I thought, "He's a genius, but it's just one opinion." Thank goodness I went with that instinct and submitted it!

6) This is the particular script that I've said could win an Oscar (if not for the screenplay, then for the actress who plays Harriet), so I think it's fitting that the Academy likes it so much. I guess I was right about that.

7) I have a great community here at UCLA and a great group of friends all over. I can't even count the number of emails, facebook messages, and texts congratulating me about this whole thing. It's very very cool.

Posted by jason on August 29, 2008 11:23 AM


who is the other person that placed from your school?

Posted by: jessica on August 29, 2008 12:57 PM

A woman named Madeleine Holly-Rosing.

Posted by: jason on August 29, 2008 01:00 PM

Wow and wow. I'm so glad for you!

Posted by: peaj on August 29, 2008 01:21 PM

I think I would be an awesome Harriet Tubman.

Just sayin...

Posted by: SnakeMan on August 29, 2008 01:38 PM

Jase--this is SO amazing!

And I was just wondering if it was one of your friends who also place, but I guess not.

Posted by: jessica on August 29, 2008 02:44 PM


Posted by: bsweber on August 29, 2008 02:49 PM

well, she is a friend but not one that you've met!

Posted by: jason on August 29, 2008 03:22 PM

Jason, way to go. This is tremendous!

Posted by: Chris on August 29, 2008 08:50 PM

We are all so happy for you! You've worked so hard and you have had such a great attitude through it all. You really deserve this!!!! Congrats!

Posted by: rebekah on August 30, 2008 05:01 PM

I wish I went to UCLA. When I told my friends that I made the semifinals, they all just sort of nodded before politely asking what the hell I was talking about.

Posted by: Nick on September 6, 2008 12:20 AM

Congrats on the semi-finals! I also am a semi-finalist (whee!)

Just a note: The next cut is to pick 10 (or 11, which they sometimes do) finalists. Then there is another round of reading, where five of those are picked as fellows. Only the five Nicholl fellows win money, and that is $30,000, not $50,000.

But even if you are a finalist who does not become a fellow, you still get a lot of attention in H'wood.

Posted by: TwelveMile on September 15, 2008 10:37 PM

huh... yeah I apparently butchered the details there. Thanks for setting the record straight.

Posted by: jason on September 15, 2008 10:44 PM

I'm a semi-finalist as well!!

How are you handling the wait? Not easy, is it...


Posted by: Roberto on September 22, 2008 02:34 AM

Well I'm trying to keep myself busy with writing and editing... so... oh who am I kidding, it's killing me.

Posted by: jason on September 22, 2008 02:37 AM

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