This being my first year submitting to the Academy Nicholl Fellowships, I didn’t have super high hopes. OK, I secretly wished they’d realize my genius after reading a mere five pages and cancel the competition to declare me the Crown Scribe & Earl of Hollywood.
Are you sitting down?
It didn’t happen. In fact, I didn’t even place.
But, (he said convincingly) I received some actionable critiques from both my contest submission readers. And, as much as it pains my fragile scribbler’s heart, they were right:
- I did have unrealized plot points
- I did take too long to get the story going
- I did miss opportunities to explore some characters
- I did leave the toilet seat up … on purpose!
All in all, this competition was a good experience, and the submission fee was well worth receiving critiques from two readers. I’ll definitely submit again next year, and am already considering which of two works-in-progress I might use.
The 2022 competition results were released on Aug. 8, with contest reader comments having been released today, Sept. 1.
Below is the bulk of both submission readers’ comments:
[Ben’s screenplay] takes a lot of interesting twists and turns. [With] a fresh idea. The theme resonates in the way [MC] moves through life and the loneliness he exudes—almost like he’s searching for a purpose in the way some of his clients are. [MC’s] sister … gives him stakes and something he’s specifically trying to pay off. The dialogue and characters sound real. Scene description is visual and realizable.
The story never finds its footing in a cohesive way. There could be more structure and specifics to [MC’S] goals, including a goal for himself outside his sister. It takes quite a while for the plot to actually kick off and the status quo to change. The setup lasts for over halfway through the script. It’s like the story keeps offering plot to add to the premise but never taking itself up on the offer…. Overall, the premise has some originality, but the execution could elevate and clarify the character journey more via scene craft, story structure, and plot.
[Ben’s screenplay] has a lot to it that works well. The basic premise … is an interesting device to kick the story off. [Main character] … trying to make enough money to get his junkie sister … into a good rehab clinic gives him a good motivation in the first half of the script, and then her death sends him spinning well…. There’s a nice unpredictability here overall…. [D]ialogue is very solid throughout, and there’s a good feel for the lost [MC] and his looking for connection in the second half of the tale. His foray into Amish culture is well drawn. Scenes are put together well. There is good character work throughout and some well-done emotional moments, while [secondary character’s] being alive at the end is a satisfying payoff to it all.
At the same time, it feels like this takes way too long to get to the meat of the story. The script takes too long to really lean into the job that [MC] is doing, while the people who hire him early on get no real exploration. Some near future details are initially interesting … but that never pays off. Likewise, the script sets up that [MC] might have to do something life-risking for his job, only to abandon that whole idea too.