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Academy Announces Nicholl Screenwriting Fellowship Winners for 2009

Six writers have been selected as winners of the 24th annual Don and Gee Nicholl Fellowships in Screenwriting, presented by the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences.

Press Release from Academy of Motion Picture Arts & Sciences

Beverly Hills, CA — Six writers have been selected as winners of the 24th annual Don and Gee Nicholl Fellowships in Screenwriting, presented by the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences. Each writer or writing team will receive a prestigious $30,000 prize, the first installment of which will be distributed at a gala dinner in Beverly Hills on November 12.

This year’s winners 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”

* Nidhi Anna Verghese, Los Angeles, “Jallianwala Bagh”

* Jeff Williams, Wake Forest, N.C., “Pure”

For the fifth consecutive year a script written by a team earned its writers a fellowship; collaborative efforts were first allowed into the competition in 2001.

The winners 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.

Final judging of the competition was conducted by the Nicholl Committee, chaired by writer and 1992 Nicholl fellow Susannah Grant, and 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, 113 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,” which was released earlier 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


The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences is the world’s preeminent movie-related organization, with a membership of more than 6,000 of the most accomplished men and women working in cinema. In addition to the annual Academy Awards – in which the members vote to select the nominees and winners – the Academy presents a diverse year-round slate of public programs, exhibitions and events; provides financial support to a wide range of other movie-related organizations and endeavors; acts as a neutral advocate in the advancement of motion picture technology; and, through its Margaret Herrick Library and Academy Film Archive, collects, preserves, restores and provides access to movies and items related to their history. Through these and other activities the Academy serves students, historians, the entertainment industry and people everywhere who love movies.