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The Best Screenwriting Fellowships to Launch Your Career in 2020

The ready-made springboards into the TV and feature film industry.

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by Script Reader Pro in Best Screenwriting Contests
April 21, 2020 11 comments
best screenwriting fellowships 2020

The best screenwriting fellowships to enter in 2020. 

Screenwriting fellowships are often the springboards that allow emerging talented writers to break in and launch their careers.

But, with so many out there, how do you know which ones are really worth the time and effort it will take you to craft an awesome application?

What are the screenwriting fellowships that will allow you to really hone and develop your skills while offering access to the best networking opportunities in the industry?

Very few of them really provide this career boost—but we know the ones that do.

Before applying to every fellowship you come across, take a look at the list below of the top ten screenwriting fellowships 2020.

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1. Academy Nicholl Fellowship.

Up to five fellowships of $35,000 are awarded every year to up-and-coming screenwriters, making the Academy Nicholl Fellowship a really fantastic opportunity for writers.

But writers don’t just receive cash—they take part in ceremonies and seminars during the November awards week. This gives them the opportunity to network and make really valuable connections with producers, directors and other writers.

It’s expected that screenwriters complete at least one feature film screenplay in the Fellowship year and payments of the prize money are made quarterly as the screenplay progresses.

Who can apply and how?

Writers apply for this screenwriting fellowship online by completing an application form and submitting a PDF script.

The script should be between 70 and 160 pages, with the Academy Nicholl recommending a length between 80 and 125 pages.

Up to three scripts can be submitted each year but, because this is one of the best screenwriting fellowships for new writers, applicants can’t have received more than $25,000 in lifetime earnings for their film or television writing before the competition ends.

Scripts go through up to four judging rounds, with finalists notified in September.

Application deadlines.

Early: March 6, 2020 ($48 entry fee)
Regular: April 9, 2020 ($63 entry fee)
Late May 1, 2020 ($88 entry fee)

Accredited college or university students studying full-time can get a discount on their entry fee.

Check out the Academy Nicholl Fellowship >>

2. The ScreenCraft Screenwriting Fellowship

The ScreenCraft Screenwriting Fellowship has an incredible track record of developing emerging screenwriters and connecting them with managers and agents.

The program consists of an all-expenses-paid trip to LA, and a week of mentorship and meetings with execs, agents, managers, producers and Oscar-winning writers. Writers are also connected with past recipients who provide ongoing peer mentorship and support.

Past ScreenCraft Fellowship recipients have gone on to staff in TV writers’ rooms at CBS, Warner Bros. and Amazon, and been hired to write for Netflix and Universal.

Almost all ScreenCraft Fellowship winners have signed with top management companies and agencies in Hollywood.

Who can apply and how?

Applications are open to English-speaking film and television writers worldwide who are 18 years of age or older.

Writers must apply with a writing sample (feature film or TV pilot script) and an optional cover letter.

Application deadlines.

Application opens October 1st, 2020.

Check out the ScreenCraft Screenwriting Fellowship >>

3. Sundance Screenwriters Lab.

The Sundance Screenwriters Lab is on this list of the best screenwriting fellowships 2020 for a reason.

It’s one of the most prestigious, with just 15 lucky screenwriters selected to participate in the five-day workshop and mentoring from esteemed Creative Advisors in Utah.

The Sundance Screenwriters Lab allows writers to really get stuck into the creative process and create bold new work.

Plus, all writers participating in the Lab from January 15-20, 2021 will receive a super-useful program of support as they advance their careers following the incubation of their scripts.

Who can apply and how?

Applications are open to solo writerswriter/directors, writer/director teams who are working on either a first or second feature film.

However, those who’ve had more than one feature film already produced aren’t able to apply.

Writers can apply online through the Feature Film Program Development Track and can submit up to three projects in separate applications, with each application costing $40.

Writers who don’t have U.S. citizenship will need to email the Sundance Screenwriters Lab for more details on how they can apply.

Application deadlines.

 Application opens early May 2020, exact deadline date TBA.

Check out the Sundance Screenwriters Lab >>

4. Nickelodeon Writing Program.

This TV writing fellowship offers promising writers the chance to work in a salaried role that sees them participating in writers’ rooms, pitching ideas and writing scripts for animation and live-action shows.

There are two tracks to the Nickelodeon Writing Program: the 9-month General Track and the 6-month Preschool Track which focuses on writing scripts developing ideas for preschool viewers.

The program is considered one of the best screenwriting fellowships for writers who want to develop an industry network while getting hands-on experience.

Who can apply and how?

Both US-based and international writers can apply for this fellowship program, with international writers offered the opportunity to gain a 6-month salaried position.

International writers need to be eligible for a J-1 Visa and meet the criteria for either an Intern or Trainee.

Applications are completed online and PDF spec scripts need to be based on a series included on the writing program’s Accepted Shows list.

Application deadlines.

August 1, 2020.

Check out the Nickelodeon Writing Program >>

best screenwriting fellowships

5. Universal Writers Program.

This is a great program for more experienced writers and one of the best screenwriting fellowships for writers hoping to gain a full-time position in the industry.

The screenwriting fellowship offered by the Universal Writers Program allows writers to work with producers and creative consultants to develop two feature-length scripts.

The year-long paid program also offers a full selection of opportunities for professional development including production processes and networking opportunities with managers and agents.

Who can apply and how?

Applications are completed online and only US citizens who live in Los Angeles (or who can relocate at their own cost) are able to apply.

There are no application fees but an original script and a treatment for a project other than the screenplay must be registered with the Writers Guild of America. (Each registration submission will cost $20.)

Application deadlines.

October 2020, exact date TBA.

Check out the Universal Writers Program >>

6. CBS Writers Mentoring Program.

This CBS Writers Mentoring Program doesn’t just allow writers to develop scripts, it provides them with a dedicated mentor who guides them through the creative process.

After the eight-month program, each writer takes part in a 16-week workshop designed to open doors within the television business and allows them to gain access to producers, managers, agents and executives.

Designed to help diverse writers break in and get a foot on the ladder, this screenwriting fellowship should be top of your list if you’re a new writer hoping to write for television.

Who can apply and how?

Writers can submit two writing samples, including a stage play, short fiction story, original pilot or spec script, using an online application form.

International applicants are welcome but writers will need to pay for their own travel and accommodation.

Application deadlines.

May 31, 2020.

Check out the CBS Writers Mentoring Program >>

7. Disney ABC Writing Program.

The Walt Disney Television Writing Program was created more than 20 years ago and is one of the only screenwriting fellowships designed in partnership with the Writers Guild of America, West (WGAW).

Successful previous candidates have gone on to write for Mad Men, Breaking Bad and The Killing, so this is one of the best screenwriting fellowships if you’re serious about getting noticed as a writer.

The year-long Disney ABC Writing Program includes workshops, networking opportunities with programming executives and the chance to become a staff writer on a Walt Disney Television series.

Writers get the opportunity to develop their personal brand and create invaluable new samples while being paid $961.54 per week.

Who can apply and how?

Screenwriters over the age of 21 can use the online form to submit their application. This fellowship is based in Los Angeles and all writers need to have eligibility to work legally in the US. Applicants need to provide two original pilot scripts, staffing pitch, a resume and a personal essay. Read application instructions.

Application deadlines.

June 5, 2020.

Check out the Disney ABC Writing Program >>

best screenwriting fellowships

8. Warner Bros Writing Workshop.

The Warner Bros. Television Writing Workshop ultimately offers chosen applicants the chance to become a staff writer on a television show produced by Warner Bros.

This is among the longest standing of the best screenwriting fellowships, having been running for over 40 years and up to eight lucky writers are selected each year.

The workshop runs October through March and includes weekly meetings, lectures and simulated writers’ rooms designed to help writers create a new spec script.

With thousands of hopeful writers applying each year, the stakes are high for this fellowship.

Who can apply and how?

Writers can apply for the Warner Bros Writing Workshop online and their application will need to include a resume, personal statement and either a comedy or drama spec script for a show on the Accepted Shows list.

Writers over the age of 18 who can work in the US and haven’t already been a staff writer on a show can apply.

Application deadlines.

May 31, 2020.

Check out the Warner Bros Writing Workshop >>

9. NBC Late Night Writers Workshop & Writers on the Verge.

The NBC Late Night Writers Workshop is a five-day workshop in NYC that focuses on readying sketch and comedy writers for staff writing positions.

The Writers on the Verge workshop in Universal City, California is similar but focusses on television writers, preparing them for industry pitches and developing new samples for their portfolio to help them land a staff writer role.

Both are designed for writers whose work and pitching skills just need a bit of polishing. Both are fantastic opportunities for writers to launch their careers and get noticed by industry executives.

Who can apply and how?

Screenwriters can apply to NBC Late Night Writers Workshop / Writers on the Verge using the online form during the submission window.

NBC Late Night Writers Workshop hopefuls are required to submit up to two pages of topical jokes, up to three descriptions of desk bits and two Saturday Night Live-style sketches.

Unlike many of the other best screenwriting fellowships, Writers on the Verge doesn’t accept spec scripts. Instead, hopefuls must submit two original live-action television pilot scripts.

Application deadlines.

Late Night Writers Workshop: April 5, 2020.
Writers on the Verge: May 10, 2020.

Check out the NBC Late Night Writers Workshop >>

Check out the Writers on the Verge Workshop >>

10. Cassian Elwes Independent Screenwriting Fellowship.

This annual fellowship offers just one emerging screenwriter the chance to gain a trip to the Sundance Film Festival and attend a meeting with producer Cassian Elwes.

Ten independent scripts are chosen each year and reviewed by Elwes, with the fellowship winner notified by the end of December.

Because only one writer gets to bag the fellowship, there’s some very stiff competition to be had for the elusive spot.

Who can apply and how?

Screenwriters who have made up to $5,000 in their writing career can apply by hosting their script on the Black List website and opting into consideration for the Cassian Elwes Independent Screenwriting Fellowship.

Application deadlines.

November 2020, exact date TBA.

Check out the Cassian Elwes Screenwriting Fellowship >>

11. HBOAccess Writing Fellowship.

Talented television writers really shouldn’t overlook the HBOAccess Writing Fellowship, which has helped countless promising writers break into the industry.

Eight writers are given the chance to participate in a week of masterclasses in Santa Monica before an intense eight months of pilot script development with the help of mentoring from HBO executives.

The masterclasses cover topics like character development and getting an agent, making them incredibly useful for writers hoping to land their big break.

Who can apply and how?

Writing hopefuls aged 21 and over can submit their application via the HBO website.

This is one of just a few writing fellowships that runs every second year and HBO holds a directing fellowship on the in-between years. This gives writers extra time to make sure their sample scripts are perfect.

Application deadlines.

February 2021.

Check out the HBOAccess Writing Fellowship >>

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Best Screenwriting Fellowships: Conclusion. 

This list isn’t exhaustive, but it includes all the best screenwriting fellowships 2020—the ones that should be on your radar this year.

If you’re a television or film writer, you’ll want to ensure you complete your application way ahead of time.

To make sure you don’t miss any deadlines, check out our Screenwriters’ Calendar which lists closing dates for the screenwriting contests, labs, festivals and courses that you need to know about.

best screenwriting fellowships 2020

Liked this post? Read more on the best screenwriting fellowships, contests and courses…

Best Screenwriting Contests To Supercharge Your Career in 2020

Best Screenwriting Courses in the US, Canada and Worldwide

Script Writing Courses: Kickstart to a Writing Career or a Waste of Money?

[© Photo credits: Pexels]

11 Comments
  1. Rachael says:

    As someone based in Australia, this list wasn’t so helpful… most of these you have to be living in the US or eligible to work there. Perhaps you could create another list that provides grants globally or is open to internationals. Is there anything online, etc?

    1. Script Reader Pro says:

      Unfortunately, there’s not much available outside of the US and our intention with the list is to give aspiring writers only the best screenwriting fellowships they should enter.

  2. Glenn says:

    The Nicholl fellowship application asks for the year of your birth. Why would they need that detail unless they were going to discriminate ? I don’t mean to sound negative, but since I’m no longer 25 I don’t want to waste the money if they’re not going to treat me equally.

    1. Script Reader Pro says:

      Don’t think you have much to worry about there, Glenn. The winners of the Nicholl have been writers of all ages.

  3. William Whiteford says:

    The superb overview,.
    THANKS.

    1. Script Reader Pro says:

      Thanks, William!

  4. Bonnie says:

    never seen such informative and lovely site before. you guys are just awesome

  5. Zack Isaacs Raz says:

    During this lockdown, I’ve finished one of my pilots. This site is perfect for my goals. (Time for finish pilot #2!)
    Writers should never be discouraged. There’s more than one way to get your foot in the door.

    1. Script Reader Pro says:

      Exactly – it’s time to go for it.

  6. James Greasley says:

    Just a heads up the Disney ABC writing program now requires two original pilots. They aren’t accepting spec pilots of existing shows this year.

    1. Script Reader Pro says:

      Thanks for the heads-up!

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