Just a few weeks ago, Warner Bros. announced its partnership with The Black List to find emerging, diverse screenwriters and offer them two-step WGA deals. Looks like finding emerging, diverse screenwriters is now emerging as a trend. Universal Pictures has announced its Emerging Writers Fellowship in the hopes of finding talented new screenwriters who don't currently have access to the industry. Applications for this new fellowship open Sept. 3. For more details about this fellowship, and what qualifies as "diverse", hit the jump.
Access to the industry can be extremely difficult for new screenwriters, so new programs like the Emerging Writers Fellowship from Universal and Warner Bros. partnership with The Black List are certainly encouraging.
Also, now that these two studios plan to work with new screenwriters over an extended period of time on new screenplays and pitches means we may actually get a chance to see some new, refreshing content from the studios, but only time will tell.
More specifically, here's what Universal Pictures had to say about its new screenwriters fellowship:
The Emerging Writers Fellowship is an exciting new program at Universal Pictures that is designed to identify and cultivate new and unique voices with a passion for storytelling. We are looking for talented screenwriters who have the potential to thrive, but don’t have access to or visibility within the industry.
Emerging writers who are chosen to participate in the program will work exclusively with the studio over the course of a year to hone their skills. During this program, fellows will be given the opportunity to work on current Universal projects as well as pitch original story ideas. Fellows will also attend workshops, receive mentoring, interact with top literary agents and sit in on Universal’s executive meetings. Fellows admitted into the program will be hired under a writing service agreement and must be committed to working full-time for one year.
Now, before you get too excited, Universal has set up some rules that may limit who can actually apply. Candidates may not have received the following credits on any feature film commercially released theatrically or television show that has been aired within the U.S.: Producer, Director, Assistant Director, Co-producer, Associate Producer, 2nd Unit Director, Director of Photography, Writer or Source Material.
Candidates will be able to submit one and only one screenplay during the application process. The screenplay must be comedy/romantic comedy or action/adventure/thriller. Universal will not accept any other genres (sorry, new writers with diverse voices that write dramas -- this fellowship is not for you).
Also, candidates who move on to the semi-final round will have to submit a second screenplay for evaluation. So, candidates need to make sure they have another stellar screenplay ready to go should they move ahead in the competition.
Here's the real head-scratcher, though, from the application requirements for this fellowship:
Two letters of recommendation from industry professionals. Each letter must be no longer than two pages and address the following:
1.) Comment on the context of your interaction with the applicant and your relationship to the applicant
2.) Explain why you feel this candidate will be a good fit for the Universal Pictures Emerging Writers Program and his/her potential to become a successful screenwriter
Now if you've been reading this post carefully, you'll notice that the original description from Universal about this Emerging Writers Fellowship said, "We are looking for talented screenwriters who have the potential to thrive, but don’t have access to or visibility within the industry." Yet, just to apply to this fellowship, you need not one, but two letters of recommendation from industry professionals.
I'm not exactly sure how writers with no access or visibility within the industry will find industry professionals to write recommendation letters. Maybe Universal should reconsider this requirement. Just sayin'.
Moving on, the Emerging Writers Fellowship addresses diversity among its applicants by asking them to answer the following question:
How will you contribute a diverse voice that is unique to the screenwriting industry? (300 words)
In other words, applicants get to make the argument for how they are diverse. No other specifications are laid out under the eligibility requirements.
Applications and legal release forms will be available online starting at midnight (we assume PT, but they didn't say) on Sept. 3, 2013. To find out more details and for complete entry rules and eligibility criteria, check out Universal Pictures' official announcement on the NBCUniversal Careers website.
What do you think about Universal Pictures' Emerging Writers Fellowship announcement? Will you be applying? If you're a new writer with no access or visibility within the industry, how will you get two letters of recommendation from industry professionals? Share your thoughts and strategies with us in the Comments.