May 2, 2019

10 TV Writing Fellowships To Launch Your Television Career

Calling all aspiring television writers. It’s TV writing fellowship season.

Is your spec script spell-checked? Your resume polished? Your personal essays crafted? Here are all the details you need to apply for the television writing fellowship that could be the first step to launching your career.

Each spring in Los Angeles, networks pick up lucky pilots, and staffing season begins. Thousands of writers compete for elusive spots in the room. 

For marginalized voices, and up-and-coming writers looking for their first opportunity, the challenge of getting in the door has historically been more difficult. And the problem persists. The WGAW recently found that "systemic discrimination against writers from historically underrepresented groups remains pervasive in the hiring of television writers,” in their 2019 Inclusion Report Card

To help lift up those voices, networks and organizations with strong entertainment industry ties use television writing fellowships to discover new talent. As writers rooms are staffed, fellowship season also begins. 

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Fellowships can be daunting to navigate. There are swiftly approaching deadlines, lists of accepted shows for spec scripts, and the pressure of writing the perfect essay. Then, there are the thousands of applications vying for a handful of elusive slots.

It is intense competition. But there is a light at the end of the tunnel  a real shot at landing a spot in the room. TV Writing Fellowships can open doors where traditional methods fail. Applying to fellowships is a right of passage for many aspiring TV writers. Worst case scenario, you come out of fellowship season with a new polished sample of your writing. What do you have to lose? 

We’ve compiled the top ten writing fellowships to help you navigate this fellowship season, whether it’s your first spec script, or you’re one step away from being in a room. 

Austin Film Festival Teleplay Competition

The Austin Film Festival Screenplay and Teleplay Competition offers writers an opportunity to be read by industry professionals and additional networking opportunities for finalists at the Writers Conference in Austin, Texas. Every entrant receives reader comments on their scripts. 
Semifinalists and finalists have opportunities to meet with agents, managers, and executives. The Writers Conference every October also presents writers with an opportunity to network and build connections with other writers and industry professionals. Alumni have gone on to staff on shows such as AMC’s Goliath, HBO’s Silicon Valley, and BoJack Horseman. 

  • When: Notifications for those advancing to the First Round and Second Round are sent in September. The Writers Conference takes place in October. 
  • Cost to Apply: $35 to apply by early deadline, $50 by regular deadline, and $60 to apply by late deadline. Additional awards categories are available for $20 per award.
  • Deadlines: Early March 29, Regular April 19, Late May 15 2019
  • Application Materials: Original pilot scripts, or spec scripts for any currently airing television program, online application form. The Austin Film Festival also offer script competitions for feature screenplays, digital series, playwriting, and shorts.

The Black List / Women in Film

The Black List and Women in Film Lab is a month-long intensive for 6 to 8 promising non-professional television writers focused on script and professional development in Los Angeles, California. The Lab will consist of script development, peer workshopping, and Master Classes with professional writers and industry executives. Participants will have their final pilots read by agencies and networks. Past advisors to the Lab include writers and creators of such shows as Divorce, Parenthood, Westworld, and One Day at a Time. 

  • When: October 2019
  • Cost to Apply: Free, but must be a Women in Film member in good standing or host a script on the Blacklist website. 
  • Deadlines: Applications due May 24th, Participants notified September 6
  • Application Materials: Original Pilot Script, Short Synopsis, Professional Resume, Personal Statement, Online Application Form

CBS Writers Mentorship Program

The CBS Writers Mentorship is an 8-month program focused on providing professional development, networking opportunities, and support for new and emerging writers in Los Angeles, California. Up to 10 writers will be chosen each year and will be teamed with an executive mentor. Mentors meet with participants on a regular basis to discuss their work, get creative feedback, and advice to further their careers. The program also offers small workshop-style meetings with showrunners and industry professionals. 
Alumni of the mentoring program include writers and creators of such shows as SEAL Team, Legends of Tomorrow, S.W.A.T., Dynasty, Grey’s Anatomy, Star Trek: Discovery, and Young Sheldon. 

  • When: October 2019 through April 2020
  • Cost To Apply: Free 
  • Deadlines: May 1st 2019
  • Application Materials: Letter of interest, Professional Resume or Bio, Legal Release Form, Two Writing Samples: one spec script based on a current prime time television series, and one original work of writing. Original material should match the tone of the spec script. 

Disney | ABC Writing Program

The Disney | ABC Writing Program is a 1-year paid program with the goal of connecting participants to their first staff writing positions, via Disney | ABC Television Group series. Writers participate in a curriculum including workshops, networking opportunities, and engagement with decision makers. The focus is to facilitate relationships that can pave the way towards a television writing career. Alumni of the program have created such shows as Grey’s Anatomy, Scandal, Breaking Bad, Mad Men, and Psych. 

  • When: The 1-year Program begins in February and ends in February of the following year. 
  • Cost to Apply: Free
  • Deadlines: Applications open in May. Updates and details for the 2019 application available via the Disney | ABC Writing Program Facebook Page.
  • Application Materials: Original live-action pilot script, script summary, secondary writing sample, such as an additional original pilot script or a spec for a live-action series airing during the current television season, summary for secondary writing sample, professional resume, personal essay, legal release form.

HBO Writers Lab

The HBOAccess Writing Fellowship is a mentorship program aimed at diverse, emerging writers. 8 participants take part in a one-week intensive of master classes, followed by 8 months of mentorship by HBO creative executives. Each writer develops a script appropriate for HBO or Cinemax. The master classes focus on preparing writers to create the best script possible. These include discussions on story structure, character development, and entertainment business acumen. The participants of the program also meet monthly for peer workshops. The scripts created during the program are considered for production in the following year’s HBOAccess Directing Fellowship. Alumni of the HBOAccess Writing Fellowship have written for shows such as Timeless, Gotham, and Bunk’d.

  • When: Masterclasses take place in June, followed by 8 months of mentorship 
  • Cost to Apply: Free
  • Deadlines: February 2020
  • Application Materials: Script, Resume or bio, 2 short essay questions. Scripts can include original ½ hour comedy or dramedy pilot, original 1-hour drama pilot, full-length play, 3 scripts for the same web series, or a feature film screenplay, legal release form.

National Hispanic Media Coalition

The NHMC Television Scriptwriter’s Program is a 5-week full-time workshop in Sherman Oaks, California. 10 writers are selected to participate in a mentorship guided by former NBC V.P. of Script Development, Geoff Harris.
Alumni have written for The Blacklist, Elena of Avalor, Jane The Virgin, and The Catch.

  • When: September 30 - November 1st 
  • Cost to Apply: Free
  • Deadline: July 20, 2019
  • Application Materials: Writing sample, Resume or Bio, Statement of Interest, Release Forms

NBC Writers Lab

NBC Writers on the Verge is aimed at emerging writers who need that last bit of support to be ready for a staff writer position on a television series. Writers of diverse backgrounds are especially encouraged to apply. Up to eight writers are selected for the six-month program consisting of weekly evening professional development classes at NBCUniversal in Universal City, California, networking opportunities, and mentorship. At the end of the program, the writers are considered for writing assignments on NBC series. Alumni have gone on to write on series including The Blacklist, Community, Burn Notice, Brooklyn Nine-Nine, and It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia.  

  • When: This six-month program takes place from October to the following April of each application cycle.
  • Cost to Apply: Free
  • Deadlines: Entries open May 1st, close May 31st. Approved shows spec list is announced in January each year.
  • Application Materials: Resume, Spec Script from approved list of current television shows, Legal Release form. Semi-Finalists will be asked for an original television pilot as second writing sample. 

Nickelodeon Writers Program

The Nickelodeon Writers Program selects 3-4 writers to participate in a paid program focused on hands-on experience. Writers meet Nickelodeon series creators, work in writers’ rooms, and write spec scripts and pitch story ideas for both live action and animated television. The program is divided into two tracks. The General Track is a one-year program focused on Nickelodeon programming. The Preschool Track is a six-month program to develop writers interested in shows for the preschool demographic as seen on Nick Jr. 

  • When: The program begins in October of the application year
  • Cost to Apply: Free
  • Deadlines: January 2020
  • Application Materials: Spec Script based on a show from the accepted shows list 

Sesame Street Writers’ Room

Sesame Street Writers’ Room is a writing fellowship opportunity for 7 to 10 writers from underrepresented racial backgrounds. Emerging storytellers receive hands-on writing experience guided by Sesame Street veterans and other entertainment industry leaders. The program consists of 8 weekly 3-hour sessions on creating original children’s content at the Sesame Street offices in New York City. Writers will complete at least one original script during the program, and up to two participants will have the opportunity to receive creative development deals and further mentorship.

  • When: Early May through mid-July
  • Cost to Apply: Free
  • Deadlines: November 2019. Subscribe to their e-mail list for updates and more information.
  • Application Materials: Resume, Personal Statement, kid-friendly Original Script Sample up to 11-pages for viewers up to age 12, Script Summary

Warner Bros. Television Writers’ Workshop

The Warner Bros. Television Writers’ Workshop selects up to eight participants to participate in weekly evening meetings on the Warner Bros. lot in Burbank, California. The workshop is comprised of lectures and a simulated writers room in which writers created a spec script under the same guidelines typical for a show in production. Writers who are successful in the writers room exercise are then considered for a staff position on Warner Bros. television shows. Additionally, writers are exposed to Warner Bros. writers and executives to create relationships to further participants’ careers. Alumni have gone on to write for shows such as Blindspot, You, Trial & Error, Fuller House, and Lethal Weapon.

  • When: October 2019 - April 2020
  • Cost to Apply: Free 
  • Deadline: May 31st
  • Application Materials: Resume, personal statement, spec script from approved list of shows, Submission Agreement

Please check the websites provided for specific application details, entry fees, and deadlines, as details may change after this publishing.

What show are you choosing to spec this year? What fellowships are you applying for?      

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