Five months ago, I was sitting at home facing the daunting (and somewhat hopeless) task of figuring out where I wanted to go as an unknown but experienced writer. The problem wasn’t a lack of options. It was that there were almost too many screenwriting fellowships and competitions. I didn’t know which one to choose. In the end, I did what most writers do. I asked around, Googled top ten screenwriting fellowship lists, and went with my gut.
I applied to the 2020 ScreenCraft Fellowship, and it has turned out to be one of the best decisions I’ve made in my screenwriting career. Here’s how to choose a screenwriting fellowship program, and why (the right) program can change the direction of your writing career.
Luke Hassel is an actor, writer, director who was chosen to be one of three fellows for the 8th Annual ScreenCraft Fellowship Program with his submission, Girls on the Run. Lukas’s screenwriting accolades include: Fresh Voices (winner “Girls on the Run”), Shore Film Fund (winner TV pilot “Galápagos”), Cinestory Fellowship winner (the drama “The Mechanic), Won NYC Horror Film award (the horror screenplay “Silhouette”), twice placed in the top 40 Nicholl’s fellowship as well as many other film festival screenplay wins. He is based in New York City where he lives with his husband.
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How to choose a screenwriting fellowship program
One of the reasons I chose the ScreenCraft Fellowship was that I’d seen what they could do. I placed fourth in ScreenCraft’s 2019 Drama competition and I was impressed with the follow-up and genuine interest ScreenCraft had in getting my script (“Halfway”) out there. So I submitted my latest script, a dramedy “Girls on the Run,” crossed my fingers, and hoped that someone would see the potential in a story where the protagonists were three women in their ’80’s with hopes, dreams, and friendships for the ages.
Four months later, against impossible odds, I was named one of three ScreenCraft fellows. Cut to: ScreenCraft Fellowship Week 2020, and holy crap. It’s been one heck of a week. Here’s what it’s like to be a ScreenCraft screenwriting fellow.
What is a screenwriting fellowship actually like?
When the folks at ScreenCraft sent me my schedule of generals (as these casual business meetings are called) I was blown away. I had back-to-back(-to-back!) meetings with top industry people, both on the development executive side and screenwriting side.
If you don’t try, nothing is ever going to happen
As a relative newbie to the business end of screenwriting, these generals were a welcome step in my evolution as a professional writer. But they weren’t your standard pitch meeting.
Fellowship Week meetings schedule
It’s the first day of fellowship meetings. All my meetings are with L.A. folks (three-hours behind me). Slightly nervous, I sit down for my first general meeting armed with extensive research for each person I was set to meet with. I came prepared with a long list of questions and an iced venti three-pump decaf iced mocha.
My first general is with screenwriter Peter Chiarelli (Crazy Rich Asians, The Proposal). Peter greets me from his office with a disarming smile and instantly puts me at ease. This is not a job interview, a test, or something to mess up. It’s merely two people having a chat about the industry and an incredible opportunity to hear about someone’s journey to where they are today.
Next is Eric Fineman, Senior VP at Pascal Pictures. After introducing me to his gorgeous rescue puppy, we discuss my scripts and where to go from here.
On Tuesday, I meet with Academy Award-winning writer David Rabinowitz (BlackkKlansman) shares his incredible journey from tracking down IP on a book he and his writing partner really liked, to walking away with that golden statue five years later. Crystal Holt, Development Exec at AMC (who really needs to get her own show) had me in stitches from her pitch-perfect deadpan comments about how the industry should and shouldn’t work.
And that was just the first two days!
You should apply for Fellowship Week
I could go on and on about the meetings and experiences I’ve had this week. The point is, I already feel more secure in knowing what’s expected of me as a professional writer. After just five days, I have a better understanding of what matters and what doesn’t. That’s incredibly valuable at this stage of my career.
I can’t help thinking back to that moment five months ago. I’m sitting with my laptop, wondering whether or not the submission fee for the Fellowship program is worth it. After this week, I know one thing for certain. If you don’t try, nothing is ever going to happen.
Submissions are open for the next ScreenCraft Fellowship Week. Get your script into the hands of industry influencers and people who want to help you take the next step in your screenwriting career. Apply today.