Thursday, August 15, 2013

Universal Pictures Launches Emerging Writers Fellowship

Universal Pictures announced on Thursday that it has created an Emerging Writers Fellowship designed to identify and cultivate new and unique voices with a passion for storytelling. 
Emerging writers who are chosen to participate in the program will work within the studio to hone their skills and gain access and exposure to Universal executives, producers and other key industry professionals.  
Universal's co-presidents of production Peter Cramer and Jeffrey Kirschenbaum will oversee the fellows. 
“This fellowship is a great opportunity for aspiring writers but it’s also a great opportunity for Universal,” said Cramer.  
“As audiences continue to be even more discerning about the films they see, finding new voices with unique and creative ideas is extremely important for our business,” added Kirschenbaum. 
Under terms approved by the Writers Guild of America West, the Emerging Writers Fellowship will allow Universal the opportunity to expand the community of writers with whom the studio works.
 From the Fellowship's official website:
Fellows admitted into the program will be hired under a writing service agreement and must be committed to working full-time for one year. 
This program is not intended for candidates who received Producer, Director, Assistant Director, Co-producer, Associate Producer, 2nd Unit Director, Director of Photography, Writer or Source Material credits on any feature film commercially released theatrically or television show that has been aired within the U.S. Candidates may not have any attachment to third-party projects that are currently in development. Any candidates who do not meet the aforementioned criteria will be disqualified.
I wonder if "attachment" means that you've been paid to develop something?  What if you haven't but are working with producers/etc.?
Universal Pictures’ will entertain applications for the fellowship beginning on September 3, 2013.  Interested applicants should submit an original screenplay as well as additional background materials in order to be considered.   All semi-finalists will then be asked to submit a second screenplay.  Ten finalists will be selected and interviewed in Los Angeles.  Up to five fellows will be chosen to participate in the program. 
A link to the submission application will be available at midnight on Sept. 3, 2013. Applicants must submit all of the following materials in order to be considered.  Only online submissions will be accepted.  The submission window will only be open for 30 days or until we receive 500 applications (whichever comes first). Applicants are encouraged to apply as early as possible as only a limited number of submissions will be accepted. Universal Pictures reserves the right to close the application window at any time.
If you want to apply, you'll need a WGA-registered feature script that's a Comedy/Romantic Comedy or Action/Adventure/Thriller (other genres not accepted), two letters of recommendation, a resume, legal release and statement of purpose (see the site for more details.) Note that if you make it to the next round you'll also need to have a second feature ready.

As for the limit of 500 applications - I can only imagine that Universal's site will crash when thousands of writers try to submit.

Good luck!


Molly U said...

The fellowship states in its mission statement: "We are looking for talented screenwriters who have the potential to thrive, but don’t have access to or visibility within the industry. " But then it requires two letters of recommendations from industry professionals!

Any tips on how to get letters of rec if you're really not in the industry?

Also, do you know if it's midnight EST or PST?

Amanda said...

Molly - I understand the frustration. I don't know any more than you do, but the ABC/Disney fellowship also requires recommendations, and the director of that program told me that the letters don't necessarily have to be from people in high positions of power. They just want to see that you're out there meeting people and trying to forge a career rather than sitting back and waiting for a career to happen to you. Could you ask a colleague? Writing professor?

Not sure about EST/PST - I would guess PST just based on the location of Universal Pictures, but it couldn't hurt to log in at midnight EST and try.

Mahlie said...

That was my exact same question. The Disney/ABC program is looking for writers with some experience, as I understand it, so recommendation letters from industry professionals seem a reasonable requirement. But I don't understand where you would get them from on this one if you have almost no experience, as required. I don't have a second screenplay at this point, so hopefully someone else can report back for next year. :)

seropes said...

Cool opportunity, thanks for posting! Though I admit it seems strange to me that Universal, a studio long associated with sci-fi and horror, should refuse to consider scripts in either of those genres...

Unknown said...

Do you know what they would want on the resume? Only writing related things?

Unknown said...

Hey Amanda, do you think they'll accept writing partners? I've emailed them about it, but have yet to hear back.

Amanda said...

Very good question about writing partners, I'm afraid I don't know! But you might as well apply, right? Leave it up to them to say no.

Amanda said...

As for the resume - I think anything that can show you are well-rounded and have an interesting background can be an asset.

Unknown said...

I have a question. For the registration of the script to WGA, does that have to be before the application opens or before you start submitting? I was a tad confused from the wording.

Amanda said...

I noticed a lot of questions were answered on the main page (they added a FAQ page). Here's the link:

1) No writing partners
2) Sci-Fi was added as an acceptable genre
3) Script needs to be WGA registered prior to submission (I think the safest bet is to send something registered prior to 9/3/13, since that's when the submission window opened).

I also noticed they said that optioning a script or working on a previous film or TV project (scripted or non-scripted) will disqualify a writer.

They're REALLY being specific in their eligibility requirements--even more so than Disney/ABC.