Posted: Monday, March 4, 2024
Scripts to be performed at live read in April

LOS ANGELES, CA – Five individuals have been selected as winners of the 2023 Academy Nicholl Fellowships in Screenwriting.  Each individual will receive a $35,000 prize and mentorship from an Academy member throughout their fellowship year.  They also will be featured at the Academy Nicholl Fellowships in Screenwriting Awards and Live Read on April 25 at the Academy’s Samuel Goldwyn Theater, where an ensemble of actors will read selected scenes from the 2023 winning scripts.  The Nicholl Fellowships were established in 1985 through the support of Gee Nicholl in memory of her husband Don Nicholl.

The 2023 winners are (listed alphabetically by author):

Brent Delaney (Toronto, Ontario, Canada), “Brownie Mary”
At the height of the AIDS crisis, Mary Jane Rathbun illegally distributes cannabis-infused brownies to heal thousands of gay men in San Francisco and inadvertently becomes the face of the first medical marijuana movement in U.S. history.

Harris McCabe (Los Angeles, CA), “Nat Cady’s Boys”
Two young boys seek bloody vengeance on the posse that hung their outlaw father in 1882 Wyoming.

J. Miller (Burbank, CA), “Slugger”
Abandoned by her mother and coached by her unloving father, a high school baseball prodigy with a hot temper and thunderous bat must confront old-school coaches, jealous teammates, injuries, and her own sexual identity on an inspirational quest to be the first woman to play in the Majors.

c. Craig Patterson (Los Angeles, CA), “Tah”
The black sheep of the family comes back home to live with the most difficult matriarch in New Orleans.

Kayla Sun (Los Angeles, CA), “Boy, Girl, Fig”
Aden was born with a rare condition where he becomes invisible to people who love him.  He struggles when he falls in love with his childhood best friend.

A total of 5,599 scripts, from 83 countries, were submitted for the 2023 competition.  The first and quarterfinal rounds were judged by industry professionals, including graduates of the Academy’s Diverse Reader Training Workshop, a free referral-only program established to train individuals from underrepresented communities to be story analysts.  The semifinal round was judged by Academy members across the spectrum of the motion picture industry.  Thirteen individual screenwriters were selected as finalists. Their scripts were then read and judged by the Academy Nicholl Fellowships Committee, who ultimately voted the winners.

The 2023 finalists are (listed alphabetically by author):

Agata Alexander, “Emocja”
Michael Bucklin, “Signature Photo”
Des Burnison, “Barbara the Barbarian”
Leonard Johnson, “The Funny He-She Ladies!”
Stephen J. Johnson, “The Migrant”
Victoria Male, “Showstopper”
Michael Noonan, “Gobbledygook”
Mike Powell, “The Pink Triangle”

The five fellowships are awarded with the understanding that recipients will complete feature-length screenplays during their fellowship year.  The Academy acquires no rights to the works of Nicholl fellows and does not involve itself commercially in any way with their completed scripts.

The Academy Nicholl Fellowships Committee is chaired by Eric Heisserer (Writers Branch).  The members of the committee are Aldis Hodge (Actors Branch); Susan Shopmaker (Casting Directors Branch); Marcus Hu and Stephen Ujlaki (Executives Branch); Jason Michael Berman, Julia Chasman and Peter Samuelson (Producers Branch); James Plannette (Production and Technology Branch); Sue Chan (Production Design Branch); and Ehren Kruger, Adele Lim, Justin Marks, Zak Penn, Katie Silberman and Dana Stevens (Writers Branch).

The Academy Nicholl Fellowships in Screenwriting Awards and Live Read to celebrate the 2023 fellowship winners at the Academy’s Samuel Goldwyn Theater on April 25 is free and open to the public, but advance tickets are required.  Tickets may be obtained online here starting today.  The Academy’s Samuel Goldwyn Theater is located at 8949 Wilshire Boulevard, Beverly Hills, CA 90211.

The global competition, which aims to identify and encourage talented new screenwriters, has awarded 181 fellowships since 1986.  In 2023, several past Nicholl fellows added to their feature film and television credits:

  • Annmarie Morais was co-creator, co-showrunner and a writer on the CBC and BET+ series “The Porter,” which earned a record 12 wins at the 2023 Canadian Screen Awards.
  • James Mottern wrote and directed a documentary, “Mark, What's the Plan?,” available to stream on demand.
  • Ken Kristensen is co-executive producer and writer on “The Continental,” on Peacock and Amazon Prime internationally. Kristensen also is writer and supervising producer on “Echo,” a new Marvel Studios series on Hulu and Disney+.
  • Susannah Grant wrote and directed “Lonely Planet” for Netflix.

For more information about the Academy Nicholl Fellowships in Screenwriting, visit

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The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences is home to a global membership of more than 10,500 of the most accomplished film industry artists and leaders. The Academy recognizes and celebrates all aspects of the arts and sciences of moviemaking through renowned awards for cinematic achievement, including the Oscars®. With the world’s largest film museum and collection, the Academy preserves our cinematic history and presents honest and powerful programs about cinema’s past, present, and future. Across all initiatives, the Academy connects global audiences – its members, the film industry, and film fans – through their shared passion for making and watching films.