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What Are Screenwriting Fellowships?

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  • Written By: Mary McMahon
  • Edited By: Shereen Skola
  • Last Modified Date: 31 August 2014
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Screenwriting fellowships are grants offering funds to help artists write and produce screenplays. To access a fellowship, writers typically need to submit an application, although some are awarded on the basis of merit, without a formal application process. Fellowship winners can receive direct financial assistance as well as mentoring, residency opportunities, and other benefits, depending on the structure of the fellowship. Such programs are designed to help struggling artists establish themselves and promote the development of new talent in the screenwriting community.

The most basic screenwriting fellowships are direct cash grants. After reviewing applicants, a committee awards funds to a deserving writer and the writer can use those funds in a number of possible ways. Some artists use the money to support themselves while they write, while others may fund research activities. They can also pay assistants and researchers to help them develop a project.

Other screenwriting fellowships may include a mentoring component. In this case, the recipient gets some cash assistance as well as personal help. This may involve established screenwriters who agree to read and critique a screenplay in a series of sessions. Mentors can also include producers who may read a script and make suggestions. While a production option is not guaranteed, the mentoring may provide an opening to access producers and filmmakers who could pick up a script for possible production.

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Another form of screenwriting fellowship provides funding to attend a residency, which may last a month or more. Some residencies simply provide a quiet, calm place to work where food and other basic services are part of the package. This can help a writer focus on a screenplay. Others include classes, workshops, mentoring, and other opportunities for learning and networking. Fellowships can offer an opportunity to attend when a writer might not otherwise be able to afford the cost of a residency.

Numerous organizations sponsor screenwriting fellowships. Writers seeking fellowship assistance can find lists of funding resources through professional organizations and community groups. It is advisable to review guidelines carefully to check for eligibility before developing applications. In each application, it is important to pay close attention to all the requirements, as incomplete applications may be discarded.

The application process can include submissions of resumes and writing samples along with letters of recommendation. People with internship experience may be at an advantage with applications for screenwriting fellowships because they could have professional contacts they can use for recommendations. Fellowship committees can request interviews from candidates they have an interest in to get an opportunity to learn more about them and their work.

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