Nicholl Debacle: A PM from Facebook

Ashley,

I just read your blog and wanted you to know I had a similar experience. I am 2009 semi.

I got the same three emails and wrote to Greg Beal for an accounting. It’s a monumental screw-up that slammed 84 other semi-finalists.  First of all, they’re not the most gracious folks over there… except if you’re a fellow.

With that said, the response you got on the phone was just plain rude and inconsiderate.

When I mentioned to Greg that perhaps one monumental computer error might also indicate another…as in the calculation of semi-finalist script scores. He quickly wrote back saying he was sorry I felt a fraud had been perpetrated upon me. I never used the word fraud. I was however implying incompetence.

He quickly shifted blame to an unnamed database supplier.

The response of course was inadequate for what happened to all of us. Beal and staff were last week scrambling to cover their butts. I’m sure they’re still working extra hard to hide this mess.

Hang in there. I feel your pain.

I’ll not post their name, as I’ve no permission to do so.

It’s frustrating, I was shocked at the phone call, especially because Greg Beal seems so open and on top of things.  He is always gracious in e-mails.  I don’t know who the woman was but I was, well, embarrassed for them that they’d hired someone so clearly unable to manage the phone calls the mistake was getting them.

I don’t feel like I was mistreated intentionally, and I think that’s important.  I do think that these hiccups do happen when an organization makes the switch to a computerized system, though it’s shocking it took them til 2009 to do so.  I got an apology, and while that isn’t quite satisfactory, I’m trying to be understanding and just accept it as a mistake that affected a whole lot of people, myself included.  I’ll still apply to the Nicholl next year, if I’m still eligible.  So I guess that speaks volumes.

First Act: Complete

First acts are probably the easiest. And I write short anyway. This one clocks in at exactly 22 pages, written in just over a week. 9 days coming out to over 2 pages a day, though that’s certainly not how it was written. 12 last weekend, 10 this weekend. Nothing like my 15 page a day peek last summer, but then, I have a full time job and several part time gigs.

I am going to polish it up and send it to the manager guy sometime this week. Although it’s a first draft kind of, it’s not really.

I first wrote out the idea as a short film, which I shot 2 summers ago. Then, last summer, I wrote out a 4 page treatment and character profiles. And then, last fall, I did 40 index card outline. And then I hand wrote it the last month. So the typed version is not really a first draft, but it still feels fresh, new and exciting.

Hopefully I can get some feedback before I send it off to more judgmental eyes.

Tomorrow, the editor starts on the show I’m working on. I’m hoping to get to know him at least somewhat.

Sometime this week I need to meet with the actress whose reel I’m working on. She has some notes on it. Unfortunately, for what she’s paying me, I can’t afford to spend much more time on it, so hopefully when we meet this week we’ll be able to put it to bed.

I also need to finish this assembly/rough of the short I got last weekend. I’m about halfway through, but I wanted to be done tonight.

I also wanted to have the pilot for this web series written. I just need to sit down and bang something out, even if it’s crap, to get it off my plate. I’m just having a hard time drumming up enthusiasm for a 3 page script. It’s so little to work with.

The web series that I worked on and was going to post supervise and edit isn’t going to be happening. The deal they were getting was just unmanageable, which is a shame.

I have no idea what I’ll be doing as a job come Nov. 2. I spent the day e-mailing back and forth with my G.G.Aunt Margaret. I’m learning a lot about my family history and it’s all very cool and strange at the same time.

Tonight was the last night of my antibiotics for my weird strep, which the doctor thinks may be the cause of my severe fatigue and dizziness. Thank God, because I’m having to really focus on keeping it down. Nothing like knowing you can’t throw up because you’ll lose your medication.

Obviously I’m still a bit bummed on the Nicholl Snafu but I’m excited that there are possibly going to be phone calls this week. I really should have busted my ass to get a new draft of Bible Con done, but who knows, I may have gotten rid of whatever made it SF material.

And their cock up (sorry, too much Gordon Ramsay) was good in the sense that I broke 200 visitors in a day by posting it. And I discovered a few new screenwriting resources because message boards linked to me and sent traffic my way. DoneDeal and Zoetrope, if anyone is curious. I’ve never been much a part of the online screenwriting community because I know so many writers in the flesh, but it could be a cool avenue.

And if I haven’t said it before, Greg Beal is a class act — he’s everywhere online apologizing, explaining, and taking people’s thoughts into consideration. I’m really impressed with him. Now, if he could get some different people working the phones…

Nicholl: Another Apology for the False Congrats

Hi Ashley,

As many of you already are well aware, we sent two e-mails to you this morning. The first was a regret e-mail telling you that you did not advance to the Nicholl finals. Sadly, that was the correct e-mail.

We’re not sure why our e-mail data base system decided to add your group of semifinalists to the group of ten finalists to whom we were sending the congratulations again e-mail. We can only apologize for the error and ask your forgiveness for the confusion.

All of the Nicholl finalists received phone calls yesterday alerting them of their status. If you only received an e-mail from us, that means that you did not advance to the Nicholl finals.

After the Nicholl finalist press release is distributed early next week, we’ll begin distributing the contact lists for Nicholl quarterfinalists and semifinalists. Those will be sent to agents, managers, producers and executives who request them. We hold off on distributing the finalist list for another week or so, which means that those folks only have your information and not that of the finalists during this period. Typically, a number of phone calls or e-mails will be received by the Nicholl semifinalists.

Best of luck with your writing. Again, we apologize heartily for the confusion engendered by the congratulatory e-mail.

Best wishes,

Greg Beal
Director
Nicholl Fellowships in Screenwriting

Nicholl: The Email I Received In Error

Hi Ashley,

Congratulations again on reaching the Nicholl finals.

IAll of you have now been contacted, and regret letter e-mails have been sent to the semifinalists. Sorry that went a little slower than I had hoped.

So you are free to tell anyone and everyone about your Nicholl finalist status.

The Academy Press Release announcing the finalists will probably be distributed on Monday.

I’ll follow up later today with the informational e-mail concerning your letter to the committee, the Nicholl Awards Week schedule, travel (for those of you from out of town) and other incidentals.

When you receive this e-mail, could you please hit reply as soon as possible, just letting us know that it reached you.

If you have any immediate questions (beyond what will be in the next informational e-mail), you can e-mail me directly at gbeal@oscars.org or you can call us at 310-247-3010.

Thanks.

Best,

Greg


I was confused, sent an email and when that didn’t get a speedy reply, I called the number. I was expecting the conversation to go something like “Hi, I’m Ashley Miller, I received an email saying I didn’t make it and one saying congratulations.” “Oh my God, we are so sorry. That was an accident, I know how horrible it is to have your hopes raised. Forgive us! Good luck next year, you did really well, you should be proud.” That’s not how it went.

“Hello, this is Ashley Miller.”
“Oh. You received that e-mail in error. Sorry to get your hopes up.”
*click*

I think the phone call was worse than the not getting it and the false hopes combined. I try not to judge because otherwise everyone has been super nice and professional, but that was quite the brutal dismissal.


Our apologies. A very unfortunate glitch in our database resulted in
the unintentional emailing of the second email to a larger group. You
original regret letter is the correct one, sorry that you are not a
Nicholl finalist.

We are recalling the congratulatory email.

-Nicholl Fellowships

I can pretend this meant it was really close.

Nicholl: Not a Finalist

Dear Ashley,

With the judging complete, sadly, I must report some bad news: Bible Con did not advance into the Final Round of the 2009 Nicholl Fellowships in Screenwriting competition.

Having read a number of the semifinal scripts, I know that some outstanding work has not progressed. Throughout this industry, at studios, production companies and agencies, such judgments are subjective. The fact that Bible Con was one of 114 scripts selected from 6,380 entries may bode well for its future.

In January, we’ll send you a link to an application for the 2010 Nicholl competition, which will include a list of this year’s Fellowship winners. Within the next several months, we’ll post the lists of Quarterfinalists, Semifinalists, Finalists and Fellows on the Nicholl page — www.oscars.org/nicholl — at the Academy’s Web site.

For the contact list to be forwarded to agents, development executives, managers and producers who request it, we shall use the contact information you have given us. Check the information below to make certain that it is as you want it. If this information is incorrect, please change it as soon as possible via your online account, or let us know immediately via e-mail to nicholl@oscars.org or fax to 310-247-3794. Over 200 copies of the contact lists were distributed last year. Lists will be distributed in early October.

If past experience means anything, several 2009 Nicholl Semifinalists will become professional screenwriters in the near future. Best of luck in all your future endeavors.

Sincerely,

Greg Beal
Director

Setting self up for Disappointment: Nicholl

When Finalists were announced:
October 13, 2008
October 6, 2006
October 21, 2005
October 15, 2004

They said early October, but most of those look mid-October. Eek. Can’t find any more dates than those 4.

Q: What are the prizes?

A: Up to five $30,000 fellowships are awarded to new screenwriters each year. From 1986 through 2008, 108 fellowships totaling $2,775,000 have been awarded.

Q: Some people say all competitions are a scam of one sort or another, considering all the money they take in from entry fees.

A: In recent years, the Nicholl Fellowships program has received between $150,000 and $170,000 in entry fees. In a typical fellowship year, it distributes $150,000 to the fellows. Considering administrative and other costs, it’s clear that the program is not remotely close to being a moneymaking operation.

Busy Weekend; Bad day for a Migraine

Friday was crazy. I got asked to write a pilot by a web producer, to write a polished first act of a feature for a manager, to edit a short, to add something to a reel, and that it’s possible that I will be promoted to Assistant Editor in January and that I will be responsible for the deliverables for the show I’m working on starting Monday. These are all good things, but suddenly my off days are very full.

I feel terrible today. I have the worst headache I’ve had in years. I missed my morning call about the trial drug I’m taking, I’m really hoping this doesn’t cost me being able to be in the trial. But seriously, my headache was so bad my eyes were watering. I took some Advil. And then I irrigated my nose. And then I took a decongestant. And then I found a bottle of Vicodin I had from a previous injury.

This stuff is magic. I still have a little bit of a headache, but I am functioning again. Albeit at a reduced capacity for coordination and thought, but still. I should say that I’m already prone to being totally dizzy and having zero coordination. Which is to say, on Vicodin, I am kind of hilarious. I’m like a tight-rope walker trying to balance who is also very talkative.

Yesterday, I met with the director of the short and got the footage. It’s a romantic comedy, the lighting looks good and there are some good performance moments in what I’ve seen. It’s 4 hours of footage to subclip and log and it took me 12 hours just to get the back up done. But, I’m hoping F will be able to take a little bit of the subclipping work off my plate. Like a subcontractor ha. I also met with the actress, showed her my rough idea for her reel and got another project from her. She seems happy, so that’s good.

I also got 12 pages of the first act for Dyke for a Day written, so I’m excited about that as well. I’m trying to finish it this week. Luckily I write fast when under pressure, so hopefully banging this and the short web pilot out won’t be too difficult. I’m just so Zombified from the headache and the vicodin that I’m not sure I’m useful.

I’ve been watching a lot of Hell’s Kitchen and Flipping Out. I must just love angry people because Jeff Lewis and Gordon Ramsey seem so adorable to me. I want little teddy bear versions of them to have walking around and yelling all the time.

I’m very concerned, having not heard from the producer, that Gold is not going to be happening this fall. I was really looking forward to being the Post Supervisor for that, but maybe there’s enough on my plate already. I’ll probably hear about the Nicholl this week.

It’s so damn hot in my apartment. I’m tempted to use my new cubicle space as my writing home. Maybe there’d be less distractions there.

Tomorrow: Doctor’s Appt at 8 AM, Starting story assistant job at 9 AM (probably will be late), and all that other stuff on my plate.

Lots of Twitter Visitors

Where are they coming from?  I obsess over the stats on this blog way too much.  Probably human nature.

In other news, I went to the best restaurant, Panda Inn in Pasadena.  Yum.

Go Into the Story’s Scott Myers answers a question I asked about how to turn a contest placement into an agent.

A real person read my script

We’ll call these people S and T. S is a manager/producer type, T is S’s assistant. F, my creative partner, has a connection with S, in that she really loved Prombies!, the short he and I made that was about erections turning boys into zombies, and she has been in touch with him a couple times about his interest in directing some fairly middling (read:bad) zombie comedies.

Anyway, F was kind enough, with some heavy pressure from myself, to suggest that they read my script when I found out it was a quarter-finalist at Nicholl. Well, I immediately got a “Please send it” but, as the months passed, although I was diligent with follow up, I figured it would never get read.

And then it got read, and he likes it. And he wants to see all my writing. The only problem is that the only polished thing I have other than the feature, is a Television Spec for Mad Men. It’s not a bad spec, but it’s also not much use for people who produce features. Luckily, I have the first act of another screenplay, Dyke for a Day, written, but in severe need of polishing. He wants to see it ASAP, so I’m going to spend the weekend writing.

I’ve also been in contact with a few people from Craigslist about editing or working on some different projects. One is a short, the other is a feature documentary that appears to be about Gay Jews.  <3

I have a pitch with a web producer as well.  I’m going to go make that phone call now.  Fingers crossed!

Things in Theatres I want to see: The September Issue, Fame, Paranormal Activity, Jennifer’s Body, Capitalism: A Love Story, Coco Before Chanel, Bright Star, Whip It, Anti-Christ, The Men Who Stare at Goats

Inktip Update; Logline published in Newsletter

I just received an e-mail from Inktip that impressed me quite a bit, mostly because I’m always surprised that there are people making sure the website is running the way it should.

Subject: Regarding ‘Bible Con’

Dear Ashley,

Your script was chosen to be published in yesterday’s industry newsletter, along with six other loglines. This is a newsletter received by thousands of our entertainment pro clients and is designed to garner more exposure for our writers.

In any case, though we do not judge our writers’ materials, I did notice that you placed your award mention at the bottom of your logline. I thought it might be beneficial for me to tell you that when those are posted higher (at the top of the logline), they can tend to do better. In other words, what’s at the very top of your logline will get read the most, because it requires less reading and no scrolling–currently, your great achievment [sic] is hiding below the scroll.

I hope that you got some hits from yesterday’s newsletter, and please let me know if you have any other questions or thoughts.

Best,
Gato Scatena

Take it as a lesson, people, impressive awards first, actually content second!  :)

EDIT: In response to my thank you e-mail I got this.

Hi Ashley,

No worries for the tip. One other thing I see work: keep a close eye on the successes every week to see what kind of materials are currently getting picked up. It’s never a bad idea to modify or shape your logline to accomidate [sic] current successful trends–the ultimate goal with the logline is more about getting them to read your script than it is convincing them to buy the script without reading.

Have a good day and let me know if you have any questions.

I <3 this person.