Pen Pals, it’s screenwriting fellowship season! But what exactly is a fellowship and how can you best prepare for the application process? In this article, we're answering all of your screenwriting fellowship questions with an exclusive interview with TPP Lead Story Expert, PAGES.
WHAT IS A SCREENWRITING FELLOWSHIP?
Screenwriting fellowships are a great way to break into the industry. Fellowships vary in offerings, but essentially they are best suited for intermediate-level writers to steer them toward a successful screenwriting career, and therefore do not teach the basics of cinematic storytelling. Many of these programs are also big on diversity, whether that be age, race, gender, or sexuality. There’s something for everyone.
It is important to do your research on which fellowship program is best for you in the next phase of your writing journey. Consider what your end goal is when applying for a fellowship so that you can make the best use of your time. For example, it wouldn’t be the most helpful to apply to a fellowship for comedy writers if you know you want to work on hour-long dramas. Or you if you're looking for a fellowship that sets you up with an agent or offers TV staffing, you can save your application fee by not applying to fellowships that don't offer those benefits.
Still have more questions about fellowships and whether this path is right for you? Let’s hear from PAGES, our Lead Story Expert here at TPP and alum to several fellowship programs.
ALL ABOUT FELLOWSHIPS WITH PAGES
I’m so excited to get started! Not only are you the Lead Story Expert at The Professional Pen, you have also been a part of several fellowships! Run your resume for us.
Most recently I was a fellow in the Circle of Confusion Writer Discovery Fellowship. I also took part in the TRIBE Fellowship with SuperSpecial which was run by Amy Aniobi. Prior to that, I was a part of the DISRUPTORS Artist Fellowship and the Griots Well by Writerz & Scribez Fellowship, and my very first fellowship was the Callalloo Writers Fellowship in 2017.
Wow! Busy, busy! Okay, so let’s get down to it. When does a writer know that they are ready to apply for a fellowship?
A writer knows when they are ready to apply to a fellowship when they have both the work, the time and the capacity to take their filmmaking career to the next level. Don't waste your time applying for a fellowship if you aren't going to truly engage and participate fully and be ready to develop your work.
Just to clarify, when you say material (an industry term) you mean your samples (or screenplays/excerpts that you are sending) are strong and people will notice. You mentioned fellowships also take time and commitment. Can you give some examples of the dedication it took to participate in your fellowship programs?
I had to show up with material and learn how to take & give notes/critiques while also gaining soft skills to be able to participate in the industry in a more efficient and impactful way.Be prepared to commit to a fellowship for around 4-6 months. Some fellowships are for an entire year.
So tell me, how does a writer know if a fellowship is right for them?
A fellowship is right for you if it bolsters your writing/filmmaking journey by offering time and space to elevate your craft, learn something new, or put you in a position with experts in your respective field that can offer resources/guidance. Also, think about if it speaks to your personal ethos and is specific to an experience or cultural upbringing unique to you, and if you have the material for it/a strong work sample.
Okay so by experts, you mean executives, showrunners, and current staff writers. That’s great. Fellowships have so much to offer. I love that you touch on personal ethos. There are so many programs that are specifically for people with a shared yet underrepresented experience, and we definitely need more of that in the film/television landscape. Okay, so my last question is how can writers best prepare for their fellowship applications?
Writers can best prepare for their fellowship applications by doing their research and not waiting until the last minute to prepare. As I referenced earlier, in doing research, you will find out if the fellowship is a right fit for your current writing journey and your future career goals. If you create a plan to apply to fellowships ahead of time, you then have time to have someone else review your application you are planning to submit.
This matters because the READ IS KING! What I mean by this is, at the end of the day, your writing sample and logline need to be strong. Do several passes on it with people you trust to make sure your story is clear and you're hitting your major beats like the inciting incident. Most fellowships only read the first few pages of your work sample before deciding to move on to the next applicant.You want to entice the reader to want to learn more. Not only about your screenplay, but about you as a person. Always remember to be yourself in the entirety of the process.
Lastly, don’t be afraid to ask for support! If you are accepted into the actual fellowship and you feel that you are not supported or that you are not getting what you expected out of the fellowship, do not be afraid to voice your concerns. Let go and let God - don't obsess. Whether you get in or not, you did a thing. You should be proud of that. If nothing else, you've now built yourself a small portfolio that you can tailor to new applications. YOU’VE GOT THIS!
GET PREPARED WITH TPP
Preparing for fellowships can be a daunting process, but is a very important step in the next phase of your career as a professional screenwriter. And of course, TPP is always here to help. Check out our Development Notes service to get personalized feedback from one of our Story Experts and take your screenplay to the next level!