Universal, the massive movie studio, announced today that they are instituting a new “Emerging Writers Fellowship.” As they describe it:
The Emerging Writers Fellowship is an exciting new program at Universal Pictures that is designed to identify and cultivate new and unique voices with a passion for storytelling. We are looking for talented screenwriters who have the potential to thrive, but don’t have access to or visibility within the industry.
Emerging writers who are chosen to participate in the program will work exclusively with the studio over the course of a year to hone their skills. During this program, fellows will be given the opportunity to work on current Universal projects as well as pitch original story ideas. Fellows will also attend workshops, receive mentoring, interact with top literary agents and sit in on Universal’s executive meetings. 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 has to be one of the smartest things Universal has every done. Yes, it’s a fantastic opportunity for new writers – the chance to cut through some of the Hollywood bureaucracy that can make it difficult for quality scripts to find buyers – but this is also about the shrewdest move Universal has made in a while. It’s not to say that there aren’t similar programs out there. Fox, for instance has it’s “Fox Writers Intensive” master classes – but these are for established writers. No, Universal’s new program perhaps bears closest resemblance to a Masters of Fine Arts university program, albeit one that’s only a year long and doesn’t finish with a terminal degree.
Essentially, Universal seems to be creating their own miniature Blacklist. They take the most successful scripts (and their writers) they can find and trade – it would seem, we’re still looking for confirmation on a few of the details – first look or ownership rights for a stipend and a detailed introduction into the who’s who of the studio system. Again, not trying to by cynical. It’s undeniably a great opportunity for writers. But it sure seems like Universal is making out like a bandit here.
Don’t be surprised if this is quickly copied by other studios. Fox has apparently already toyed with the idea (in addition to the Intensive). It will be extremely interesting to see what comes out of these programs, however. Universal’s promotional materials call for “unique voices,” but the application process also demands a “Comedy/Romantic Comedy or Action/Adventure/Thriller,” and one wonders how experimental studios typically looking to engage the broadest possible audiences are willing to run with.
Anyone interested in applying to Universal’s new fellowship should visit http://www.nbcunicareers.com/universal-pictures%E2%80%99-emerging-writers-fellowship. The application period begins midnight on September 3rd.