An Oscar Winning Rejection Letter

Earlier this year I entered my script, the quirky comedy, ‘Behind the Bar in Heaven’ into three competitions: the Nicholl Fellowship (run by the guys who run the Oscars), Scriptalooza, and the British Feature Screenplay Competition.

The good news is that I’m into the second round of the BFSC competition. I made the third round last year, third comes after second, and this effort is vastly better than last year so fingers still crossed there. The bad news is that this week I heard from both Scriptalooza and the Nicholls that I didn’t make their Quarterfinals (the last 300 or so).

However, the pain was lessened by this magnificent rejection letter sent out by Greg Beal, Director of the Nicholl Fellowships.

Take note: the same letter went out to around 6,000 other entrants, and not only is a masterpiece in letting people down gently, they manage to make it feel like it was just written for me.

July 20, 2010Dear Elaine,

If you have been following the comment lines posted on Facebook, you already know that many exceptional scripts were entered in this year’s Nicholl Fellowships competition. Now that scores have been tallied for all 6,304 entries, we have to inform too many writers of scripts featuring intriguing stories, engaging characters and strong craft that they have not advanced into the next round. Regrettably, Behind the Bar in Heaven was not one of the 326 entries selected as a Quarterfinalist in the 2010 Nicholl Fellowships in Screenwriting.

You should realize that while we strive to make the evaluation of screenplays as objective a process as possible, it is inherently both a personal and an extremely subjective matter. A lack of success here may not have any bearing on your reception in the marketplace where a sale is the ultimate measure of success. I’ll even venture a prediction: several non-advancing writers will become professional screenwriters in the near future.

To tell you a little about the process: each script was read once. After receiving an initial positive evaluation, nearly 2,900 scripts garnered a second read. Over 900 scripts were read a third time. Each read resulted in a numerical score being awarded. Scores for each entrant’s script were totaled, and the Quarterfinalists were selected on the basis of highest scores.

Early next year, we’ll send you a link to a 2011 application form, which will include a list of the recipients of the 2010 Fellowships. Results will be posted online at in November.

Best of luck with all your future endeavors.


Greg Beal
Nicholl Fellowships in Screenwriting