Winning a screenwriting fellowship from the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences — the folks who give out the Oscars — is a big dang deal. Winning a screenwriting fellowship in the midst of a Hollywood writers strike that has shut down work on scripts for television and movies for the past two months is more along the lines of a mixed blessing.
Nick Sherman, a 1996 Air Academy High School grad living in Los Angeles, said the fellowship is opening doors — even if he’ll have to wait for the strike to end before he can walk through them. “It literally changed everything overnight when the announcement came out,” Sherman said. As soon as Sherman, 29, and his writing partner, Andrew Shearer, were named as finalists for the academy’s Nicholl Fellowships, the phone started ringing. They got an agent and had studios interested in their scripts. “Just being a finalist is pretty much like you won,” Sherman said. “People are calling you, people are wanting to know what you’re all about. Winning the money is the cherry on top.” Having said that, the money — winners receive $30,000 — is nothing to sneeze at. Sherman said their winning script, called “Holy Irresistible,” was influenced by growing up in the Springs. The script is a romantic comedy about an atheist who falls in love with a devout Christian. “I’m always trying to draw on my experiences growing up in Colorado,” he said. “I feel like there are some really interesting stories and people that really haven’t appeared in movies at all yet. I’m always trying to come back and find my inspiration there.” Whether Sherman’s inspiration will ever turn into employment, however, depends on the outcome of the writers strike. “If it weren’t for the strike, we probably would have had a sale by now,” Sherman said of selling a script. The timing is unfortunate, said Greg Beal, Nicholl Fellowships Program Coordinator for the Academy, but winning the fellowship should be a calling card that won’t expire anytime soon. “It certainly is true that if somebody says, ‘I was a Nicholl Fellow last year and I have this new script, will you read it?’” Beal said, “it is going to be easier for them than for the average new writer.” Whenever the strike ends, Beal said, “Holy Irresistible” could draw interest from studios, given the recent success of offbeat comedies such as “Juno.” “It’s very funny, it is a romance,” Beal said. “People are always looking for comedy, so that works in their favor.” In the meantime, Sherman is finishing a documentary film called “Soundtracker,” which follows a man attempting to record nature without the noise of civilization creeping in. That film, too, was influenced by Sherman’s cognitive dissonance in moving from Colorado’s mountains to the cacophony of Los Angeles. “It’s kind of a pure form of filmmaking,” Sherman said of shooting documentaries. “You can just go out with a cinematographer and a good idea and start shooting.” CONTACT THE WRITER: 636-0275 or firstname.lastname@example.org