Top TV Diversity Writing Programs and Fellowships: Deadlines and Info

All the fellowships except for FOX this year have closed but the year flies by so polish those specs, write that original, make those shorts, get that job in the industry and be ready for next year. Here are the important TV writing fellowships and their dates and descriptions. Remember: this is not the only way. Keep reading the bios of those whom you admire or caught a credit by in a TV show you’d want to write for. Then find out how they got there.

Also, keep in mind that as important as your specs are, what could make the difference between you and another applicant is a well-written essay. Each of these programs have different titles for a reason: they are structured differently and thus have different application reqs. Some have a double-spaced one page limit; some are 250-500 words with a separate bio and a statement of interest. ABC/Disney requires letters of recommendation. Some require notarized applications. Some are only snail mail, while others require materials on an USB or CD. If your spec is great, it could be your application that sets you apart from others. And, keep checking their website as their application submission period approaches. Some, like Disney/ABC, host open meetings where the executive-in-charge or someone from the program will discuss what they are looking for. It’s also a good opportunity to meet them.

You have a greater chance being abducted by aliens than getting a fellowship but statistics are there to keep reality in check, not your dreams.

1. NICKELODEON WRITING PROGRAM. Open: Jan. 2. Deadline: Feb. 28. Semi finalists notified end of Aug, finalists by beg of Sept, chosen by end of Sept. Program: salaried position; runs one year from October to October.  Reqs: One spec of an existing half hour comedy (does NOT have to be a kid’s show! Any comedic show on any network!)  This program has gotten the best feedback in terms of the community it provides. Winners have gone on to win Emmys. NOT just geared towards animation. Executive in charge: Karen Kirkland. The ABFF Script Review that I won has its application deadline May 25th.

2. CBS WRITERS MENTORING PROGRAM. Open: Feb 1st. Deadline: April 1st. Finalists notified via email in Sept. Program: as the title says, this is a six month mentoring program from late September to April. Participants meet weekly and are paired with two mentors: one senior writer on an existing CBS show and an executive. You meet industry and polish your specs.  Director of Program: Carole Kirschner

3.  DISNEY/ABC WRITING FELLOWSHIP.  Open: May 1st. Deadline: June 1st. Semi-finalists notified in Nov. Finalists in Dec.  Program: salaried position; runs one year  from January to January.  Reqs: One spec of an existing half hour or hour show.  This is a tough application.  At least for the 2012 application, you had to submit your bio, statement of interest, and 2 letters of recommendation from within the industry (!), notarized application on one CD and the spec on a separate CD. Executive in charge: Frank Bennett Gonzalez.

4.  WB WRITERS’ WORKSHOP. Open: May 1st. Deadline: June 1st. Finalists notified mid Sept. Program: not salaried; runs from October to March of the next year. Participants meet weekly to hear from guest speakers, attend seminars, and simulate a writers room. Those who perform well will be introduced to showrunners. This program has gotten the most positive feedback in terms o staffing. They have almost 100% staffing for their participants because they have many shows on which one can be staffed (networks include Fox, TNT, and The CW). VP, WB Writers Workshop: Christopher Mack.

5.  NBC WRITERS ON THE VERGE. Open: May 30th. Deadline: June 30th (3pm PST not 11:59pm!). Program: not  salaried; 12-week program runs from October to January. Meets twice per week to create a spec and meet with industry.  Executive-in-charge: Karen Horne.

6. FOX WRITERS RESIDENCY. This is different from the Fox Writer’s Intensive which is only open to experienced, previously staffed writers who are nominated by an approved organization. The Residency program has been completely overhauled so there is no new information on it at this time except that applications will be accepted beginning in the fall 2012. Keep you posted.

Other good opportunities:
The Austin Film Festival Teleplay Competition: Teleplay deadline is June 1st ($30 fee).  Festival is late October. Roundtable Industry read for Sitcom Pilot Winner. Top 10% of finalists get randomly selected for lunch with industry pros. Love this film festival. It’s a festival for writers. They have top-notch industry folks so your script will get read by all the right people.  Highly recommend.

Scriptapalooza TV Writing Competition: Two deadlines. NEXT ONE IS OCTOBER 15th! Awards in all categories: original pilot, 1 hour, 1/2 hour, and reality. Award is promotion by Scriptapalooza to industry contacts.

Slamdance TV Writing Competition: Yes they have one! Early Deadline: Feb 29-April 6. Regular Deadline: April 7-June 11. LATE DEADLINE: JUNE 12-JULY 23. And because they know writers so well, for the real slackers who may still be truly talented: WAB Extended Deadline: July 24-July 31. Winner gets $3,000. Money! Nothing like immediate gratification. Half hour, hour, and original pilots all accepted.

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