I have mixed feelings about most screenwriting competitions. On the plus side, they’re an achievable win for beginning writers — but they don’t seem to have much impact on actually getting a career started.

The Nicholl Fellowship is an exception, with a strong track record and good follow-up. And it’s run by the Oscar folks themselves.

The deadline for this year’s competition is May 1, 2009.

From the press release:

The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences is now accepting entries for the 2009 Don and Gee Nicholl Fellowships in Screenwriting competition. As many as five $30,000 fellowships will be awarded through the program later this year.

Application forms may be downloaded from the Academy’s Web site and mailed with the other required materials, or they may be completed and submitted online. Rules and details are available at www.oscars.org/nicholl.

The Nicholl Fellowships competition is open to any individual who has not earned more than $5,000 from the sale or option of a screenplay or teleplay, or received a fellowship or prize of more than $5,000 that includes a “first look” clause, an option, or any other quid pro quo involving the writer’s work. To enter, writers must submit a completed application form, one copy of their original screenplay in English, and an entry fee of US$30. Entries must be postmarked or submitted online no later than May 1, 2009.

Fellowships are awarded with the understanding that the recipients will each complete a feature-length screenplay during the fellowship year. The Academy acquires no rights to the works of Nicholl fellows and does not involve itself commercially in any way with their completed scripts.

Last year’s competition drew more than 5,000 entries. Since the program’s inception in 1985, 108 fellowships have been awarded.