BEVERLY HILLS, Calif. — Five emerging screenwriters are experiencing a breakthrough of a lifetime earning praise from the film academy for their work.
The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences recognized each screenwriter at the Nicholl Fellowships in Screenwriting on Thursday night. The three individuals along with a husband-and-wife writing duo received $35,000 and had their work read live by actors Jamie Chung, Lily Collins, Ken Jeong and Blair Underwood.
The event was held at the academy's headquarters in Beverly Hills, California.
Four screenplays selected include: Allison and Nicolas Buckmelter, "American Refugee"; Joey Clarke, Jr., "Miles"; Grace Sherman, "Numbers and Words"; and Wenonah Wilms, "Horsehead Girls."
All those countless hours writing movie scripts, cranking out rough drafts and reading screenwriting tutorials to perfect their craft have paid off for them.
"You sit at a Starbucks hoping that maybe someday you'll get the recognition and someone will read your work," said Allison Buckmelter, who had been writing with her husband for more than a decade. "When we found out, we were excited. This is very validating."
Her husband, Nicolas Buckmelter, offered a tip to other aspiring screenwriters: "Just keep writing. Put something on paper, even if it's bad. Nobody is going to read a blank page."
Winners will receive guidance from academy members as they complete a feature-length screenplay during their fellowship year. The winning screenplays were chosen from nearly 6,900 submissions.
Since 1986, the competition has awarded hundreds of fellowships, aiming to identify and encourage talented new screenwriters.
Past fellows have included writer-director Allison Anders, Pulitzer-winning novelist Jeff Eugenides and Oscar winner Susannah Grant ("Erin Brockovich"). The films "Finding Forrester" and "Transformers: Age of Extinction" were also written by past Nicholl fellows.
Actor Lily Collins is starring in the upcoming Ted Bundy biopic "Extremely Wicked, Shockingly Evil and Vile." The film's original script, written by Michael Werwie, won a Nicholl Fellowship prize in 2012.
"We to get to bring life into these scenes," she said. "These writers get to see and get a little taste of what it feels like to hear actors read their work. So the idea of one getting off the ground and finally gets made is pretty cool."
Follow AP Entertainment Writer Jonathan Landrum Jr. on Twitter: http://twitter.com/MrLandrum31