The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences honored five emerging screenwriters and late actor Anton Yelchin last night.
The Academy hosted its Nicholl Fellowships in Screenwriting Awards Presentation & Live Read on Thursday at the Samuel Goldwyn Theater in Beverly Hills. The Academy has awarded fellowships to a total of 147 recipients since 1986. In addition, each winner is granted a $35,000 prize, to be disbursed gradually in order to support and foster the needs of each recipient.
Though the pressure may be on for the fellows, the atmosphere was nothing but festive on Thursday night. Prior to the ceremony, the Academy hosted a reception for the evening’s honorees and actors in the theater’s lobby, complete with gourmet charcuterie and an open bar. Guests were seen mingling with the stars, with sliders in one hand and a cocktail in the other.
This year, actors John Cho, Cary Elwes, Aja Naomi King, and Alia Shawkat were selected to perform in the live reading of selected scenes from each screenplay. Shawkat, still in her 20s, was eager to participate in the live read and support budding talent in the industry.
“I think it’s more than important to nurture young talent — it’s what they thrive on,” stated the “Arrested Development” actress. “Without them, there would be no work for those established in the industry to make. New stories need to be told.”
The Academy also took the opportunity to dedicate this year’s ceremony to Anton Yelchin, who died tragically in June. Yelchin participated in the inaugural Nicholl Live Read in 2013, alongside Elle Fanning, Taraji P. Henson, and Jason Isaacs.
Elwes, who worked with the late actor in the upcoming film “We Don’t Belong Here,” said he’s participating in the live read in Yelchin’s honor.
“[I’m here for] Anton, mainly,” Elwes said. “I got to work on [“We Don’t Belong Here”] with him, one of his last, and I want to celebrate and honor him here tonight.”
The evening’s director, writer/director Rodrigo García, said Yelchin was always quick to lend a hand to others.
“Anton was the first actor to volunteer for [this project],” said García. “He knew very well what a screenplay contributes to a movie. He brought to the reading not only his talent, [but] his charisma and his warmth, his humor, and also his cooperative spirit.”
In 2016 alone, approximately 7,000 applicants submitted screenplays for consideration. At the conclusion of the fellowship year, those awarded are expected to complete a feature-film screenplay in its entirety. Fellowship alums include novelist Jeffrey Eugenides (1986), “Erin Brockovich” writer Susannah Grant (1992), and “Castle” creator Andrew W. Marlowe (1992).
This year’s recipients include:
Michele Atkins (Seattle) — “Taking About the Sky”
Spencer Harvey and Lloyd Harvey (Balgowlah, Australia) — “Photo Booth”
Geeta Malik (Los Angeles) — “Dinner With Friends”
Elizabeth Oyebode (Sunnyvale, Calif.) — “Tween the Ropes”
Justin Piasecki (Los Angeles) — “Death of an Ortolan”