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Disney/ABC Writing Fellowship

May 18th, 2009 · 5 Comments · Film Festival Chronicles

By Duane Gross

Rating: ★★★★★

My experience as a finalist in the 2008 Disney/ABC Writing Fellowship (Feature Screenplay Division) was very positive, very productive, mainly due to two factors: the executives in charge of the fellowship and the camaraderie that was developed between the 22 candidates.

The Talent Development & Diversity Staff were very professional and friendly. A cocktail reception was scheduled for the finalists as a meet and greet the night before the individual interviews. The TD&D staff mixed in and mingled with the potential fellowship recipients to get a good idea of who was getting involved and displaying their winning charm and personality, and who was standing on the sidelines being the room’s added wallflowers. The fellowship candidates came from all parts of the country… New York, Washington D.C., Michigan, Texas and of course California. And every writer had a different story to tell of their struggles to climb up the ladder of success.

The interview process was a bit intimidating, consisting of a panel interview with as many as seven to ten panelists. I won’t go into detail on the questions that were asked, but as long as a candidate is on top of their game… they’ll have no worries in answering them to the best of their ability.

Although, I didn’t win a covenant spot as one of the final four fellows, I experienced one of the best times in my life as a writer. I know that my writing skills have improved in leaps and bounds because of it. And best of all, I built a number of great friendships with the other candidates of whom I still speak and correspond with today.

Duane is an aspiring screenwriter living in Michigan.  Find him at!

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5 Comments so far ↓

  • admin

    Thanks Duane!

    We know you’ve been involved in a number of competitions – we look forward to reading your experience with the others as well.

    Screenplay Explorer

  • Larry


    Congrats on making it as far as you did. No easy accomplishment, I’m sure. I entered and didn’t even get a notification that I didn’t make it and all my inquiries went unanswered. A few sour grapes lingering I suppose. I was curious though, what show did you spec? I wrote a 4th of July themed episode of Brothers & Sisters entitled “Let Them Have Fireworks.” I still haven’t seen an episode as good as I wrote, but whatever.

    Thanks for sharing your story!

  • Duane Gross

    Hi Larry,

    Sorry for the delay in the response. Thanks for the congrats! It’s strange that you never received a notification regarding anything. For the last three years that I’ve entered (other than the year I made the finals) I at least received a letter thanking me for my submission, but I did not proceed onto the next round. I’m sure your script of “Brothers & Sisters” was fantastic. After watching a number of television shows and films, it makes me wonder who is actually greenlighting these projects. As for me, the year I made it to the finals was actually in the “Feature Film Fellowship”, not in the televison competition. My submission was a feature script entitled “Senior Trip”. I see that the Feature Film Fellowship through Disney has been suspended indefinitely. I guess they are downsizing fellows due to the economy. Hopefull it will return somewhere down the road.

    Keep on writing Larry! It’s a long and drawn out process, but it could prove to be rewarding in your future.

    All the best,

  • Jason

    Thanks for sharing the Disney Writing Fellowship finalist experience. I know what to look forward to, especially if I can make it as a finalist. A writer must always make sacrifices, but in the end, everything works out like the resolution to a screenplay. Good luck on your writing.

    Happy Writing,


  • Jason


    What do you think of a spec on “In Treatment”? I have written academic and professional papers for a number of client in the past few years – after graduating UCSB Film & Media Studies BA program. I have been wanting to enter the Disney Fellowship, but spend too much time trying to win one of the Co Write weekly entries. I also sent a feature to the Sam Gold writing contest. I noticed what Larry said about who is judging screenplays. I feel the same way. Just keep writing and don’t give up. I remembered when I disliked academic writing a few years back – only enjoyed on scripts and creative writing samples. 2 years later, I helped hundreds of students ranging from junior high school to post graduate school make it through their studies. In addition, I also wrote for a pilot that wanted to attract another airline company, a manager looking to rise as an executive using leadership, a student that wanted to enter film school, and many other. There is a reason for every project. Some lost their homes, lack confidence, struggle with the work, and have families. Now I know how to conduct strong research, which can help to write great screenplays. We, as prospective film writers, have experience and have the drive to make it in the industry. I have lived 20 miles of Hollywood for the past 4 years. For the past 15 years, I wanted to make it into the film industry. Through going into the military, earning 4 degrees, and gaining valuable life experiences, and enduring major hardship, I still haven’t changed my mind. Every bad experience and struggle that I experienced is due to my goal of becoming a film writer. Everyone should continue to strive for success. Remember; you can’t impress every executive or person. Sometimes it seems as if they cherry pick scripts. I’ve heard of script readers passing up on great screenplays. Your life struggles define your dreams. Continue to write. Don’t give up. Don’t let the Disney Fellowship make you think anything less of your talents. One day, you will be in the right place at the right time. I was in the right spot once, but wasn’t prepared – didn’t have my business cards. Always be prepared.

    Best of luck writing,