Universal Writers Program
The Universal Writers Program identifies experienced and up-and-coming screenwriters with unique points of view that build upon the Studio’s commitment to telling stories and creating films that reflect the vast diversity of our audiences. The Program inclusively develops storytellers with the intent to incorporate multicultural and global perspectives in screenwriting. The only feature film program sanctioned by the Writers Guild of America West (WGAW), the Program seeks writers who tonally match the Universal Pictures and Focus Features slates.
The primary goal for the one-year paid program is for writers to create material for development consideration; however, concept development is not guaranteed. From pitch to final draft, writers will be afforded creative guidance from executives, producers and designated creative consultants. In addition to penning two (2) feature-length scripts, writers will participate in a curriculum designed to strengthen their creative approach, personal presentation skills and overall knowledge of the Studio production process from pitch to premiere. The Program also provides access to agents, managers and various industry professionals through meetings and/or events designed to facilitate relationships that can prove invaluable in developing a screenwriting career.
Writers selected to participate in the Program are hired under a writing service agreement requiring a full-time commitment of a minimum of 40 hours per week. Additionally, should a writer’s material be identified as potential development content, UFEG has the option to extend the writer’s contract for a term of up to one additional year.
Applicants must be able to legally work in the United States and be at least twenty-one (21) years of age by March 31, 2018. Entertainment industry experience is not required, but strongly recommended. We strongly encourage you review the FAQs carefully as they are designed to guide applicants towards a strong submission.
Those applying must submit a complete application package, which includes the following items:
- APPLICATION must be completed in its entirety. Incomplete applications will be disqualified.
ORIGINAL SCREENPLAY* capturing the writer’s unique voice and culturally inclusive perspective. Material should tonally match the Universal Pictures and Focus Features slates. The Universal Pictures slate consists of: Comedy (Pitch Perfect, Girls Trip, Ted); Drama (Straight Outta Compton, Steve Jobs); Franchise/Action (Fast and Furious, Jurassic World, Jason Bourne); Low-Budget Genre (Get Out, Split, The Purge); or Grounded Sci-Fi (Limitless, Lucy).
The Focus Features slate is made-up of entertaining stories from filmmakers around the world that convey the depth and breadth of the human experience while creating cultural conversations. Applicants should create content tonally similar to the specialty films the division releases (Brokeback Mountain, Loving, The Danish Girl, Victoria and Abdul).
Only the name of the screenplay and the WGA registration number should be on the title page of the script. Scripts should follow a three-act structure and not exceed 120 pages. Any scripts exceeding 120 pages will be disqualified. Scripts must be registered with the WGA prior to submission, and the applicant must be the sole owner of all original material submitted.
- ORIGINAL TREATMENT* for a project other than the submitted original screenplay. Submitted treatments must adhere to the following formatting guidelines: (1) Title (2) WGA Registration Number (3) Logline (4) Brief key character descriptions (5) Three-act structure (6) Must not exceed five/5 pages (7) 1.5-inch line spacing (8) 1-inch margins all around. Any treatments that deviate from this format will be disqualified. Your submitted treatment should tonally match the Universal Pictures or Focus Features slates and fall into one of the following story areas listed below:
Comedy - Drama - Franchise/Action - Low-Budget Genre - Grounded Sci-Fi
*Please note that your original screenplay and treatment must be wholly original. Adaptations, biopics and screenplays based on underlying materials are not eligible. (Please refer to the FAQs for more information.)
- RELEASE FORMS must be completed, signed, dated and uploaded in order for submissions to be accepted. Incomplete release forms will result in disqualification.
- RESUME outlining chronological salaried employment history (may include entertainment and non-entertainment positions) and any writing-related honors/awards. Positions must have been held within the past 15 years (two/2 pages or less). Only list compensated positions with the exception of entertainment industry internships and full-time volunteer work at non-profits. Your resume will provide us an understanding of your work history and insight to your individual life experience.
- PERSONAL ESSAY capturing the writer’s unique personal story in a way that articulates the writer’s perspective on multi-culturalism and inclusion. Stories may be based upon impactful life experiences such as a specific event, or a period of time and/or aspirations. We recommend personal essays to be in the form of a linear story with a clear beginning, middle and end and including emotional resonance (e.g., funny, dramatic, etc.). Must not exceed 750 words. Please refer to the application instructions made available during the open submission period for the essay topic.
- LETTERS OF RECOMMENDATION (Optional) from entertainment industry professionals who have read the applicant’s material and can comment on the applicant’s writing ability are strongly encouraged, but not required. Acceptable letters must be on business or personal letterhead, dated in the current calendar year and include the author’s title and/or industry affiliation. No more than two (2) letters per application will be accepted. Letters must accompany the submission and may not be submitted separately.
- U.S. Citizen or Permanent Resident with unrestricted authorization to accept employment in the United States.
- Minimum age of 21.
- Writers must be the sole owner of any material submitted, which must be wholly original. Adaptations, biopics and screenplays based on underlying materials are not eligible. Material from writing teams will not be accepted.
Any candidate who does not meet the aforementioned criteria will be disqualified.
Applications will be accepted September 11, 2017 - November 6, 2017. Applications will not be accepted prior to 12:00 a.m. PST on September 11, 2017 or after 11:59 p.m. PST on November 6, 2017.
Due to the volume of submissions received, those not accepted will not be notified. Please check our social media pages (Facebook and Twitter) for updates. Typically, finalists are contacted in January and selections are announced in March with the Program commencing in April.