Most writers will tell you that they work best in solitude, usually in the mornings after a few cups of coffee. But there's some debate as to the true value of this "splendid isolation." Some writers prefer to work in the thick of things — in a city (see the exciting work being done in Detroit, for example), or while balancing their craft with a day job. It keeps things fresh. It keeps writers in tune with the humanity surrounding them. It's an age-old debate, really.
Regardless of one's preference for optimal working conditions, most screenwriters would have a hard time turning down a stint at the Nantucket Screenwriters Colony, an artists-residency and mentorship program that is certainly pleasant and somewhat isolated.
The colony, which was founded in 2001, offers four early-stage screenwriters the opportunity to live and work together at the "picturesque Almanac Farm, perched on the edge of Nantucket's cranberry conservation land." The colony recently received a $1 million grant from the Pacific Fund of the Atlantic Foundation, a percentage of which will be paid out annually to help the colony advance its mission by supporting new work in both film and television as well as provide residencies for artists.
So what's the Atlantic Foundation and why is it interested in screenwriting? We're glad you asked. The foundation was created by John Seward Johnson, a son of Robert Wood Johnson -- one of the founders of Johnson & Johnson. It's now run by his son, the artist J. Seward Johnson and had assets at the end of 2012 of just over $63 million, and gave out $4.7 million that year, mainly to arts and cultural organizations.
In turn, though, Seward Johnson's son, John, is a filmmaker and has his own small foundation, the Pacific Foundation. He's on the board of the colony, and his parents own and have long summered at Almanac Farm.
So to sum up: This is an old money story, and the screenwriters who enjoy the colony can thank a filmmaker who is the great-grandson of a legendary pharmaceutical titan.
And believe us when we say there is much to enjoy here. The residence is a screenwriter's dream come true. It provides participants with round-trip transportation, a chef, a shared car, bicycles, and private workspace. In fact, we'd venture to say that the colony is the preeminent program of its kind for aspiring screenwriters, and it's not just because of the perks. Two industry mentors visit the the colony on three weekends throughout the month, providing extensive one-on-one feedback sessions while socializing with screenwriters over dinner and island outings.
As the colony notes, these "Mentor Weekends" provide participants with the opportunity to connect and network with highly-respected writers, directors, producers, and executives in an intimate setting.
The program is very selective. Only four writers are chosen per year and the program runs through the month of October. And what, precisely, is the colony looking for in applicants? According to their site, they're interested in "distinct perspectives, strong on-the-page voices, and a proven commitment to their craft."
In most cases, applicants have had some experience in the industry, either through the festival circuit or previous paid work. All genres are welcome, although the colony is "much more excited by unique or problematic submissions than by polished or conventional work less likely to benefit from the Colony experience." Applicants simply need to submit a completed application form and include a completed screenplay draft.
Given the program's ambitious scope, relatively open application process, and stunning setting, is it any surprise they just scored a $1 million grant from the Atlantic Foundation? (That's a rhetorical question.)