Universal Pictures announced Wednesday the five writers who have been selected to participate in the studio’s inaugural Universal Pictures Emerging Writers Fellowship, which is aimed at identifying and cultivating emerging voices in storytelling and screenwriting .
Universal’s co-presidents of production Peter Cramer and Jeffrey Kirschenbaum, who will oversee the participants, announced that the 2014-2015 fellows are Chandus T. Jackson, Margaret Rose Lester, Steve Martinez, Ivy Pruss and Saila Reyes.
The application process included multiple writing submissions and interviews with the official selection committee. More than 700 hopefuls applied. After reading the first 500 eligible scripts, the selection committee narrowed the field to 13 finalists who met in Los Angeles for interviews and meetings before the top five were chosen.
“We had an incredible group of people who applied for this fellowship, and the choice was extremely tough,” Cramer said in a statement. “The five people our committee selected are tremendously talented, and we are looking forward to working with them as they embark on the next phase of their careers.”
“The Emerging Writers Fellowship is designed to provide the fellows with the greatest possible exposure to our industry, but it’s also a great opportunity for Universal,” Kirschenbaum added. “The five fellows have very different backgrounds, giving our team the chance to benefit from their fresh perspectives on some of the projects we currently have in development.”
The paid fellowship begins this week and will continue for a year. The fellows will be part of the daily production engine, work on specific writing assignments and participate in activities organized by program manager Heather Morris Washington.
Several notable names in the biz have signed on as mentors and guest speakers, including producer Will Packer (“Ride Along”), writer-producer Chris Morgan of the “Fast and Furious” franchise, writer-producer Jeremy Garelick (“The Break-Up”), writer-producer Cheo Hodari Coker (“Notorious”) and writer-producer Suzanne de Passe of de Passe Jones Entertainment.
The fellowship was championed by Universal’s exec VP of production Scott Bernstein and developed in collaboration with senior VP and CFO of film production Arturo Barquet.