The WGA East and several New York City agencies have set the inaugural group of fellows for its Made in NY Writers Room initiative designed to help open doors for aspiring writers from diverse backgrounds.
After the program was unveiled last fall, the guild and the Mayor’s Office of Media and Entertainment (MOME) and other agencies were flooded with nearly 500 script submissions. All of those submissions received feedback notes from the WGA East member. Another 170 received a second round of notes. A total of 30 finalists were selected, and the 12 fellows were chosen from that pool.
The fellows comprise 11 individuals and one writing team. They will earn a $15,000 stipend for taking part in the six-month fellowship that will include mentoring sessions, networking and professional development opportunities. The program is part of a broader push by MOME to create more talent-nurturing activities to capitalize in the spike in production in the state.
“They’ll be coached on how to pitch a project, how to find an agent, how to talk to a producer,” MOME commissioner Julie Menin told Variety. “We are so thrilled that all 500 participants were able to get written feedback from professional writers. That’s invaluable.”
Menin said the response to the program was gratifying. The WGA East and city agencies spread the word through area film schools, numerous arts and community-based organizations including Ghetto Film School, Tribeca All-Access Program, NALIP and from recommendations via New York Women in Film and Television, the Alliance for Inclusion in the Arts, Asian CineVision, the Blackhouse Foundation, the Black Filmmakers Foundation and the Black List.
The fellows are: Madalyn Baldanzi, Kaitlin Fontana, Olen Holm, Sarah Kraus, Ian Olympio-Nyanin, Bryan Parker, Sofia Quintero, Joyce Sherri, Maegan Smith, Natasha Vaynblat & Zack Phillips, Albert Wang and Joyce Wu.
Mentors for the inaugural program are: Richard LaGravenese (“The Divide”), Brian Koppelman & David Levien (“Billions”), Anya Epstein (“In Treatment”), Beau Willimon (“House of Cards”), Robert Carlock (“Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt”), Michael Rauch (“Royal Pains”), Julie Rottenberg & Elisa Zuritsky (“Odd Mom Out”), Matt Williams (“Roseanne”), Lee Daniels (“Empire”), Jonathan Tropper (“Banshee”), Norman Steinberg (“Cosby”) and Julie Klausner (“Difficult People”).
“The Guild’s partnership with the City will increase opportunities for diverse New Yorkers to build careers, enhancing their reach in the industry and, we hope, their exposure to people who make decisions about what shows get produced,” said WGAE exec director Lowell Peterson. “We know that diverse writers in New York possess enormous talent, and this project will empower them to apply that talent and to create compelling television.”
The program’s goal is to allow the fellows to emerge with a pitch-ready script for a comedy or drama.
The fellows were introduced Thursday night at an event at the New School that featured staged readings of one comedy submission, “Filthy Liar” by Burgess,” and one drama, “Greater Heights,” by Olympio-Nyanin.