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Finalists have been announced for the second annual television writing program from the ATX Television Festival and The Black ListVariety has learned.

The scribes will now move on to the second round of ATX’s Pitch Competition and will have the chance to pitch their ideas live at this year’s festival on June 8-11 in Austin, Texas.

The script competition program, which is designed to find TV writers for staffing consideration across networks, studios and production companies, was launched last year.

“We know that writers and showrunners are at the heart of smart, impactful, and entertaining television, which is why we support their work not only through the festival and year-round programming, but also with strategic partners like The Black List,” said Caitlin McFarland and Emily Gipson, co-founders and executive directors, ATX Television Festival. “Our goal is for writers to continue to benefit from our partnership with The Black List, along with our annual Pitch Competition — which has grown in scope each year and resulted in writers securing representation and having their scripts optioned — and we strive to provide invaluable tools and resources in navigating the ever-expanding TV industry.”

Black List founder Franklin Leonard added, “Great television and digital series start with great writing, and we’re excited to share these exciting new writers with the world alongside ATX Television Festival…Read them. Hire them. Develop shows with them.”

Leonard will serve as a judge for the competition, along with a large judges’ panel comprised of showrunners, producers, and network and studio executives: Kyle Killen, executive producer and creator of “Awake” and “Mind Games;” Glen Mazzara, EP and creator of “Damien;” CBS TV Studios SVP of drama development, Bryan Seabury; HBO veep of drama programming, Kathleen McCaffrey; Okay Goodnight’s Hannah KS Canter; Bad Robot’s Natalie Williams; Hazy Mills Productions’ Kameron Tarlow; Kilter Films’ Athena Wickham; Amblin TV’s Alex Maggioni; Carlton Cuse Productions’ Lindsey Springer; Hulu senior manager of content development Jessica Scott; and Sony Pictures Television manager of creative affairs, Ali Woodruff.

Here is the full list of finalists below:


After graduating from film school in 2010, Benjamin Van Allen moved from Tennessee to Los Angeles and has worked as a production assistant in television, feature films, music videos, commercials, and photo shoots. Most recently he was the writers’ assistant on Season 10 of The X-Files and is currently an assistant at Chris Carter’s Ten Thirteen Productions. As one Black List evaluator put it, “a truly clever and historically imaginative screenwriter”.


Maria Sten is a native of Denmark who moved to the US when she was 18 years old to pursue a career in Performing Arts. She has made a career as a professional dancer and model, and also holds the title of Miss Denmark 2008. Maria moved to LA to embark on a career in acting and has since expanded the role of storyteller to screenwriting and producing. She debuted her first short – which she wrote, directed, produced and starred in – at Uptown Short Film Festival and LA Shorts Fest 2016. Being of Danish/Swedish/Congolese ethnicity, Maria embraces her diversity and uses it to always seek a new perspective in the art of storytelling. With a passion for ‘stories that matter’; she wants to give voice to important social issues while promoting diversity in filmmaking, particularly for women in film and people of diverse ethnic backgrounds, on and behind the camera.


Rusteen Honardoost got his start writing comic books in the 8th grade, after a heart surgery meant he didn’t have to take gym class anymore. Then he realized he couldn’t draw anything more complicated than a lumpy cow fighting an army of evil turkeys (long story) and focused on just writing the words instead. He recently moved from San Francisco where he wrote and directed short films as a part of the Scary Cow Indie Film Co-op. He now lives in East Hollywood where he tweets, walks his dog, and occasionally writes comedy scripts about disabled girls, alien rock stars, and bears who are also police officers.


Nadria received her bachelor’s degrees in English and Psychology from Auburn University, followed by a master’s in Creative Writing from the University of Alabama at Birmingham. Her career started in print journalism but has led her to Hollywood, where she has landed her first gig as staff writer on season 2 of the WGN America drama UNDERGROUND.


Adman by day, drama writer by early morning and late night, Jeff Perreca escaped the frozen tundra of Motor City, Michigan for the snowless winters of Los Angeles. In 2010, Worldview Entertainment optioned Jeff’s comedic action script Innocent Weapon. His thriller, Death of an American President, was also a finalist in the Fresh Voices Screenplay Contest. He co-wrote the short film, Last Shot, which played in over 15 festivals across the country, including the Napa Valley and Beverly Hills Film Festivals. He’s also an award-winning Creative Director who’s spends his days working at Muse Communications in Culver City.


Marin Gazzaniga is a writer, producer and filmmaker who has created video and digital projects for top entertainment brands including HBO, IFC, Turner, AMC and Lionsgate and wrote, produced and acted in the independent film So Close based on her stage play. Her stage and film scripts have been finalists for numerous awards including the O’Neill Playwrights Conference, Heidemann, Ashland New Plays Festival and Austin Screenwriters. She has written for TV and online series and her original TV pilots have been honored by The Black List, the PAGE Awards, and The WriteHer List. As a journalist, she’s written for Fortune.com, MSN.com, Women & Hollywood, Vogue and others. She is the narrative features programmer for the Brooklyn Film Festival, 2016. BA in Comparative Lit: Columbia College; MA in creative writing, City College, CUNY; Certificate work in filmmaking, NYU. Member: Dramatist’s Guild, Writer’s Guild, SAG, Author’s Guild. maringazzaniga.com

Serena da Conceicao is a fashion designer & stylist who has been a ghost designer for Beyonce’s mom & Nicki Minaj. She is a fashion design professional with mad decent skills in sourcing & production. Also known to style clients, run wardrobe for film & tv, prop style retail boutiques, all-day shop to complete a client’s presentation & always provide lucrative design crits. All thanks to an infinite artistic curiosity and lust for life. Serenadaconceicao.com


Mark Blecha has written for the Denis Leary/Bob Fisher produced comedy “Sirens” on USA. A full-time production professional, he has served as a script coordinator on series for FOX, NETFLIX, CBS, E! and USA, as well as a Showrunner’s Assistant on scores of forgotten network pilots that deserved better fates. (Well, a couple of ’em anyway.) He has a graduate certificate in screenwriting from UCLA and BFA in Theatre from the University of Illinois. Originally from Chicago, he considers Aaron Rodgers to be Satan’s Ambassador on Earth and ketchup on a hot dog an act of treason. He currently resides in Laurel Canyon amid flowered environs that provide an idyllic atmosphere for writing and spending quality time with all of his regrets.


HUSTLE DAYS was created by Joe Johnson, who has written for both television and features and has a new film hitting theaters and VOD simultaneously on Friday, Feb. 10, 2017 titled DON’T HANG UP, starring Gregg Sulkin and Garrett Clayton. In addition, Joe has several projects in development with various producers and is attached to co-direct with Stephanie Johnson, a feature titled THE SHATTERED BOY, which is currently in the process of casting, with UTA packaging.


Stephen Sloot is a Toronto-based screenwriter and producer who works in both film and television. Currently he has a comedy project in development at the CBC and a feature film with Fox India.

Robert Flowers is an LA based screenwriter, currently developing an indie feature and comic book.


Elizabeth Stamp is a native West Virginian and current New Yorker. A graduate of Brown University, Elizabeth has also studied sketch and improv at the Upright Citizens Brigade and television writing at Columbia University. By day she is a journalist whose work has appeared in Architectural Digest, Elle Decor, and Condé Nast Traveler. She is a contributor to The Onion video department, The Neu Jorker, and Splitsider. She also writes and performs sketch comedy around the city.


Matt Jordan’s work has been seen at the Upright Citizen’s Brigade Theater, the People’s Improv Theatre, Caroline’s Comedy Club, and Stand Up NY as well as Off-Broadway at The Barrow Group Theater and the Abingdon Theatre Company. In 2014, his full-length play “A Negotiation” had a staged reading at the historic Players Club theater produced by The Drawing Board NYC. In July 2016, his pilot script “The First Man” was a Featured Script on The Black List website.


Celeste Parr is an Anglo-Québécoise screenwriter from Montreal, Canada. She earned her Masters Degree in English and Cultural Studies from McGill University. Her thesis screenplay, “Gurov and Anna,” was produced by Zone 3 Productions and earned Celeste a nomination for Best Screenplay at the 2016 Quebec Cinema Awards. She made her television debut story editing and writing for Season Two of the CSA-nominated drama, “This Life,” on CBC.


Michael’s pilots and screenplays have consistently placed in Hollywood’s most prominent screenwriting competitions including the Nicholl Fellowships, PAGE International Screenwriting Awards and BlueCat Screenplay Competition.  His TV pilots have been shopped by Brooklyn Weaver and David Binns of Energy Entertainment and Lapides Entertainment and he has several projects in development with a producing partner.  His projects have been well received by major studio and production companies such as Lionsgate, Principato & Young, Jim Wedaa Productions & others.  Michael received his screenwriting education through the UCLA Professional Program.  He is also a ProSeries Alumnist from Screenwriting U.


No bio at this time.


Raised in Liverpool, UK, Tony qualified as a lawyer and once ran his own business, yet he has not lost any of his working class roots and enjoys finding fun ways to smuggle his political wrath into his scribbles. He started his writing career in London, selling two feature films including his musical comedy, OUT OF STEP, currently in development with the British Film Institute. During this time, Tony also set up two sitcom projects, one of which was a legal satire based on his time at an elite corporate law firm, which he developed for the BBC. Tony recently moved to LA and is currently writing a female-driven action-comedy for Chernin Entertainment. His style is a blend of UK and US influences and he particularly enjoys fusing smart, thought-provoking satire with large, fun, commercial stories. When not writing, Tony can be found performing improvisational comedy around LA and has trained at both UCB Theatre and The Groundlings.