Universal has selected participants for the studio’s 2020 Writers Program, a paid initiative that spotlights up-and-coming scribes.
Universal’s Global Talent Development and Inclusion, the division that runs the program, said 1,500 people applied, making it the biggest applicant pool since the program started six years ago. Jennifer Coates, Angela Delgado, Satinder Kaur and Larry Santana were selected, and 2019 program alumni Nandita Seshadri and Derek Asaff are extending their time with the program to continue developing concepts.
The program is adding a new component this year, enlisting powerful industry figures to advise and mentor the class. Kasi Lemmons, Will Packer and Amy Pascal will join the 2020 cycle as program ambassadors. In their roles, they will work closely with the writers and help them increase industry exposure through workshops, master classes, curated film discussions and conversations with big names in the business.
“Storytelling from different world views is more powerful than ever right now and it is important we continue to amplify and empower these voices in these uncertain times we are facing,” said Janine Jones-Clark, Universal’s head of inclusion – talent and content. “On behalf of everyone at Universal, we are thrilled to welcome this new group of talented writers, each with a compelling background and distinct narratives, to the Program. We are thankful to have Kasi, Will and Amy on board as active partners in breaking down barriers for underrepresented voices, and there’s no doubt our writers will greatly benefit from these successful filmmakers’ industry knowledge and passion for authentic storytelling.”
The one-year program, sanctioned by the Writers Guild of America West, provides professional development to rising talent. The initiative includes workshops, seminars, sponsorships and gives the participants opportunities to develop scripts under the guidance of executives at Universal Pictures and Focus Features.
Key advisors in the selection process included Universal Filmed Entertainment Group chairman Donna Langley, Universal Pictures President Peter Cramer, Jordan Peele’s Monkeypaw Productions, Blumhouse, Marc Platt Productions, Will Packer Productions, among others.
Alumni of the program have gone on to write and direct major projects across film, cable and broadcast. Juel Taylor, who co-wrote “Creed II,” recently made his episodic directorial debut on BET’s “Boomerang,” and is currently developing a project with Universal and Lebron James’ production company, Springhill Entertainment. Other recent graduates include Sarah Cho, a staff writer on the upcoming show “The Girl from Plainville” and Leon Hendrix, a writer on the CW’s “Two Sentence Horror Stories.”