NBC’s Writers on the Verge, the network’s program to develop aspiring television writers from diverse backgrounds, has named eight writers to its class of 2017-18. This year’s crop includes comedy writers Nick Bouier, Octavia Bray, Eugene Garcia-Cross and Felicia Pride, and drama writers Celena Cipriaso, William Garroutte, Amy Lambert and Eileen Shim. They were selected from a pool of more than 2,600 applicants.
Founded in 2005, Writers on the Verge is an annual program for talented, aspiring writers of diverse backgrounds who are “on the verge” of breaking out, but need a final polish of their writing and pitch presentation skills to equip them for staff writer positions on television series
Over the course of 12 weeks, they’ll learn how to develop spec and pilot scripts and how to pitch their ideas in front of television executives, and receive feedback on their scripts and pitch styles from industry professionals, including network executives, showrunners and agents. The class will also receive individual mentoring from NBCUniversal programming executives. At the end of the program, which is now in its twelfth year, the writers will be considered for available writing assignments on NBC series.
Three graduates of last season’s program have gone on to find staff jobs on three primetime series this season: Mnelik Belilgne is writing on the new ABC comedy The Mayor; Melanie Boysaw is a writer on NBC’s comedy Trial & Error, and Rayna McClendon is staffed on the new USA Network series Damnation.
The program is guided by Karen Horne, senior vice president of Programming Talent Development & Inclusion at NBC Entertainment and Universal Television, and independent story and script consultant Jen Grisanti, a former CBS/Paramount and Spelling Television executive.
“It’s more important than ever that we empower writers of diverse backgrounds to bring fresh stories to television,” Horne said. “This is one of the reasons I’m excited to prepare our new class of eight talented writers for the next step in their careers. I’m also proud that three of our writers from last year’s class were staffed on such anticipated new series. Their success is further proof that Writers on the Verge discovers and prepares the next generation of great writers, showrunners and executive producers.”
The 2017-18 Writers of the Verge represent a variety of backgrounds:
Nick Bouier is an AFI alumnus and a student performer at Groundlings and Second City Hollywood. He was selected for Film Independent’s signature diversity program Project Involve, where he directed the short film Counter, which screened at the Sedona, Pan African, Newport Beach and Cleveland International film festivals. He was one of fifteen directors previously selected for the Sony Pictures Television Diverse Directors program in 2015, Recently, Bouier was invited to participate in NBC’s Late Night Writers Workshop and received the NBC/Groundlings Writing Lab scholarship. Bouier is represented by Don Buchwald and Associates.
Octavia Bray, who currently serves as the showrunner’s assistant on BoJack Horseman, is a graduate of the University of Pennsylvania, and received her Master of Fine Arts in writing and producing for television from Loyola Marymount University.
Celena Cipriaso has written for All My Children and worked as a script coordinator at The Arrangement on E! and as a writer’s assistant on Starz’s Teresa. Prior to her TV life, she was a pop culture and beer journalist writing for The Root, Draft, Bitch Magazine and CNN.com. She is also a playwright and spoken word poet who has performed across the country.
Eugene Garcia-Cross is currently the writers’ production assistant on the new CBS comedy Me, Myself & I, and recently worked on the ABC comedy Downward Dog. He began his career as a novelist and short story writer. He’s the author of the story collection Fires of Our Choosing and has taught creative writing at Penn State, Northwestern and The University of Chicago. Since transitioning to television writing, he has completed the National Hispanic Media Coalition TV Writers Program and served as a writer’s assistant to comedian Al Madrigal. He
William Garroutte says he taught himself to write for film and television in the WGA library, pulling scripts apart and learning how to put them back together again. He was selected to participate in the first LA Skinsfest Native American TV Writers Lab, and is an enrolled citizen of the Cherokee Nation.
Amy Lambert is currently a writer on the CBS unscripted series Lucky Dog and an editor on The Open Road with Dr. Chris. A graduate of the Colorado Film School, she has worked as a writer, editor and camera operator for unscripted television.
Felicia Pride started her writing career as an entertainment journalist and has since added author and screenwriter to her resume. She has written several books including the essay collection The Message: 100 Life Lessons from Hip-Hop’s Greatest Songs, a YA novel and was tapped by Simon & Schuster to pen two books based on the television show Everybody Hates Chris. As a filmmaker, Pride wrote and produced the short film The End Again, and was later selected as a Film Independent Screenwriting Fellow. She also headed the independent film division at Tugg, and previously ran an impact firm where she worked “Middle of Nowhere,” “Slavery by Another Name” and “Alice Walker: Beauty in Truth.” She holds an M.A. in writing from Emerson College.
Eileen Shim says she left behind a career in journalism because she was sick of writing about crime and murder, and moved to Los Angeles to pursue a career in writing about crime and murder. Her blend of horror and sci-fi/fantasy have won her the CAPE New Writers Fellowship, the Oriental DreamWorks Artist-in-Residence Fellowship, the AFI Writers’ Room Ready initiative, the AFI China Story Scholarship, and a nomination at the 2017 Student Emmys. She is represented by Intellectual Property Group.