CBS said today that it has selected eight people to take part in its 2017-18 Writers Mentoring Program. In its 14th year, the program serves to provide mentorships, access and opportunity for aspiring scribes.
This year’s mentees are (from left in photo above): Ashley Charbonnet, Krystal Banzon, Jovan Robinson, Naomi Iwamoto, Shuo Zhang, Munis Rashid, Gil Hizon and April Shih. Read their mini-bios below.
The eight-month mentoring program pairs writers with an executive mentor who helps them develop a new piece of material. Following the mentorship period, the writers participate in a 16-week workshop designed to teach them everything about the television business as well as provide them access to agents, managers, executives, showrunners and producers.
“The access and opportunities that writers receive in this program are instrumental in creating game changers in this industry,” said Tiffany Smith-Anoa’i, EVP Entertainment Diversity, Inclusion and Communications at CBS Entertainment. “In its 14th year, we now have alumnae running shows and coming to us to help staff up their rooms. This program strives to lay the foundation for writers to not only staff but also develop their professional skills that prepare them to one day run their own show.”
Alums of CBS’ mentoring program include Sabrina Almeida (SEAL Team), Morgan Faust (Legends of Tomorrow), Michael Gemballa (S.W.A.T.), Howard Jordan Jr. (Superior Donuts), Hannah Park (Bull), Paula Sabbaga (Dynasty), Josh Troke (Code Black), Julie Wong (Grey’s Anatomy), Greta Heinemann (NCIS: New Orleans), Bo Yeon Kim and Erika Lippoldt (Star Trek: Discovery), Damir and Dario Konjicija (Young Sheldon), Gina Lucita Monreal (NCIS) and Aaron Rahsaan Thomas (S.W.A.T.).
Here are mini-biographies for the 2017-18 Writers Mentoring Program supplied by CBS:
Krystal Banzon, Drama Writer
Krystal Banzon was raised in Fontana, Calif., by Filipino immigrant parents. She received a BA from Smith College in women’s studies, a master’s degree in new media from NYU Tisch and a Fulbright fellowship to study theater in the Philippines.
Ashley Charbonnet, Drama Writer
Ashley Charbonnet is a screenwriter from the 9th ward of New Orleans whose family roots in the Crescent City date back to the early 1800s. She holds an MFA in film from Columbia University, and her work has received honors and inclusions in programs such as the Independent Filmmaker Project’s (IFP) Emerging Narrative Initiative and the SAG Indie Reading Series.
Gil Hizon, Comedy Writer
Gil Hizon was born and raised in the Philippines and earned BA degrees in theater and psychology from Fairfield University and TV writing/producing from Columbia College Chicago. Gil’s romantic comedy feature Finding James recently was optioned.
Naomi Iwamoto, Comedy Writer
Naomi Iwamoto grew up in Los Angeles and Tokyo. She holds an MFA in production from the USC School of Cinematic Arts and a BA from UCLA in political science and Asian American studies. She recently completed the Ryan Murphy Television Half Foundation’s directing mentorship program.
Munis Rashid, Drama Writer
Munis Rashid grew up in Sugar Land, Texas, and attended the University of Texas, Austin. He spent the summer of 2014 on a cross-country bicycle ride from Texas to Alaska to raise money for cancer research. Munis graduated from the American Film Institute with an MFA in screenwriting in 2016. He recently received the Grand Prize of the American Zoetrope Screenplay Contest and the Carol Mendelsohn College Drama Fellowship at the 2017 Humanitas Prize.
Jovan Robinson, Drama Writer
Jovan was raised in Milwaukee. He enlisted in the Marine Corps as a Korean linguist for military intelligence. After working alongside the NSA in a combat zone, Jovan went on to receive degrees in urban planning and film studies from UC Berkeley and a screenwriting MFA from USC’s School of Cinematic Arts.
April Shih, Comedy Writer
Born and raised in the South Bay area of Los Angeles, April Shih studied film at NYU Tisch School of the Arts and produced several films and plays, including the Ovation Award-winning revival of Kiss of the Spiderwoman: The Musical. April spent two years playing poker in Las Vegas before pursuing a degree in playwriting. April was recently selected into the 2017 Sundance Episodic Story Lab, as well as the inaugural Film Independent Episodic Lab.
Shuo Zhang, Drama Writer
Shuo Zhang was born in Beijing and grew up in the suburbs of Philadelphia. She earned a bachelor’s degree and a master’s degree from MIT. She has since worked as an actress and writer in New York and Los Angeles and is currently enrolled in the screenwriting MFA program at USC.