The WGA East today announced the second crop of fellows for its Made in NY Writers Room, a program that provides mentorship, industry access and financial support to underrepresented writers who live in New York City and seek to tell stories that are not often depicted on television. The program is a joint effort with the NYC Mayor’s Office of Media and Entertainment and the city’s Department of Small Business Services.
This year’s 10 fellows, who will each receive a $10,800 stipend, are playwright Harron Atkins, showrunner’s assistant Yasmine Cadet, writer’s production assistant Joseph Capuana, writer and storyboard artist Michael Lee, writer Catherine Loerke, comedy promo writer Vincent Lopez, comedian Jordan Mendoza, playwright and librettist Jerome Parker, children’s television writer Michael Rodrigue, and entertainment journalist Pilot Viruet. More than half of the inaugural group of fellows are actively working in the industry.
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“We are very pleased to continue this important work with the city to empower underrepresented writers to build successful careers in television,” said WGA East executive director Lowell Peterson. “The MINY Writers Room project offers the experience and commitment of WGA East members to talented New York writers and helps the City broaden and deepen the pool of storytellers ready and able to craft great shows here.”
Peterson developed the fellowship as part of guild’s efforts to make the television industry more inclusive, as well as to showcase New York as a thriving center of television writing. The guild also is lobbying the State of New York to create an incentive for the hiring of women and people of color as television writers and directors, as those roles have a strong impact on below the line hires. The guild also successfully lobbied for diversity incentives to be built into the New Jersey Film Tax Credit. A recent study by the WGA West found that during the 2017-2018 television staffing season, 36% of hires were women and 27% were people of color.
Each fellow will be mentored by an experienced showrunner and have access to educational and professional development programs. With the help of a mentor, each fellow will build a portfolio of at least two sample scripts. The program kicks off with a week of writing workshops, including sessions with Diana Son (13 Reasons Why), Jacob Krueger (The Matthew Shepard Story), and Alan Kingsberg (Law & Order: Criminal Intent).
This year’s mentors include Robert Carlock (Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt), Melissa James Gibson (House of Cards); Soo Hugh (The Terror); Tom Kelly (Blue Bloods), Frank Pugliese (House of Cards), Michael Rauch (Instinct), Tom Scharpling (What We Do in the Shadows), Brennan Shroff (The Detour), Matt Williams (Home Improvement) and Stu Zicherman (Sweetbitter).
“Under Mayor Bill de Blasio’s leadership, we’re opening doors to economic opportunity for all New Yorkers and building an economy inclusive of the vast diversity of our city,” said Gregg Bishop, Commissioner of the Department of Small Business Services. “Made in NY Writers Room is at the forefront of a citywide push to advance careers and it promotes the importance of diverse representation in the entertainment industry.”
Said Media and Entertainment Commissioner Anne del Castillo: “We’re thrilled to announce the second round of the Made in NY Writers Room and offer our congratulations to the new class of fellows and our appreciation to the esteemed group of mentors and newly appointed advisory board for their commitment to the program. With over 60 scripted television shows filming in New York City, we hope to see more diverse New Yorkers in writers’ rooms here to ensure the industry continues to put ever more nuanced and authentic stories on the screen.”
The 10 fellows were selected from a pool of 325 applicants recommended by 26 organizations that develop professional entertainment writers or were early career guild members. All applicants received two sets of notes from established television writers based on blind review of their pilots and log lines. Fifty semifinalists were provided with an additional set of notes from writer-producers and 20 finalists were invited to interview based on their scripts, essays and need for access. All semifinalists will be invited to select programs during the fellowship to help them navigate their careers and develop as television writers.
The project also has introduced an advisory board to better orient fellows within the entertainment industry and support the program’s goal of positioning fellows for placement in New York City writers’ rooms. The advisory board includes Alex Cirillo (Big Vision Empty Wallet); DMA (Planet DMA); Sheila Ducksworth (Will Packer Productions); Kelly Edwards (HBO); Tom Fontana (City on a Hill); Shannon Gibson (Refinery29); Jenny Halper (Maven Pictures); Dana Kuznetzkoff (Fourth Agreement Entertainment); Susan Lewis (Starz), and Cara Masline (3 Arts Entertainment).
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