Celebrating its 15th year in amplifying emerging diverse writers, NBCUniversal’s annual Writers on the Verge program has selected comedy writers Kim Tran, Shawn Parikh, and Hakim “Kimo” Hill along with drama writers Cristina Boada, Julian Johnson, Hussain Pirani, Sujana Gowni, and Eric Anthony Glover for its 2020-21 class. The new class was selected from an applicant pool of more than 2,400 submissions. This year’s program is taking place virtually.
Like the name suggests, the program provides talented writers who are “on the verge” of breaking into episodic television with a final polish to their writing and pitch presentation skills in order to prepare them for a staff writing position following the completion of the program. The program counts executive producers Brandon Margolis and Brandon Sonnier (LA’s Finest), Keto Shimizu (DC’s Legends of Tomorrow) and Gina Monreal (NCIS), among its alumni.
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After NBCUniversal’s recent announcement that the company’s diversity, equity and inclusion efforts across Film, Television and Streaming would be unified under one umbrella, Writers on the Verge is now under the purview of the Global Talent Development & Inclusion team that services the Universal Filmed Entertainment Group, the entertainment television networks, streaming platforms and Universal Studio Group.
Last year’s class saw four writers staffed on primetime series soon after finishing the program: Shirin Najafi on NBC’s Connecting…, Shani Am. Moore on Netflix’s Sweet Magnolias, Mitali Jahagirdar on Disney +’s Just Beyond, and Maya Houston on The CW’s Batwoman.
Over the course of six months, the new class will develop pilot scripts and fine-tune their pitching skills under the guidance of Jen Grisanti, a former CBS/Paramount and Spelling TV executive. Writers will be paired with NBCUniversal programming executives who will serve as their mentors and provide feedback on their scripts and pitching prowess. They will also have the opportunity to build relationships with network executives, showrunners and agents. At the end of the program, the writers will be considered for available writing assignments across the NBCUniversal portfolio.
Read the bios of the 2020-21 Writers on the Verge class below.
Kim Tran is a first-gen Vietnamese American writer, director and comedian. She received the Michener Fellowship to pursue her MFA in Screenwriting and Playwriting at UT Austin. She has performed in Austin comedy troupes Hot Pot Comedy, Glam Fam and Y’all We Asian. Her films have been official selections of SXSW, Palm Springs ShortFest and Short of the Week.
Her dramedy short film Zoe and Hanh, about an immigrant mother-daughter duo, recently earned a Vimeo Staff Pick and is being developed into a feature with a grant from the Austin Film Society. Her short film Pussy Talk, about a rambunctious talking vagina, was selected to be pitched at SXSW’s Episodic Pitch-a-Thon. In her work, she explores messy Asian American women trying to find their way in the world.
She most recently joined season two of Space Force as a staff writer. She is repped by Fourth Wall and Rothman Brecher Ehrich Livingston.
Eric Anthony Glover
Eric Anthony Glover is a feature writer, TV writer, and graphic novelist. He studied screenwriting at Sarah Lawrence College. After his sci-fi feature script earned him a fellowship through Final Draft, Inc., Eric went on to write his first drama pilot, which earned him representation. Eric is also a winner of the Humanitas Prize New Voices award. As a writer for the arts and entertainment company Meow Wolf, Eric developed storylines and wrote scripts for immersive science fiction exhibits across the country. His graphic novel, “BLACK STAR,” will be in stores in 2021 as a launch title in Abrams ComicArts’ upcoming imprint, Megascope.
He is repped by Zero Gravity Management.
After nailing a kiss and a single line in Bye Bye Birdie in 9th grade, Shawn Parikh knew two things for sure: he loved showbiz and he did not love women. Being a gay Indian-Texan-American pursuing a creative career, he is an uberbrown sheep—although, he did his best to make his parents proud with a degree in PoliSci and a Master’s in Psych. A student of improv, standup and sketch at UCB & Groundlings, he has appeared on shows like “Outsourced”, “Cougar Town”, “What/If” and “Mom”. In addition to writing and starring in an independent pilot “Bad Indians” with Devanshi Patel and a spoof of HBO’s “The Night Of” for Funny or Die, Shawn’s short film “Khol” (“open”), starring Sarayu Blue, played a global festival circuit.
He is repped by Klasco Entertainment.
Hakim “Kimo” Hill
Hakim ‘Kimo’ Hill is the co-founder of independent production companies HipStory Films and DopeTV. He earned his master’s degree in Counseling at the University of Bridgeport and spent 10 years working between the mental health field and the student affairs side of higher education, before changing fields to film and television.
He has taught poetry at the high school and university levels and wrote, produced, and directed the short films “The Art of Being Haunted,” “The Methodist,” and recently finished a pilot for his team’s social-horror anthology series “Vitiligo,” the former of which are a part of HipStory Films’ university level workshop “The Art of Racial Trauma.”
Kimo participated in the Writer’s Mob auxiliary of Leah Daniels-Butler and Henry Butler’s production company 1oneninety5 Productions. His articles about mental health in the Black community can be found on Blavity.
Cristina Boada was born and raised in South Florida in a blended Puerto Rican and Argentine family. A graduate from UCF’s Film BFA program, Cristina now lives in Los Angeles and has worked on over 100 episodes of television. She’s currently the Script Coordinator for Hulu’s “Dopesick” and recently received her first TV writing credit on Nat Geo’s scripted series “Valley Of The Boom.”
She is repped by Circle of Confusion.
Born to a Jamaican immigrant dad and a multiracial mother, Julian Johnson was a semi-professional soccer player, world-ranked martial artist, actress, and lived the life of a financial planner before dedicating her life to storytelling. Julian has achieved numerous accolades as well as overcome seemingly insurmountable odds. She loves telling authentic, nuanced stories inspired by her vast experiences and encouraging people to be kind and to never give up.
In the fall of 2018, she started her MFA in Screenwriting at UCLA and interned for Greg Berlanti Productions in 2019, before being tapped to be the Writers’ Production Assistant on Fox’s “Prodigal Son.” Currently, she is in development at CW / CBS Studios for the television pilot “Slay,” executive produced by Regina King and Reina King’s production company Royal Ties. Pam Veasey is attached to supervise. She also recently solidified a shopping agreement with Valhalla Entertainment for her sports series “DIVISION I.”
She is repped by The Cartel.
Sujana Gowni is a writer and political organizer who was born in Mississippi, and grew up between India, California, and Boston. She went to college for finance, but post quarter-life crisis, realized that spending the rest of her life behind a desk crunching numbers would hasten her mid-life crisis. Instead, she went into community organizing, and now splits her time between working for grassroots organizations & Human Rights Watch and writing stories.
As a writer, she’s placed in Launchpad’s Pilot and Feature competitions, the PAGE awards, the Academy Nicholls Fellowship, and was most recently a fellow of the Women in Film/Black List feature lab. She’s previously been published in outlets such as Truth-Out, Times of India and Democracy Now. In her spare time, she volunteers as a legal observer with the National Lawyers Guild and writes stories for gaming studios.
She is repped by Kaplan/Perrone and Paradigm.
Hussain Pirani is a storyteller with over a decade of experience directing short films, documentaries, and commercials. After graduating from the University of Texas at Austin, he started out in casting and spent nine months canvassing the U.S. for Terrence Malick’s Oscar-nominated “The Tree Of Life.” This experience evoked an enduring love for flawed, complex characters and thought-provoking material. Over the past 10 years, he has traveled globally as a filmmaker, including producing a documentary in the Peruvian Amazon.
In 2018, Hussain relocated from Austin to Los Angeles and attended UCLA’s Professional Program. Today, he writes grounded dramas steeped in genre and, being an immigrant himself, explores themes of family, identity, and social oppression. In addition to joining Writers on the Verge, Hussain was a finalist for the 2020 CBS Writers Mentoring Program. He is also a member of the Creative Network (from Ron Howard and Brian Grazer’s Imagine Impact) and was recently featured as a staff pick on the platform.
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