HBO Unveils 2017 Writing Fellowship Winners


HBO has announced the 11 writers selected for its 2017 HBOAccess Writing Fellowship, which will run from July through February. This marks the second biennial HBOAccess Writing Fellowship, held in conjunction with the WGA.

The program begins with a series of master classes from July 17-21 in HBO’s Santa Monica offices, after which each writer or team will be paired with an HBO or Cinemax executive mentor. The first week covers story structure, character development, genre writing, getting an agent as well as other topics to help the fellows succeed in the industry. For nine months following the workshop, participants are mentored by HBO creative executives as they developed a full-length pilot script.

The 11 writers were chosen out of 3,600 submissions.

The participants are as follows:

Ahart and McFarlane are both graduates from the NYU Tisch School of the Arts where they studied dramatic writing. Bryce works at the Weinstein Company as a Production & Development Intern. Stephanie recently returned from the UK where she was one of twelve writers studying in the NYU London Screenwriting Program.

Katherine Craft is a Texas native with extensive experience as a playwright and theatre maker. She is the resident playwright for Austin-based company the Exchange Artists, which has created award-winning, site-specific performances in parks, museums, bars, shopping malls, and parked cars. Katherine has also worked for years in arts education – she founded Conspire Theatre, a nonprofit that works with women during and after incarceration. She is currently the Program Coordinator for the Lilith Fund, a reproductive justice organization, while finishing the MFA Screenwriting program at the University of Texas.

As a director, Sara Alize Cross has completed short form narrative and documentary films and is in post-production on Manhattan Lullaby, a NYSCA grant funded feature documentary about NYC cultural landmark, Colony Records. Sara’s feature award-winning documentary producing credits include Murderball, The Order of Myths and 21Up America, executive produced by Michael Apted as part of the American adaptation of the acclaimed 7Up series. Sara has a BA in Film Studies at Columbia University, a Masters in Women’s Studies at Oxford and is currently pursuing her MFA in Production at the USC’s School of Cinematic Arts.

Dana Donnelly and Audrey Kaufman recently graduated from college in the Pacific Northwest with degrees in English and Political Theory respectively. Their quirky sensibility and distinctly millennial take on the world make for edgy comedy with a strong social commentary. They both currently live in Los Angeles.

As a producer for Telemundo’s L.A. affiliate, she’s earned five local Emmys and a GLAAD Media award for her work covering the Latino community. Claudia is an alumnus of both NALIP’s Latino Writers Lab and NBC’s Writers on the Verge program. Inspired by her mixed background, she’s drawn to the dramedy genre where she blends her passion for drama with her love of dark comedy. She is repped by Brant Rose.

Zen Freese is a Philippine American writer/director based in Portland Oregon. Although he ought to settle as a successful commercial producer, he and his writing partner have spent mornings, nights and weekends pursuing their first love, narrative story-telling. He’s married to an aesthetically pleasing human, and is regularly informed that he’s happy. Benjamin Ross Lyerly was born and raised in Montgomery, AL. He’s been working for the last eight years in Portland Oregon as a freelance writer/director/producer in film and commercial. He has taught a Low-Budget Filmmaking course at Portland State University, and is currently producing a film called “Going Dark”.

Rehana Mirza is an award winning playwright and a playwright-in-residence at Ma-Yi Theater through the National Playwright Residency Program (with Mike Lew.) She has and MFA from Columbia University and her BFA from NYU Tisch.

Brandi Nicole Payne is a multi-hyphenate and “artivist” who loves to tell a good story. Her short film Muted which starred Chandra Wilson and Malcolm-Jamal Warner won the Best Short award at the American Black Film Festival in 2014 and is currently airing on HBO. An Athena List Finalist and Second Rounder for both Austin Film Festival and the Sundance Screenwriters Lab, Brandi will be making her directorial debut later this year with a short film about new motherhood titled “Aloha”.


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