After a staggering 1,500 applications (the largest number of the submissions for the program ever), Universal’s Global Talent Development & Inclusion has selected Jennifer Coates, Angela Delgado, Satinder Kaur and Larry Santana as the participants in this year’s Universal Writers Program. In addition, 2019 program alumni Nandita Seshadri and Derek Asaff have both been extended by the studio to continue developing concepts created while participating in the program last year.
In addition, Kasi Lemmons, Will Packer and Amy Pascal will join the 2020 cycle as Program Ambassadors, a new component to the Program this year. In their role as Ambassadors, they will engage closely with the writers for the one-year period, helping increase overall industry exposure for the group through Masterclasses, workshops, curated film discussions and industry connection conversations. Additionally, Ambassadors will externally champion and amplify the Program as well as the Studio’s overall commitment to diversity, equity and inclusion.
The feature film program is the only one of its kind sanctioned by the WGA West. The Universal Writers Program provides professional development as well as an overview of the studio’s production process through workshops, seminars, sponsorship, and executive and filmmaker led roundtable discussions. The one-year, paid program gives writers the opportunity to develop two feature scripts under the guidance of Universal Pictures and Focus Features production executives, and the studio’s first-look producers.
“Storytelling from different world views is more powerful than ever right now and it is important we continue to amplify and empower these voices in these uncertain times we are facing,” said Janine Jones-Clark, Universal’s Head of Inclusion – Talent & Content. “On behalf of everyone at Universal, we are thrilled to welcome this new group of talented writers, each with a compelling background and distinct narratives, to the Program. We are thankful to have Kasi, Will and Amy on board as active partners in breaking down barriers for underrepresented voices, and there’s no doubt our writers will greatly benefit from these successful filmmakers’ industry knowledge and passion for authentic storytelling.”
Key advisors in the selection process included Universal Filmed Entertainment Group Chairman Donna Langley, Universal Pictures President Peter Cramer and Universal-based producing partners, including Amblin Partners, Blumhouse Productions, Brownstone Productions, Chris Morgan Productions, Dylan Clark Productions, Genius Productions, Lord Miller, Mandeville Films, Marc Platt Productions, Monkeypaw Productions, Pascal Pictures, Will Packer Productions, Wink Productions and Wondaland Pictures.
The bios for the writers in this year’s Universal Writers Program can be read below.
JENNIFER COATES: Jennifer Coates was raised in Germantown, Maryland. She received a Dramatic Writing B.F.A from NYU’s Tisch School of the Arts, as well as a minor in producing. Since relocating to Los Angeles, Coates started out as a writers’ production assistant for CBS’ Zoo, and later as an assistant at Universal Pictures and Focus Features. Jennifer was awarded a grant from the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation and was selected for the inaugural Tribeca Films x Sloan Series Workshop in 2016. Most recently, Coates’ writing was recognized on the 2016 and 2018 Bloodlist, and her episode for Solve HQ & iHeartRadio’s podcast “Solve” debuted in early 2020. She is currently repped by Zero Gravity Management.
ANGELA DELGADO: Angela Delgado, from Norfolk, VA, began her career as a multi-hyphenate entertainer at the tender age of five. Delgado moved on to dominate her high school’s theater and forensics departments, writing sketches and shorts, as well as performing in mainstage plays. Her studies in the English department at The College of William and Mary breathed new life into her creative writing and she continued to write, direct, and perform for the Theater Department. Her relocation to Los Angeles led her to falling into a “blue-collar day job” as a Celebrity Nanny. From Celebrity Nanny, Delgado easily transitioned into a new role of Celebrity Personal and Writer’s Assistant. She also had the privilege of writing alt-lines for many of Hollywood’s top actresses on a diverse array of projects. Delgado’s credits cover the full range of cinematic offerings: from big-budget blockbusters (Universal’s Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom) to made-for-TV movies (Freeform’s Lifesize 2). Delgado has placed in many of the industry’s major screenwriting competitions (The Nicholl, Universal GTDI 2018, Sundance Screenwriter’s Lab, Sundance New Voices Lab, Austin Film Festival, etc).
SATINDER KAUR: U.S. Army veteran, Satinder Kaur, is a writer and director with a story-filled life. Originally from Bellingham, WA, she had already lived on three continents and spoke four languages by the time she was twelve. Her experiences in the east and the west provide her with a global perspective and contribute to her artistic voice which is uniquely American. She won the Grand Prize in Women in Media CAMERAderie initiative for her short film Blood and Glory which premiered at Tribeca Film Festival. Kaur is a fellow of the Writers Guild Foundation’s Veterans Writing Project. Her short film The Last Killing produced by Ensaaf won the best short documentary award at NewFilmmakers LA and the Amnesty International Best Human Rights Short award. In partnership with Ensaaf, she spearheaded the largest human rights video advocacy efforts in Punjab, India, by interviewing survivors of police brutality and families impacted by enforced disappearances. Kaur received her MFA in film directing from USC School of Cinematic Arts.
LARRY SANTANA: Larry V. Santana is a former journalist-turned-filmmaker from the Bronx, New York. An unabashed lover of genre films, cartoons, graphic novels, video games and choose your own adventure books, he spent his formative years escaping into fantasy worlds at every opportunity. This love of narrative led to his first career as a journalist, where he was paid to tell stories about real people. After receiving his master’s degree in Journalism from U.C. Berkeley in 2008, Santana spent several years writing and producing for news and documentary outlets, including MSNBC and Investigation Discovery. All the while (secretly) dreaming of breaking into the film business. The secret was out in 2012. After a decade as a newsman, he left a cushy desk job at 30 Rock in New York City and fled to Los Angeles, where he taught himself how to write screenplays and shoot short films.
Alumni of the program have garnered success on various films, broadcast and cable television series including Juel Taylor, co-writer of Creed II, who made his episodic directorial debut on BET’s Boomerang, and is currently developing a project with Universal and Lebron James’ production company, Springhill Entertainment. Additional television credits for alumni include Sarah Cho, a staff writer on the upcoming Hulu and Universal Content Productions series The Girl from Plainville and Leon Hendrix, a writer on the CW’s Two Sentence Horror Stories.
The application for the 2021 Universal Writers Program will launch this Fall.