Back in February we reported that HBO was launching a writing fellowship to find diverse and emerging writers. This week, the premium cable network announced the names of the nine aspiring writers whose career trajectories will receive dramatic boosts.
First, a reminder of why programs like this are so important: In the 2013-2014 television season, women created 20% of all the shows and accounted for 25% of writers for broadcast networks. Only 13.7% of TV staff employed were minorities.
Second, a refresher on what the participants have secured: The HBOAccess Writing Fellowship offers emerging and diverse writers the chance to learn from HBO vets in a week of master classes to be held in Santa Monica, California on the HBO campus. The selected writers will be schooled on character and story development, pitching ideas and on the business side, how to secure an agent and network effectively. After a week of classes, participants will spend eight months writing. They’ll be paired with HBO development executives who will help them navigate the script development process.The conclusion of the program will be a reception where a staged reading for industry professionals will take place, and writers will be introduced to the entertainment industry.
Of the nine writers selected, six are women: Jude Weng, Sarah McChesney, Yolanda Carney, Dedi Felman, Prathi Srinivasan and Iturri Sosa. Their professional backgrounds vary wildly, ranging from psychological research to improv.
“It all starts with the words on the page so I am particularly proud that HBO can play a role in cultivating these talented writers,” said Michael Lombardo, President of HBO Programming. “We created HBOAccess Writers Fellowship in hopes of discovering unique voices and create for them a rare learning experience where they can further hone their craft and hopefully jumpstart a career.”
Find out more about the six women participating in the program from their bios below, courtesy of HBO.
Jude Weng: Jude is a writer/producer/format designer who specialized in social experiments such as SURVIVOR (CBS) and BLACK WHITE (FX), both Emmy-award winners. She is a freelance creative development executive for high level talent and is a recent Fellow of the ABC-DISNEY|DGA Directing Program.
Sarah McChesney: Sarah is a writer and improv actor living in Los Angeles. Sarah is an alumni of The Groundlings and The Upright Citizens Brigade and is a puppeteer/improviser with The Jim Henson Company’s “Puppet Up!”
Yolanda Carney: Yolanda is a Chicago based writer and comedian. Her most recent play, Thinking Sacks of Meat, was the winner of the First Laugh Festival (Piccolo Theater, 2015). Her previous plays include Eggplants and This Play Will Self Destruct all of which were produced through DIY-theater collectives in Chicago. Yolanda is also an active performer in the Chicago improv community and has trained at Improv Olympic and Second City. She completed a BA in Creative Writing at the University of Pennsylvania.
Dedi Felman: Dedi worked in publishing as an executive editor at Oxford University Press, and as a senior editor at Simon and Schuster where she developed award-winning and bestselling book projects across a range of genres. Finally deciding to live her dream of writing for the screen, Dedi packed up her life, switched coasts, and attended UCLA’s Professional Program in Screenwriting. Now living in Los Angeles, she’s taught TV writing for Script Anatomy and volunteers for the Young Storytellers Foundation.
Prathi Srinivasan: Prathiksha is an immigrant who grew up in the bustling city of Chennai, India. Her love of writing stems from the Hindu myths her grandmother told her throughout her childhood. Moving to America was a culture shock that resulted in her passion for characters who are stuck between where they come from and where they are going. Prathiksha has a BA in Literature from the University of Texas at Dallas.
Iturri Sosa: Iturri came to writing after a career in psychological research and anthropological fieldwork, graduating with a degree in cultural psychology from The University of Chicago. While in graduate school, she trained at Cook County/Stroger Hospital. After graduation, she conducted research in southern Mexico, focusing on improving access to mental health care for rural Yucatec Maya speakers.