Annual Talent Infusion Program Prepares Emerging Diverse Writers for a Career in Television
Three Graduates of Last Year’s Class Are Staffed on “Trial & Error,” “Damnation” and “The Mayor”
UNIVERSAL CITY, Calif. – October 6, 2017 – NBC’s Writers on the Verge, part of the network’s talent infusion programs (NBC TIPS), has named comedy writers Nick Bouier, Octavia Bray, Eugene Garcia-Cross and Felicia Pride, as well as drama writers Celena Cipriaso, William Garroutte, Amy Lambert and Eileen Shim as its 2017-18 class. Now in its 12th year, Writers on the Verge is an annual program for talented, aspiring writers of diverse backgrounds who are “on the verge” of breaking out, but need a final polish of their writing and pitch presentation skills to equip them for a career in television. This year’s class was chosen from an applicant pool of more than 2,600 submissions, the most in the program’s history.
Writers on the Verge has a proven track record of developing successful television writers with three graduates of last season’s Writers on the Verge program staffed on primetime series this season: Mnelik Belilgne is writing on the new ABC comedy “The Mayor;” Melanie Boysaw is a writer on NBC’s critically acclaimed comedy “Trial & Error;” and Rayna McClendon is staffed on the new USA Network series “Damnation.”
“It’s more important than ever that we empower writers of diverse backgrounds to bring fresh stories to television. This is one of the reasons I’m excited to prepare our new class of eight talented writers for the next step in their careers,” said Karen Horne, SVP, Programming Talent Development & Inclusion, NBC Entertainment and Universal Television. “I’m also proud that three of our writers from last year’s class were staffed on such anticipated new series. Their success is further proof that Writers on the Verge discovers and prepares the next generation of great writers, showrunners and executive producers.”
The 2017-18 Writers of the Verge represent a variety of backgrounds:
Nick Bouier: Born in Detroit and an AFI alumnus, Bouier is a student performer at Groundlings and Second City Hollywood. He was selected for Film Independent’s signature diversity program Project Involve, where he directed the short film “Counter.” The film screened at the Sedona, Pan African, Newport Beach and Cleveland International film festivals. He was one of fifteen directors previously selected for the Sony Pictures Television Diverse Directors program in 2015. Recently, Bouier was invited to participate in NBC’s Late Night Writers Workshop and received the NBC/Groundlings Writing Lab scholarship. Bouier is represented by Don Buchwald and Associates.
Octavia Bray: Raised in the suburbs of Chicago and a graduate of the University of Pennsylvania, Bray received her Master of Fine Arts in writing and producing for television from Loyola Marymount University. She currently serves as the showrunner’s assistant on “BoJack Horseman.”
Celena Cipriaso: When this Maryland native watched soaps as a kid, little did she know this would lead to her first television writing gig at “All My Children.” Since then, she’s worked as a script coordinator at “The Arrangement” on E! and as a writer’s assistant on Starz’s “Teresa.” Prior to her TV life, she was a pop culture and beer journalist writing for The Root, Draft, Bitch Magazine and CNN.com. She is also a playwright and spoken word poet who has performed across the country.
Eugene Garcia-Cross: Garcia-Cross hails from Northwest Pennsylvania where he began his career as a novelist and short story writer. He’s the author of the story collection Fires of Our Choosing and has taught creative writing at Penn State, Northwestern and The University of Chicago, among other schools. Since transitioning to television writing, Garcia-Cross has completed the National Hispanic Media Coalition TV Writers Program and served as a writer’s assistant to comedian Al Madrigal. He is currently the writers’ production assistant on the new CBS comedy “Me, Myself & I,” and recently worked on the ABC comedy “Downward Dog.”
William Garroutte: Growing up in various small towns, Garroutte taught himself to write in the WGA library, pulling scripts apart and learning how to put them back together again. He was selected to participate in the first LA Skinsfest Native American TV Writers Lab, and is an enrolled citizen of the Cherokee Nation.
Amy Lambert: A native of Colorado, Lambert became obsessed with true crime after watching the movie “Se7en.” She went on to work as a residential therapist for adults with mental illnesses, but ultimately went back to school for screenwriting, earning a Bachelor of Fine Arts in film and television from the Colorado Film School. She has worked as a writer, editor and camera operator for unscripted television. She is currently a writer on the CBS unscripted series “Lucky Dog” and an editor on “The Open Road with Dr. Chris.”
Felicia Pride: Pride started her writing career as an entertainment journalist. She has since added author and screenwriter to her resume. She has written several books including the essay collection The Message: 100 Life Lessons from Hip-Hop’s Greatest Songs, a YA novel and was tapped by Simon & Schuster to pen two books based on the television show “Everybody Hates Chris.” As a filmmaker, Pride wrote and produced the short film “The End Again” and she was later selected as a Film Independent Screenwriting Fellow. She also headed the independent film division at Tugg, and previously ran an impact firm where she worked “Middle of Nowhere,” “Slavery by Another Name” and “Alice Walker: Beauty in Truth.” She holds an M.A. in writing from Emerson College.
Eileen Shim: Shim left behind a career in journalism because she was sick of writing about crime and murder, so instead she moved to Los Angeles to pursue a career in writing about crime and murder. Her unique blend of horror and sci-fi/fantasy have won her the CAPE New Writers Fellowship, the Oriental DreamWorks Artist-in-Residence Fellowship, the AFI Writers’ Room Ready initiative, the AFI China Story Scholarship, and a nomination at the 2017 Student Emmys. Shim is represented by IPG.
Over the course of 12 weeks, the new class of Writers on the Verge will learn how to develop spec and pilot scripts guided by Horne and independent story and script consultant Jen Grisanti, a former CBS/Paramount and Spelling Television executive. They will also learn how to effectively pitch their ideas in front of television executives, and receive valuable feedback on their scripts and pitch styles from industry professionals including network executives, showrunners and agents. The class also receives individual mentoring from NBCUniversal programming executives. At the end of the program, the writers will be considered for available writing assignments on NBC series.
About Writers on the Verge (NBC Talent Infusion Programs)
Founded in 2005, Writers on the Verge is an annual program for talented, aspiring writers of diverse backgrounds who are “on the verge” of breaking out, but need a final polish of their writing and pitch presentation skills to equip them for staff writer positions on television series. During the 12-week intensive program, they receive coaching and mentoring from industry professionals including network executives, showrunners and agents on how to develop spec and pilot scripts, and effectively pitch their ideas in front of television executives. At the end of the program, they will be considered for available writing assignments on NBC series. Program alumni are currently staffed on critically acclaimed and top-rated series including “The Blacklist,” “Night Shift,” “Queen Sugar,” “One Day at a Time,” “Scandal,” “Superstore” and “Shades of Blue.” They also include Rick Muirragui who is an executive producer on “Suits,” Keto Shimizu who is a co-executive producer on DC’s “Legends of Tomorrow,” and Rashad Raisani who is a co-executive producer on Marvel’s “The Gifted.” Writers on the Verge is one of the tentpole initiatives within the NBC Talent Infusion Programs (NBC TIPS) that promote and encourage people of diverse backgrounds to become the next generation of storytellers. For more information, visit the NBCUniTIPS.com.
About the NBC Talent Infusion Programs (NBC TIPS)
Since 2000, NBC has been dedicated to discovering and nurturing on screen and behind-the-camera talent of diverse and inclusive backgrounds through the NBC Talent Infusion Programs (NBC TIPS). NBC TIPS are amongst the most extensive and robust diversity and inclusion programs in the television industry. They feature more than 20 programs including Writers on the Verge, the Diverse Staff Writer Initiative, Female Forward, Emerging Director Program, StandUp NBC nationwide search for stand-up comedians and the NBCUniversal SHORT FILM FESTIVAL that celebrates diverse stories and the filmmakers who create them. Program alumni are celebrated producers, writers, directors and actors in the entertainment industry who have gone on to win Emmys, Golden Globes and SAG Awards and include Alan Yang, Mindy Kaling, Deon Cole, Lil Rel Howery, Keto Shimizu, Natasha Rothwell, Danny Pudi and Danielle Sanchez-Witzel. For more information, visit NBCUniTIPS.com.
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