DISNEY/ABC WRITING AND DIRECTING PROGRAMS REACH MILESTONE WITH MORE THAN 200 PARTICIPANTS TO DATE
17 New Fellows Are Selected for Programs Which Have Achieved Major Success in Expanding Opportunities for Minority and Female Writers and Directors
With the selection of 17 new Disney/ABC Fellows for 2006, the industry-leading writing and directing development programs for minorities and females have now reached the milestone of more than 200 participants since 1990. The announcement of the class of 2006 Fellows � who will have the opportunity to hone their crafts and jump-start their careers through workshops, seminars and personalized mentoring � was made today by Stephen McPherson, president, ABC Primetime Entertainment.
From a highly competitive field of applicants, 14 new writers were chosen to participate in the 16th annual Walt Disney Studios/ABC Entertainment Writing Fellowship (in partnership with the WGA, west), and three new directors in the fifth annual ABC-DGA Directing Fellowship programs. These 17 individuals join programs which have achieved outstanding success rates, with about 85 percent of the graduates having gone on to successful careers in the entertainment industry.
The 2006 Walt Disney Studios/ABC Entertainment Writing Fellows, who begin their year-long paid fellowships this month working with executives from ABC, Touchstone Television and the Buena Vista Motion Picture Group, are Moorel Bey, Sal Calleros, Steven Chang, Charley Dane, Jason Gavin, Tracy Grant, Taniya Hossain, Claire Yorita Lee, Laala Matias, Anthony Sparks, Cassandra Taylor, Adam Trunell, Helen Truong and Thomas Yeahpau.
The 2006 ABC-DGA Directing Fellows, who begin their 36-week paid fellowships this month where they will be mentored by select DGA directors during a rotation system providing different perspectives and artistic approaches to television, are Michael Kang, Dennis Lee and Gabriela Tagliavini
Editors please note: Brief biographical information on all 17 writing and directing Fellows is provided further on in this release.)
These 17 Fellows join an industry roster that stretches across the television and film industries. A small sampling of alumni now advancing in their careers includes:
Aseem Batra (�05) is a staff writer on NBC�s �Scrubs�; Bryan Holdman (�04) is a staff writer at ABC Family�s �Kyle XY�; Samantha Humphrey (�04) was hired as a staff writer on ABC�s �Alias� after joining the show during her fellowship; Daniel Hsia (�04) is a staff writer on NBC�s �Four Kings� and was a staff writer on ABC�s �Rodney� during his fellowship; Tamiko Brooks (�03) was hired as a staff writer on ABC�s �8 Simple Rules� after her fellowship there and is now on UPN�s �Half and Half.�
Cindy McCreery (�03) sold her feature comedy pitch �Powderpuff Girls� to Disney, feature spec �Soccer Mom� to New Line, and feature biopic pitch �Maria Pepe� to Nickelodeon Films; Brenda Hsueh (�02) is now on CBS� �How I Met Your Mother�; Veena Sud (�02) is a producer on CBS� �Cold Case,� and was staffed on ABC�s �Push, Nevada� during her fellowship; Dailyn Rodriquez (�01) is a staff writer on ABC�s �Freddie�; Nelson Soler (�01), who was with ABC�s �Thieves� during his fellowship, has been a writer/producer on many reality series, including ABC�s �Trista and Ryan�s Wedding,� was a staff writer on ABC�s �That Was Then� and is currently a staff writer on ABC Family�s new series, �Lincoln Heights.�
David DiGilio (�01) wrote Disney�s �Eight Below,� which is scheduled for release this month; Heather Hach (�99) wrote Disney�s blockbuster remake of �Freaky Friday,� and she is also the bookwriter for �Legally Blonde: The Musical,� slated for Broadway; Seith Mann (�05) is slated to direct an episode of ABC�s �Grey�s Anatomy� and directed an episode of HBO�s �The Wire�; Catherine Jelski (�03) directed a �Strong Medicine� episode for Lifetime; Susan Tuan (�03) directed one of the award-winning �04 Micro-Mini Series of interstitials aired on ABC; and Joseph Perez (�02) directed an episode of �The Division� on Lifetime.
�Over the years, these Fellowship programs have allowed many talented new writers and directors to realize their tremendous potential to the benefit of networks and studios across the entertainment industry,� Mr. McPherson said. �Most important, the Fellows enrich television content by bringing their diverse perspectives and voices to the series they work on and ultimately to the viewing public.�
Carmen J. Smith, vice president, ABC Talent Development Programs, who oversees the Fellowship programs, added: �Surpassing 200 participants in the writing and directing programs speaks to the continuing commitment of ABC, Disney, the Writers Guild of America, west (WGA, west) and the Directors Guild of America (DGA) to develop content that reflects the diversity of our audiences. Once again, our latest class represents an extraordinary talent pool, and we look forward to nurturing that potential as these Fellows step forward within the next generation of writers and directors.�
�This milestone is an impressive achievement. Disney and ABC Entertainment deserve praise for their work on these programs. Because the Fellowship program focuses entirely on talent and skill and is supported by a rigorous selection process, the Fellows are embraced by industry leaders and creative executives who know they are going to be working with only the best,� said Sonja Augustine, director of Employment Access, Writers Guild of America, west. �But what makes the Fellowships truly outstanding and worthy of note is that ABC makes the effort to communicate opportunities to communities of color and to women; ABC allows everyone to compete.�
�The DGA is proud to be partnered with ABC in an effort to encourage diversity of race, gender and spirit in the filmmaking community,� said Michael Apted, president of the Directors Guild of America. �In an industry where commitment to diversity is often an abstract goal rather than a concrete plan, the ABC/DGA Fellowship Program represents an exception � and will hopefully serve as a beacon for others to follow.�
The ABC Television Network and The Walt Disney Studios strive to create quality content that represents the rich diversity of their audiences, including race, culture and gender, as well as a diversity of ideas, experiences and histories. ABC and Disney�s commitment to discovering and nurturing diverse talent, both on- and off-camera, is exemplified through a variety of industry-leading talent development programs. In addition to The Walt Disney Studios/ABC Entertainment Writing Fellowship and the ABC-DGA Directing Fellowship, other programs include the Casting Project, the Talent Development Scholarship-Grant Program, the Summer Television & Film Workshop at the Institute of American Indian Arts, the Entertainment Group Internship Program and the ABC/Touchstone Television Production Associates Program.
Brief biographical information on 2006 Walt Disney Studios/ABC Entertainment Writing Fellows:
Bey earned her BA in Psychology with a Criminal Justice minor from Temple University after growing up in Philadelphia. Some of her most rewarding employment since graduation involved providing services to at-risk families and teen mothers in independent living situations. Her submission was the spec screenplay �Escaping the Past.�
After growing up in Katy, Texas, Mr. Chang graduated from Harvard University, where he considers his greatest achievement to have been taking a class in Gaelic women�s poetry with Natalie Portman. Previously a Manhattan-based management consultant, Mr. Chang has written several teleplays since moving to Los Angeles. These include his submission to the Fellowship program, a spec �Arrested Development� episode entitled �Fair Enough.�
Sal Calleros, raised in Southern California, earned a BA in Radio, Television and Film from California State University Northridge. Upon graduating, Mr. Calleros was hired as a research analyst by the FX Cable Network. After a few years he joined Arenas Entertainment, a Hispanic advertising agency specializing in film marketing, as the agency�s media planner. Mr. Calleros has developed and written nearly 100 marketing plans for Universal Pictures, DreamWorks, Paramount and Universal Studios Hollywood Theme Park. His submission to the Fellowship program was a spec episode of �The Shield� entitled �Chitty-Chitty Tag Bang.�
Massachusetts native Charley Dane is a graduate of St. Paul�s School and Georgetown University. Before discovering screenwriting, he worked as a paralegal, freelance journalist and winemaker�s assistant. After earning an MFA in Dramatic Writing from New York University in 2003, Mr. Dane moved to Los Angeles, where he worked as an assistant on �Judging Amy� and �In Justice.� His submission to the Fellowship program was a spec episode of �The Shield� entitled �Sangrenegra.�
Raised just outside the nation�s capital, Mr. Gavin grew up with a fine appreciation for both politics and fiction. After graduating from Harvard University, he served as a lobbyist for American Indian tribal colleges, helping to promote landmark educational legislation and a presidential executive order. He spent the past season as a writers� assistant on �George Lopez.� His submission to the Fellowship program was a spec �South Park� episode entitled �Dive into Diversity.�
New Yorker Tracy Grant earned both his BS in Finance and MFA in English from Georgetown University. As a graduate student he wrote magazine articles for Today�s Black Woman, Word Up! and XXL, among others. Mr. Grant published a novel, Hellified, in 1999, and his short fiction can be found in several anthologies, including After Hours (Plume/Putnam), Proverbs for the People (Kensington) and the recently released Beloved Harlem (Doubleday). His contribution to Beloved Harlem garnered a mention in the �Reading Room� section of O: The Oprah Magazine in August 2005. Mr. Grant was an adjunct English instructor at the College of New Rochelle in NYC until May 2005. His submission to the Fellowship program was a spec �Deadwood� episode titled �Providence Will Be Yours.�
Ms. Hossain received her MFA at NYU�s Tisch School of the Arts, where she later served as an instructor for the Expository Writing program. She was awarded the Sloan Foundation Grant for her screenplays �Chemistry Set� (2004) and �The Speed of Light� (2003); the latter also placed second in the Fusion Film Festival Screenwriting Contest. Her teleplay �Sip off the Old Block� won the 2003 Prism Generation Next Fellowship. Ms. Hossain is a member of the Dramatists Guild whose work has been seen at a dozen theaters around the country and in Canada. Her play �Mother in Another Language� was featured as part of the Lark Play Development Center�s Playwright�s Week in New York, and another, �Haunted,� received Honorable Mention in the Pittsburgh New Works Festival. Ms. Hossain�s submission to the Fellowship program was the spec screenplay �Chemistry Set.�
Claire Yorita Lee
Raised in Orange County, CA, Ms. Lee graduated from University of California, San Diego with a BA in sociology. She worked at Warner Bros. TV in Business Affairs and later became an executive producer�s assistant on �Thieves� and �Skin.� Her last job was with another executive producer on �Medium,� where she sold a story. Ms. Lee also wrote a short entitled �My Life Disoriented,� which received funding from an Independent Television Service (ITVS) grant. Her submission to the Fellowship program was a spec �Desperate Housewives� episode entitled �Careful What You Wish For.�
New Yorker Laala Matias has a BFA in Film & Television from NYU�s Tisch School of the Arts, where she received the Warner Bros. Post Production Award for the completion of her thesis film. She has worked with the film unit of �Saturday Night Live� and HBO�s Documentary division. Two of Ms. Matias�s short films screened at The Kennedy Center/Smithsonian Institution and in various cities. After graduation, she coordinated props and locations on major productions. She participated in the 2005 Institute of American Indian Arts Summer Film and Television Workshop, sponsored by ABC/Disney, where she wrote and directed her Fellowship submission, the short �Frybread: A Traumedy.�
Anthony Sparks was born and raised on Chicago�s south side. He studied theatre and graduated with honors from the University of Southern California, where he also taught and received PhD fellowships in American Studies & Ethnicity. Mr. Sparks lived for several years in New York, and was a featured performer in the hit show �Stomp.� His play �Ghetto Punch� was presented at several venues, including P.S. NBC and the HBO Workspace, and was featured in American Theatre magazine. After participating in the Warner Bros. and Cosby Screenwriting Programs, Mr. Sparks served as a staff writer on CBS� �The District,� penning multiple episodes. His submission to the Fellowship program was a spec �Without a Trace� episode entitled �Hell....�
Born and raised in Toledo, OH, Cassandra enlisted in the U.S. Army after high school, was stationed in West Germany, and served in a unit that participated in the first Gulf War. After the military, she received her BA in English from Cleveland State University and her MA in American Culture Studies from Bowling Green State University. She then moved to LA to pursue a career as a television writer. Her submission to the Fellowship program was a spec episode of �The Wire,� �Dangerous Liaisons.�
Mr. Trunell�s hometown is Bristol, PA. He received his BA in Film and Media Arts from nearby Temple University. In Los Angeles, Mr. Trunell has dedicated himself to a career in entertainment, working as an upper-level assistant at Outerbanks Entertainment and Anonymous Content before landing at Buena Vista Motion Pictures Group as a development assistant. Her submission to the Fellowship program was the spec screenplay �American Idle.�
A graduate of NYU Film School, Ms. Truong has a long list of awards and honors to her credit, including a student filmmaking award from the DGA, a Warner Bros. Production Grant and several finalist placings in the Nicholl, Sundance and Chesterfield Fellowships. Ms. Truong was a 2004 ABC Scholarship-Grant recipient. Through that program, she developed her screenplay, �The Untitled Mythistory Project,� which was subsequently a finalist for the 2006 Sundance Filmmakers Lab. She is also the recipient of the 2003 Richard Vague Production Award for the development and production of her feature script, �The Rapture of the Deep.� Most recently Ms. Truong has been writing on the WB�s �YU-GI-OH GX� children�s television series. Her submission to the Fellowship was the spec screenplay �Ciphers.�
Mr. Yeahpau is a member of the Kiowa Tribe and a graduate of the Riverside Indian School in Anadarko, OK, where he grew up. He is a graduate of Haskell Indian Nations University, where he established himself as an emerging writer/filmmaker. Along with short films, Mr. Yeahpau also produces music through his production company, Hosstyle Productions. He has written dozens of shorts and five feature-length screenplays, and his first book, The X-Indian Chronicles, is set for publication in August 2006 by Candlewick Press. Mr. Yeahpau participated in the 2005 Institute of American Indian Arts Summer Film and Television Workshop, sponsored by ABC/Disney, where he wrote and directed his Fellowship submission, the short �My Favorite Runner.�
Brief biographical information on 2006 ABC-DGA Directing Fellows:
A graduate of NYU�s Tisch School of the Arts, Mr. Kang holds a BFA in Dramatic Writing. His feature film directorial debut, �The Motel,� was produced by indie veteran director Miguel Arteta (�Chuck & Buck,� �The Good Girl�) and premiered at the Sundance Film Festival in January 2005. �The Motel� is the recipient of the Best Narrative Feature Award from the San Francisco International Asian American Film Festival 2005, and was also awarded the 2003 Sundance/NHK International Filmmaker�s Award. In addition, Mr. Kang was a fellow at the Sundance Filmmakers Lab in 2002. In 2004 he worked as second unit director for Wayne Wang on his film, �Because of Winn-Dixie.�
After graduating from the University of Chicago, Mr. Lee joined Teach for America. During his years in the classroom, Mr. Lee taught kindergarten and first grade before co-founding an art-based charter school for at-risk middle school students in Houston. In the fall of 1999, he moved to New York to attend Columbia University�s MFA film program. Recently graduated, Mr. Lee has written several feature scripts and directed a number of short films, and he is slated to direct New Line Cinema�s feature film, �Slay the Bully.�
Gabriela Tagliavini was named Best Director at three film festivals, including the New York Independent Film Festival, for her feature directorial debut, �The Woman Every Man Wants,� aka �Perfect Lover.� Ms. Tagliavini�s second feature, �Ladies Night,� distributed by Disney/Buena Vista, was the no. 1 movie at the box office in Mexico in 2004. Her television film, the VH1/Maverick feature �30 Days Until I�m Famous,� premiered on VH1 and was executive-produced by Madonna. The writer-director has an undergraduate degree in film directing from the Escuela Superior de Cinematograf�a in Argentina and a masters degree in screenwriting from AFI. In addition to directing several short films, commercials and television pilots, Ms. Tagliavini has two novels published.