DISNEY-ABC TELEVISION GROUP AND THE WALT DISNEY STUDIOS ANNOUNCE 2007 PARTICIPANTS FOR THE INDUSTRY-LEADING WRITING FELLOWSHIP PROGRAM
Disney-ABC Television Group and The Walt Disney Studios, in partnership with the Writers Guild of America�West, has named fourteen new fellows for the 17th annual Writing Fellowship program, it was announced today by Robert Mendez, senior vice president, Diversity, Disney-ABC Television Group.
The 2007 writing fellows, who begin their year-long paid fellowships this month working with executives from Disney-ABC Television and the Walt Disney Motion Pictures Group, are Scott Benton, Rafael Garcia, Roger Grant, Chandus Jackson, Gayle Jackson, Jennifer Lewey, Milton Liu, Becky Mann, Michelle McGee, Kaita Mpambara, Bryan Oh, Peter Saji, Audra Sielaff and Debbie Wright.
�The Walt Disney Company is committed to the principle that diversity makes us better,� said Mr. Mendez. �That is why the Fellowship is so important. It gives us the opportunity to identify and nurture exceptional writers with diverse voices.� Added Tim McNeal, vice president, Talent Development & Diversity, Disney-ABC Television Group: �Now in its 17th year, the program has advanced many individuals to top writing positions on groundbreaking and critically acclaimed programming; we have a great incoming class and look forward to another successful year.�
�The WGAW is pleased to once again team with Disney-ABC and The Walt Disney Studios to create opportunities for a diverse assortment of writers. I have had the personal pleasure of hiring Disney Fellowship alumni and I look forward to the day when they can return the favor,� said WGAW President Patric M. Verrone.
Selected from more than 2,200 applicants, the fourteen new fellows join an impressive alumni group that numbers over 200 participants since 1990. The industry-leading writing program gives participants the opportunity to hone their craft and jump-start their careers through intensive workshops, seminars and personalized mentoring with creative executives from ABC Entertainment Television Group, ABC Television Studio, Disney Channel, ABC Family and the Walt Disney Motion Pictures Group. Fellows receive a salary for a one-year period.
This elite group of fellows join a roster that stretches across the television and film industries with their successes. A small sampling of alumni now advancing in their careers includes:
Jason Gavin (�06) staffed as a Fellow on ABC�s �According to Jim�; Cassandra Taylor (�06) and Charley Dane (�06) staffed as Fellows on ABC Family�s �Kyle XY�; Anthony Sparks (�06) staffed as a Fellow on ABC Family�s �Lincoln Heights�; Sal Calleros (�06) staffed as a Fellow on ABC Family�s �3 Moons Over Milford�; Maria Escobedo (�05) staffed as a Fellow on �Grey�s Anatomy�; Jordan Rosenberg (�05) wrote a freelance episode of �Lost� that will air this spring; Samantha Humphrey (�04) became a story editor for �Alias� after being staffed as a Fellow, and is now writing for �CSI: New York�; Chuck Kim (�03) is a staff writer on NBC�s �Heroes�; Cindy McCreery (�03) wrote the screenplay for �Soccer Mom�; Veena Sud (�02) is co-executive producer and showrunner of CBS� �Cold Case�; Brenda Hsueh (�02) is a co-producer on CBS� �How I Met Your Mother�; Tifanny Paulson (�02) wrote the screenplay for �Nancy Drew�; Dave Digiglio (�01) wrote the screenplay for �Eight Below�; and Heather Hach (�00) wrote the screenplay for �Freaky Friday.�
The Disney-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, other programs include the ABC-DGA Directing Fellowship, the Casting Project, the Talent Development Scholarship-Grant Program and Creative Development Program, the Summer Television & Film Workshop at the Institute of American Indian Arts, the Entertainment Group Internship Program and the ABC Television Studio Production Associates Program.
2007 Disney-ABC Television Group/Walt Disney Studios Writing Fellows:
Rafael Garcia was born and raised in El Paso, Texas. His adventurous spirit and a bad case of allergies led him to leave the Southwest while still in high school. He attended Northfield Mount Hermon School in Massachusetts and went on to study English at Columbia University. He was accepted into the Warner Brothers Comedy Writing Workshop and has also participated in the National Hispanic Media Coalition�s Television Writing Program and the UCLA Professional Program in Screenwriting. His submission to the Fellowship program was a spec episode of �The Office� entitled �The Parking Space.�
Roger began his career in the industry at John Wells Productions, where he worked in their Current and Development department covering critically acclaimed shows such as �The West Wing� and �ER.� After two seasons he joined �The West Wing� as a writers� assistant and later researcher, serving as liaison to the U.S. military, State Department and Secret Service. Most recently Roger wrote a freelance episode of the upcoming NBC Jeff Goldblum drama, �Raines.� His submission to the Fellowship program was a spec �Rescue Me� entitled �Kamels.�
Gayle graduated from Syracuse University and worked as an NBC page in New York before moving to Los Angeles. She received her M.F.A. in Screenwriting from the American Film Institute, where she won the Alfred P. Sloan Screenwriting Award and had a short film, �Get the Lady,� produced. She was a Hanks/Miller Fellow in 2005, and was also a selected participant in the Warner Brothers TV Drama Writers Program, as well as the AFI/FOX-TV Television Writers Workshop. Her submission to the Fellowship program was a spec episode of �House� entitled �Olivia Twist.�
Becky Mann (partnered with Audra Sielaff)
Becky Mann was born in Fontana, California. After graduating from UCLA, she went to work at Warner Bros. Pictures as a writer for their publicity department for the next five years. It was there that she met former Michigander Audra Sielaff and they formed the beautiful partnership that has brought them to the Fellowship. Becky�s hobbies include volunteering for the last four years on the Suicide Prevention Center�s hotline. Becky and Audra�s winning submission to the program was a spec episode of �My Name is Earl� entitled �Trailer Tagged Frank.�
Michelle McGee is a Chicago native who realized her dream of writing at the tender age of five. Growing up, Michelle was known for two things -- being a tattletale and an obsession with television. After graduating from Columbia College, she spent several years as a scheduler at Total Living Network. Her submission to the Fellowship program was a spec episode of �My Name is Earl� entitled �How Joy Got Her Groove Back.�
Since the very first time someone asked him what he wanted to be when he grew up, Kaita has known he has wanted to pursue a career in the television world. He moved from Bloomington, MN out to Los Angeles, earning a B.F.A. in Writing for Screen and Television from USC. Kaita is now working toward his dream to write characters and situations that impact people�s lives the way television impacted his own. Kaita�s winning submission was a spec episode of �The Simpsons� entitled �Terror Incognita.�
Bryan grew up in the suburbs of Philadelphia where white picket fences roam free. He graduated from Amherst College, and then worked at a number of ad agencies trying to divine clever ways to market everything from mayonnaise to SUV�s. He was a staff writer on both Fox�s �Keen Eddie� and �The O.C.,� and Fox also recently optioned his drama pilot, �Life Below Zero.� His submission to the Fellowship program was a spec episode of �Without a Trace� entitled �Personal Foul.�
Hailing from the Washington, D.C. area, Peter Saji has punched up numerous scripts for writer/producer/director Darryl Quarles and scripted several videogames. When Saji isn�t writing, he enjoys performing spoken word poetry, playing street basketball and taking out his aggression via muay thai kickboxing. His submission to the Fellowship program was a spec episode of �Two and a Half Men� entitled �Her Vagina Must be Magical.�
Audra Sielaff (partnered with Becky Mann)
A former Michigan native, Audra graduated from the University of Michigan, where she was honored with a Hopwood Award for screenwriting. She later attended USC�s Graduate Screenwriting Program. It was at USC that she discovered her love for television writing and became an executive producer on the Trojanvision sitcom �Common Ground.� She is also a graduate of the Warner Bros. Comedy Writers Workshop. Most recently she worked in film publicity at Warner Bros. Pictures, where she met her writing partner, Becky Mann. Both Audra and Becky left their jobs in order to pursue television writing full time. Audra and Becky�s winning submission to the program was a spec episode of �My Name is Earl� entitled �Trailer Tagged Frank.�
Debbie grew up in New York City�s eclectic Greenwich Village and graduated from Syracuse University with a degree in Business Logistics. After working for several years in corporate finance, she moved to Los Angeles to pursue a career as a television writer. While working on her writing, she also created the online commentary magazine UmojaMix, devoted to fostering positive communication within the black community. A niece of one of the original Tuskegee Airmen, Debbie admits to being a hopeless WWII geek. Her submission to the Fellowship program was a spec episode of �Grey�s Anatomy� entitled �No More.�
Growing up in San Francisco�s Haight-Ashbury district in the �70s, Scott Benton lived in a commune at the center of the Free Love Movement, thinking that the world was one big counterculture -- until his mom decided to get a PhD at Stanford. His world went suddenly from hippies to academics, changing his own future along the way. He has been writing and making Super-8 films since childhood and has worked in the entertainment industry since 1991. Scott never forgot his roots and is still an idealist, trying to build a better world, even if it�s only on the screen. His submission to the Fellowship was a black comedy entitled �The Elephant.�
Chandus Jackson most recently lived in Allentown, PA and has had various careers, including finance manager, investment banker and army captain. He has been writing all his life but began developing screenplays in 1999. He enjoys creating magic through storytelling and loves having people connect with his writing. His screenplays have garnered top finishes in the Austin Film Festival Screenplay Competition, Screenwriting Expo contest and the PAGE International Screenwriting Awards. Chandus has a BBA in Finance from Howard University, an MS in Human Relations from the University of Oklahoma and an MBA in Finance and Accounting from the University of Michigan. He submitted a political thriller entitled �Rendered� to the Fellowship.
Jennifer Lewey says it all began in second grade with a quirky story she wrote for an assignment, and since then she has not put her pencil down. A native of Chicago, she graduated from the University of Dayton with a B.S. in Marketing. In January 2006 she was honored by the Nevada Film Office, Lt. Governor Hunt of Nevada and Women in Film for her screenplays. �Before Midnight,� her Disney Fellowship submission, won first place in the Nevada Film Office Screenwriting Competition in 2005, and �Uninvited T.R.O.U.B.L.E.� won second. In the competition�s 18-year history, no other writer has ever won both first and second place the same year. Jennifer loves all genres but enjoys writing comedy and romantic comedy.
As a child, Milton Liu made mix tapes that he envisioned as the soundtrack for his films. He chose to follow a career in finance instead of film, but stayed close to filmmaking by helping a friend produce several shorts. He began writing about three years ago, and his first script, �John Hughes Ruined My Life,� which he submitted to the Fellowship, won the Screenplay Award at the Tribeca Film Festival in 2006. A Kansas City native who grew up in Chicago, Milton enjoys writing romantic comedies but has ideas for horror, thriller, family and action dramas -- because the iPod in his head is always on shuffle.