Universal Selects Five Writers for New Fellowship

From left: Margaret Rose Lester, Steve Martinez, Ivy Pruss, Chandus Jackson and Salia Reyes
From left: Margaret Rose Lester, Steve Martinez, Ivy Pruss, Chandus Jackson and Salia Reyes
 Courtesy of Universal

After screening more than 700 applicants, Universal Pictures announced today that it has chosen five fellows for the inaugural installment of its Emerging Writers Fellowship, which is set to launch this week.

Chandus T. Jackson, Margaret Rose Lester, Steve Martinez, Ivy Pruss and Salia Reyes will serve as fellows, working on current Universal projects and pitching original story ideas over the course of the program.

The fellowship is meant to give an opportunity to “talented screenwriters who have the potential to thrive, but don’t have access to or visibility within the industry,” according to the NBCUniversal website.

Craig Robinson, executive vp and chief diversity officer for NBCUniversal, said in a press release that the fellowship represents “the commitment of the senior leadership at Universal Pictures to identify, develop and nurture new voices in film.”

Peter Cramer and Jeffrey Kirschenbaum, Universal Pictures’ co-presidents of production, will oversee the fellows.

“We had an incredible group of people who applied for this fellowship, and the choice was extremely tough,” Cramer said in a statement. “The five people our committee selected are tremendously talented, and we are looking forward to working with them as they embark on the next phase of their careers.”

The program application went live in September, for which applicants were asked to submit an original script between 85 and 125 pages. The selection committee read the first 500 eligible scripts before selecting 13 finalists and ultimately choosing the fellowship’s 2014-15 cohort.

In addition to completing writing assignments, the fellowship will also involve a series of speaker panels to broaden the fellows’ exposure to the film business as a whole.

Confirmed guest speakers include producer Will Packer (Ride Along), writer-producer Chris Morgan (the Fast & Furious franchise), writer-producer Jeremy Garelick (The Break-Up), writer-producer Cheo Hodari Coker (Notorious) and writer-producer Suzanne de Passe of De Passe Jones Entertainment.

“The Emerging Writers Fellowship is designed to provide the fellows with the greatest possible exposure to our industry, but it’s also a great opportunity for Universal,” Kirschenbaum said. “The five fellows have very different backgrounds, giving our team the chance to benefit on some of the projects we currently have in development.”

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