Disney/ABC TV Writing Program Gives 8 Diverse Participants the 'Golden Ticket' (Exclusive)

In association with the WGA West, the company gives a new crop of writers a chance to break into the industry.

The Disney/ABC Television Group in association with the WGA West have chosen eight 2012 participants for its annual writing program.

VIDEO: Disney/ABC's All-Star TCA Party 2012 Red Carpet Interviews

The writers are Erinne Dobson (Orleans, Mass.), Cindy Fang (Fremont, Calif.), Shannon Fopeano (Orleans, Mass.), Jason George (Memphis), Eric Haywood (Milwaukee), Ryan Maldonado (Miami), Raamla Mohamed (Los Angeles) and Aaron Serna (McAllen, Texas).

“We’re looking for people who are first and foremost passionate about writing for television,” Disney/ABC Television Group’s vp talent development and diversity Tim McNeal tells The Hollywood Reporter. “And individuals who bring something new to the table, a unique perspective on storytelling.”

Chosen from more than 1,000 submissions, the writers will have the opportunity to work as staff on a Disney/ABC project, as well as take advantage of other resources provided to them through the program.

VIDEO: Disney's D23 Expo 2011 Red Carpet Interviews

“In the short term, they can expect an intensive overview of the industry both through classes and workshops that we provide for them as well as mentorship and relationship building with executives within the company,” McNeal explains. “In the long term, relationships that stand the test of time, because of this unique opportunity. And insights into how to be successful in the business that will hopefully carry them throughout their career.”

Over its 22 years and 253 participants, the writing program has sought individuals “who are off the beaten path and have something unique to say” describes McNeal, but may not have had the opportunities and access to the industry that a program like this one can provide.

“There as so few opportunities for writers who are starting out in their career to find that entry point,” he says. “It has become so competitive. And I think it’s pretty well known in the community now that from their perspective as young writers that getting into a program like this is kind of the golden ticket. It really helps them to launch their career. Now, it doesn’t happen without their own effort, but it’s an opportunity that’s very unique in the business. And if you get that opportunity and you know how to take advantage of it, you will succeed.”

PHOTOS: Behind the Scenes With TV's Showrunners

The program boasts an impressive list of graduates that includes Jane Espenson (Battlestar Galactica, Once Upon a Time), Veena Sud (The Killing), George Mastras (Breaking Bad), and Maria Jacquemetton (Mad Men).

As for its more recent participants, there’s Peter Saji (2007) who’s currently working on Cougartown and Sierra Ornelas (2010) who now writes for Happy Endings. Under the program’s director, Frank Bennett Gonzalez, 2011 participants were staffed on shows ranging from ABC’s Private Practice and ABC Family’s The Lying Game to Disney Channel’s Jessie.

“Disney/ABC Television Group’s writing program is instrumental in identifying the next generation of creative talent that will be the showrunners of tomorrow,” Writers Guild of America, West’s Diversity Director Kimberly Myers says. “The WGA values our unique relationship in nurturing this talent.” 

Email: Jethro.Nededog@thr.com; Twitter: @TheRealJethro