2018 Universal Writers Program Participants Announced

TVWriter™ Press Service Thanks the Universal Writers Program, Deadline.Com, MovieBytes & all the Usual Showbiz Sources

HOT OFF THE PRESSES…if there still were real printing presses:

The Universal Writers Program, a one-year program giving selected writers the opportunity to develop feature film scripts while working with executives and producers at Unversal and its Focus Features subsidiary, has announced the following participants:

Evan Dodson
A Baltimore native and graduating senior of USC’s John Wells Writing for Screen and Television program, who is the youngest writer ever to be featured on The Black List.

Nancy Duff
A Universal Pictures employee from the Visual Effects department, the Atlanta native was recently awarded the top prize in the Napa Valley Film Festival, where she participated in a weeklong Artist in Residency Program.

Anil Foreman
A long-time Atlanta resident, who began writing comedy screenplays in her spare time while practicing health care and administrative law. Prior to being accepted into the Program, she was an attorney for the Georgia Department of Community Health.

Omid Ghaffarian
A graduate of the MFA program at UCLA, the New York native most recently served as a production assistant on Hollywood Babble On featuring Kevin Smith.

Joelle Luman
With a degree in Broadcast Journalism from USC, the San Francisco native recently worked as an unscripted producer for television shows such as Top Chef and Big Brother.

Kimberly Walker
Previously a beauty editor for BET.com and contributing beauty expert for Ebony.com, the Michigan native recently wrote the film Comeback Dad, which was picked up by UPtv and later purchased by Netflix.

Here’s what Universal Talent Development has to say about the Writers Program:

The Universal Writers Program identifies experienced and up-and-coming screenwriters with unique points of view that build upon the Studio’s commitment to telling stories and creating films that reflect the vast diversity of our audiences. The Program inclusively develops storytellers with the intent to incorporate multicultural and global perspectives in screenwriting. The only feature film program sanctioned by the Writers Guild of America West (WGAW), the Program seeks writers who tonally match the Universal Pictures and Focus Features slates.

The primary goal for the one-year paid program is for writers to create material for development consideration; however, concept development is not guaranteed. From pitch to final draft, writers will be afforded creative guidance from executives, producers and designated creative consultants.  In addition to penning two (2) feature-length scripts, writers will participate in a curriculum designed to strengthen their creative approach, personal presentation skills and overall knowledge of the Studio production process from pitch to premiere. The Program also provides access to agents, managers and various industry professionals through meetings and/or events designed to facilitate relationships that can prove invaluable in developing a screenwriting career.

Writers selected to participate in the Program are hired under a writing service agreement requiring a full-time commitment of a minimum of 40 hours per week.  Additionally, should a writer’s material be identified as potential development content, UFEG has the option to extend the writer’s contract for a term of up to one additional year.

In other words, don’t let anybody kid you. The run-up to this was as much a contest as any writing contest can be, and these “participants” are winners in every way. TVWriter™ congratulates you all!

Agencies, Writers Guild on Collision Course

Yesterday we talked about the Writers Guild’s unhappiness with the writer-agent relationship that has been screwing writers over for forty years. (Yeah, yeah, we know that’s a loaded sentence. We used it deliberately because – yeah, yeah – we’ve definitely got a horse in this race.)

Well, the agents have responded, and here’s a pretty fair analysis of what they’ve said. Bottom line: Could be time to take up battlestations, y’all.

image credit: Dale Edwin Murray

by Jonathan Handel

As Endeavor and CAA encroach on studio turf, the union is seeking to halt production activity and renegotiate the “outdated” franchise agreement, citing potential conflicts of interest for agents.

A state of wary confusion has drifted over Hollywood’s major talent agencies since the Writers Guild of America notified them on April 6 that it was terminating — and demanding changes to — the “franchise agreement” that governs relations between agencies, the guild and the town’s writers.

The key issues for the guild: packaging, a half-century old system in which agencies assemble the creative elements of a television series in exchange for receiving fees from the studio rather than commissions from the client; and production, a newer practice in which agencies or their affiliates actually finance or produce a series. The WGA calls both a conflict of interestBut Association of Talent Agents president Karen Stuart tells The Hollywood Reporter, “Many of the practices that the WGA presents as problematic create exactly the opportunities its members have been demanding from their agents.”

That termination doesn’t take effect for 12 months, a period required by the agreement and intended for negotiation of what would be the first-ever changes to the 42-year old document. But agencies feel the guild is starting off on the wrong foot. In a previously unreported April 11 email to UTA’s over 300 agents, CEO Jeremy Zimmer said, “The WGA, which shares our mission to protect the financial and creative rights of writers, should be working with us to address the impact of new technology [but] instead … is focusing on the agencies themselves [and] set[ting] their members against their representatives.”

The guild’s demands — contained in a letter to the ATA — fall under eight categories, including diversity, cooperation, transparency and the like. It’s a laundry list of 30 separate changes to what the guild calls an “outdated” agreement.

From Agent to Producer?

The planned renegotiation is happening as the major studios are weathering the onslaught of Netflix and other streamers, and the two largest agencies, Endeavor — parent of WME and Endeavor Content — and CAA, are seizing the opportunity to step into the void. But the guild says that when an agency has a financial interest in a production entity, or vice versa, there’s an inherent conflict of interest: The agency is, in effect, the writer’s employer and advocate concurrently. One agency source concedes potential difficulties, but that source and others echo one executive’s question: “Why would the guild want to reduce the number of buyers?” — particularly in “a consolidating market” notes another source, who referenced Disney’s pending $52.4 billion acquisition of Fox assets….

Read it all at hollywoodreporter.com

LB: Untold Tales of the Animated SILVER SURFER TV Series Ep. 21

by Larry Brody

Over the past several weeks I’ve posted the scripts for Season 2 Episodes 1 through 7 of the FoxKids Network The Silver Surfer animated series I ran back in 1998 for those who wondered what all of us involved in the show had prepared for the world to see – if we hadn’t been cancelled.

Today it’s the turn of Season 2 Episode 8, Down to Earth: Part Three.  This one never got beyond “First Draft,” status because FoxKids and Saban had all but pulled the plug. They weren’t about to pay for any further development of the show and all of us were being moved to other projects or sent home.

This draft is dated May 29, 1998 and is the last work of any kind ever done for the series. The day I emailed this one to the company was a very unhappy one for me. Here’s hoping that the day you read The Silver Surfer, Down to Earth: Part Three is a much more joyful one for you.

Or, as Stan Lee said when I told him we were finished: “Lo, there has come an ending!”

Or something like that.









NOTE: If you’re new to TVWriter™ and/or to the original animated SS series, you have some backstory to catch up on. Fortunately, TVWriter™ just happens to have a section dedicated to The Silver Surfer. To reach it, CLICK HERE!

And now it’s time for:



(Formerly: “The Cosmic Way”)




MAY 29, 1998




Behold the planet known as Earth!
Here, on this otherwise
insignificant world, a cosmic
drama continues to unfold…

reach the planet.

The players taking their cues from
the Silver Surfer and his
companion Nova, who came to Earth
seeking rest…


The FANTASTIC FOUR fly in to attack Nova and Surfer!

But found only conflict. First
were they attacked by the cosmic-
powered “Fantastic Four”…


While the Surfer and Nova are interviewed before a crowd by
SIDNEY YOUNG, the police arrive and a riot begins!

And then were they misunderstood
by the authorities as well…


The Surfer uses his power cosmic to create an ENERGY BUBBLE
that separates the factions, and a HEALING BEAM to heal those
who have fallen.

Some on the planet saw the Silver
Surfer as a savior…

The crowd — and some police as well — CALLS OUT its praise!



The Surfer addresses the crowd here, with Young nearby.

A role he assumed wholeheartedly,
hoping he could be the leader to
rescue Earth from itself…

Suddenly, the Enervator fires a BLACK BEAM, hitting the
Surfer and knocking him off his board.

But when the Fantastic Four
refused to act against the Silver
Surfer this time, secret weaponry
was unleashed…


As TERRAX appears.

And while the Silver Surfer lay
neutralized, Terrax, new herald of
dread Galactus, arrived, seeking


WGA Rattles More Sabers at Hollywood Agents

More on the potential upcoming War on Agency Packaging Fees. Or, to be more blunt: On the absurd conflicts of interest that have influenced everything we see on TV and film while making the agents far richer than those they represent over the last 40 years:

Writers Guild Seeks to Reshape Talent Agency Business in Proposed Deal
by Dave McNary

Amping up its battle with talent agents, the Writers Guild of America has issued proposals to Hollywood agents aimed at stopping potential conflicts of interest.

“The Guilds’ proposals are entirely reasonable,” said WGA West president David A. Goodman. “If you review them closely, they read like a voluntary code of conduct that an agency would put up on their own website to attract writers and other talent. The proposals demonstrate a commitment to the fiduciary principles of law, always putting the client first and being an honorable representative.”

The WGA’s actions have raised alarms at major agencies, which are unlikely to agree to the proposals. Should the agreement expire next year, it’s uncertain what kind of oversight the WGA would be able to exercise over agents.

The specific proposals were sent to ATA members and first unveiled Friday by Deadline Hollywood. The key proposal says, “No agency shall accept any money or thing of value from the employer of a client” — which would effectively end all packaging deals, in which agencies receive both upfront and back-end fees.

The WGA is also proposing that “no agency shall derive any revenue or other benefit from a client’s involvement in or employment on a motion picture project, other than a percentage commission based on the client’s compensation.”

The WGA has also proposed that “no agency shall have an ownership or other financial interest in, or shall be owned by or affiliated with, any entity or individual engaged in the production or distribution of motion pictures.”

“The agency’s commission shall be limited to 10% of client’s gross compensation, including client’s profit participation,” the proposal said. “Agency’s commission shall not reduce client’s compensation below MBA scale compensation. Agency shall not circumvent limits on commissions by charging fees for other services….”

Read it all at Variety.Com

Kathryn Graham: What Makes ClexaCon Special?

Wynonna Earp’s Dominique Provost-Chalkley (Waverly Earp) and Kat Barrell (Nicole Haught) having a laugh 

by Kathryn Graham

ClexaCon is an inclusive convention held in Las Vegas and London celebrating queer women on screen and behind the scenes. It’s the first of its kind, and that makes it unique in and of itself, but much more than that, here is what I found special:

Genuine human connection, a celebratory spirit, and powerful support.

From Kat Barrell (Nicole Haught on Wynonna Earp) crying about the isolation that older queer women suffered growing up without easy access to their community to Vanessa Piazza (Producer of Lost Girl and Dark Matter) stating outright that when you climb the ladder, you help others up; it’s an atmosphere that’s truly like nothing else I’ve ever experienced.

I’m out here in Hollywood, which isn’t as cutthroat as people make it out to be, but which isn’t exactly the most welcoming space. We have gatekeepers who are always looking at the bottom line (aka “The Business”). People who have firm beliefs that only certain types of characters can sell (prejudiced chicanery). You have to prove, hundreds of times over to many different people, that you’re ‘worth it’, i.e. that you can make everyone a lot of money.

It’s ultra competitive. It’s isolating, even among friends, as you’re always pitted against each other. Even people who enjoy your company can be so busy that you have to ask nine times if they want to have lunch. And it’s fine. It’s the way it is. This industry is demanding. People have other priorities. You have no control over who wins a contest or gets an agent or get staffed. At least not at my level. But that means that sometimes it can seem like no one cares all that much about you except you. You’re a drop in the ocean.

Not so at ClexaCon.

There, people see you. People care about you. They want you to tell your stories, and they want to help you make it happen.

That’s revolutionary.

As a writer, I always thought that queer female characters were a non-starter. Why wouldn’t I think that? For most of my life, we could barely get good roles for women on television (and feature films are worse), let alone main storylines for queer characters.

I expected that if I was ever lucky and dogged enough to get my original work sold, I’d be in long, drawn out battles to keep my main character and her love interest female. Because I knew I’d never compromise.

I believed that no matter how hard I tried, no matter how much I improved my craft, no matter how the story came out, it wouldn’t matter because nobody wants to see queer women on television.

Then last year, ClexaCon changed all of that.

Last ClexaCon, Emily Andras (Showrunner for Wynonna Earp) told us that if we ever doubted there was an audience for our stories, then we should take a look around that packed room, and then never doubt again. This year, she reiterated that, and it was more poignant than ever. Because that room was three times the size and packed to overflowing.

Last year, in ClexaCon’s premiere year, I wrote a lot about the ethics of storytelling from panels led by Dr. Elizabeth Bridges and Gretchen Ellis.  A huge number of queer female characters had been killed off on television that season, and it was a depressing subject.

This year, as the panelists noted, there is more and more content – Black Lightning, Everything Sucks, Runaways – whose creators don’t even need to be told how to write queer stories ethically: they already know.

Last ClexaCon, for the first time in my life, I could look around and definitively say: here are my people. They get me, and I get them. This year, I was touched by creators and actresses who aren’t queer but who are as invested in these stories as we are.

I can’t tell you how wonderful it is to have hope that I can reach so many others like me. How heartening it is to see people like my straight, male friend welcomed with open arms and to see his sincere interest in everything ClexaCon stands for. Just a few years ago, I would never have believed that there were so many queer women looking for content representing them. I would definitely have scoffed at the idea that so many people who don’t identify as queer would want the same thing.

So even if the world outside ClexaCon has so much further to go, at ClexaCon you can see where we should be. Because, in a world that can seem so uncaring and disconnected, ClexaCon is genuine love.

Also, bonus: no ‘con funk’ (a haze of body odor at… pretty much every other convention ever).

Photo Credit: Kathryn Graham

Check out more photos from ClexaCon on my Instagram: KateGrahamTV

Kathryn Graham is a TVWriter™ Contributing Editor and award winning writer. Learn more about Kate HERE