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

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

Most Viewed TVWriter™ Posts of the Week – April 23, 2018

Time for TVWriter™’s Monday look at our most popular blog posts of the week ending yesterday. They are:

Looking for TV Pilot Scripts?

LB: Where Did THE FALL GUY Live?

Top TVWriter™ Posts of the Week – April 16, 2018

LB: Untold Tales of the Animated SILVER SURFER TV Series Ep. 20

‘The Following’ Season 4 was Cancelled by Fox Because the TV Series Became a Victim of Lazy Writing!

And our most visited permanent resource pages are:

Writing the Dreaded Outline

PEOPLE’S PILOT Writing Contest

THE BASICS OF TV WRITING: Overview

SPIDER-MAN UNLIMITED SECOND SEASON ARC

The Logline

Big thanks to everybody for making this another great week at TVWriter™ . Don’t forget to click above and read what you missed and re-read what you loved!

Bri Castellini: Fame, Branding, and Chubby Women – @brisownworld

Image credit goes to Marshall Taylor Thurman, who has the unique ability to get incredibly unflattering photos of my giant arms.

by Bri Castellini

Been thinking a lot about branding recently. It’s a topic that comes up a lot in indie filmmaking, because it’s important that all of your projects’ assets follow similar themes, colors, etc so that people can easily tell what accounts and posts are yours. It’s also something pretty integral to my ambitions in the media and entertainment world, because online, personal brand is everything.

I know how much me and my personal identity entangles with my work and the promotion of it. I know I’m one of the most Google-able (if not THE most Google-able) person in my casts and crews. I’m the only Bri Castellini on the internet, baby, and you can basically find my entire life story in the first few pages of search results. Plus I literally run all the social media and email accounts associated with my projects (as well as the social media for one of my friends) and at this point people are wise to that.

I’m also not ashamed to type here in my decade-old personal blog that I want to be famous. Whenever anyone asks what my plans for the future are, I say “get very famous,” and I’m only a little bit kidding (because my actual plans are to get MASSIVELY famous). With fame comes power, and with power comes the ability to be creative full time and pay my collaborators the crazy amount of money they’re absolutely worth.

I want to be famous, and therefore I spend a lot of time thinking about my brand. I can’t just be “Bri Castellini, person.” I have to be “Bri Castellini, pre-famous filmmaker and writer,” and that’s distinct, even if only subtly. This means I also have to be conscious of the kinds of projects I’m developing, because if I make things that are too dissimilar from each other, it’ll be hard to leverage my existing audience that I fought so hard to attract. Granted, that audience is pretty tiny right now, but it’s not nothing.

I’m very curious to hear what y’all think my “brand” is, so leave thoughts in the comments if you have them. In my mind, based on the projects that have been successful/gotten me my teensy audience, these are the Bri Castellini keywords I’ve come up with:

  • Millennial woman
  • Comedy
  • Profanity
  • Asexuality
  • Mental illness/anxiety/depression
  • Zombies

Looking at this list, struck me today that despite it being a pretty obvious option, I haven’t really leaned into the chubby facet of my identity. While I use my struggles with mental illness and my asexuality a lot in my work, further strengthening the “authenticity” of my brand as it relates to my creative endeavors, I haven’t really explored weight. Both Alison Sumner and Sam from ‘Sam and Pat’ are chubby because they’re me, but their weight literally never comes up in their stories. I have often wondered if this is a mistake.

You don’t see chubby women on screen very often, especially not as “women.” Chubby women are reduced (hah) to their weight, or to the undesirable comic relief character, and rarely find opportunities for lead roles or roles more complex than “fat lady trying to lose weight.” So even though it wasn’t really my intention or a part of my development process, the fact that Alison Sumner is a chubby girl with a voracious sexual appetite and a romantic arc never once mentioning her weight is kind of amazing. The only example coming immediately to mind of a chubby women on film getting a romantic arc without her weight being mentioned is Sookie from Gilmore Girls, although that show (and it’s creator Amy Sherman-Palladino’s writing in general) has its own weird issues with weight and fat people.

It’s weird that such a massive (hah) part of my own identity literally never occurs to me when writing. Maybe it’s internalized fat-phobia from having never seen fat female protagonists on screen. Who can say?

I guess the question is… is that bad? Am I doing my chubby sisters a disservice by not mentioning the weight of characters I play? Or by explicitly writing characters with a little more junk in the trunk? Or is not mentioning the weight of chubbier characters the more nuanced way to approach this and promote further positive representation? Is this a part of my brand I should be leaning into to reach my full (HAH) potential as an independent artist, or is “loud depressed asexual feminist” enough?  Am I missing out on a significant potential audience? DOES ANY OF THIS REALLY MATTER? (probably not)

I don’t know the right answer here. Boiling myself down to my base keywords is a weird way to spend an afternoon, and a weird way to think about my online activities as they service my overall ambition of incredible fame and fortune. For the record, this isn’t an invitation to weigh in (HAAAAAH ok I’m done), especially if you’re of the male persuasion, but if other similarly sized ladies have thoughts, I’d love to hear them.


Bri Castellini is an indie filmmaker and Community Liaison at Stareable, our favorite web series hub. Watch Bri’s award-winning web series, Brains, HERE This post first appeared on her seriously cool blog.