Saturday Night Live and The Second City comedy enterprises have announced the recipients of a new training scholarship for diverse, emerging talent. From a pool of some 1,300 applicants, four up and coming comedians were selected: Alexi Bolden, Gabriella “Gabi” Castillo, Kaili Turner and Morgan Van Dyne. The scholarships will cover all of their performance and writing training at Second City and give them access to SNL talent executives.
This partnership between these two legendary comedy institutions got off the ground last summer when SNL approached The Second City with an offer to sponsor a fund for developing diverse talent, says Abby Wagner, The Second City’s VP for Customer Success. She says executives didn’t flinch. “It was the ultimate ‘Yes, And,'” Wagner laughs, employing improv’s cardinal rule. READ MORE
After reviewing over 1300 applications, we are thrilled to announce the recipients of a new scholarship for diverse comedic talent in partnership with Saturday Night Live!
The creation of the SNL Scholarship, announced in October, was designed to grant comedians at varying levels of experience the opportunity to further their professional development at The Second City. In addition to receiving performance and writing training with us, recipients will be connected directly with SNL talent executives and have direct entry to submit an audition tape or sketch packet to SNL for the landmark show.
“We were blown away by the incredible submissions we received for the inaugural SNL Scholarship. We’re incredibly grateful to our friends at SNL for their shared commitment to discovering and developing bold new talent, and we know this is just the beginning for our work together,” says Jon Carr, executive producer of The Second City. READ MORE
We first meet young Laurel DuBois (portrayed by Jennifer C. Holmes) way back in Season 1, Episode 3 titled, “Kyle.” Through a series of strategically teasing flashbacks, we learn just a little bit more about her character, mostly through the perspective of Randall’s (Sterling K. Brown) birth father William (portrayed in various stages by Jermel Nakia and Ron Cephas Jones).
Warning: Spoilers ahead for Episode 506, “Birth Mother”READ MORE
Tonight, This is Us returns to NBC with a very special episode, “Birth Mother,” which tells the backstory of Randall’s mother.
Viewers were left with a cliffhanger when it was revealed Randall’s mother, who was previously thought to be dead, was actually alive which has only heightened anticipation for tonight’s show. And because the drama series is known for exceptional storytelling, NBC got two of the shows Black female writers, Kay Oyegun and Eboni Freeman, together with Sterling K. Brown and Susan Kelechi Watson to discuss developing this backstory. READ MORE
Kay Oyegun has been a member of the This Is Us family from the very beginning — starting as a staff writer in season one and eventually writing and co-executive producing her own episodes for the series. Tuesday marks another major progression for Oyegun’s career — her This Is Us directorial debut.
Titled “Birth Mother,” the episode features flashbacks set in New Orleans and answers lingering questions about Randall [Sterling K. Brown]’s mother Laurel.
Oyegun has proven to be a supreme talent, having produced and written some of This Is Us‘ strongest episodes, often focused on the series’ diversity and deeply empathetic storytelling. Her latest work on the series promises to continue in that tradition.
In an exclusive interview with Awards Daily, Oyegun shares her vision for Tuesday’s episode. She also discusses her involvement with NBCUniversal’s Female Forward — an annual initiative for female directors that aims to achieve gender parity among scripted series directors —and how it all finally led her to the director’s chair. READ MORE
Latinx arts advocacy group Nosotros and NBC have selected Pierre Jean Gonzalez and Desiree Carcamo as the winners of the 2nd Annual Ya Tu Sabes Monologue Slam. The annual event, which streamed on December 9, showcased a diverse group of Latinx Writers and Actors with original well-rounded monologues and performances that covered a diverse range of subjects in their storytelling, providing different perspectives of the Latinx experience while using universally relatable themes such as love, loss, hope, language, family, and female empowerment.
Gonzalez was the winner of the Acting Competition for Monologue with Brown Billiards while Desiree Carcamo was announced as the winner of the Writing Competition for Monologue with Not All Tamales Look the Same. READ MORE
Like the name suggests, the program provides talented writers who are “on the verge” of breaking into episodic television with a final polish to their writing and pitch presentation skills in order to prepare them for a staff writing position following the completion of the program. The program counts executive producers Brandon Margolis and Brandon Sonnier (LA’s Finest), Keto Shimizu (DC’s Legends of Tomorrow) and Gina Monreal (NCIS), among its alumni. READ MORE
The diversity of late-night writers rooms is not a new topic of conversation.
For years, these shows have been accused of being too white and too male, and while that still might be the case, there has been improvement across the board both in terms of gender and ethnicity. Progress is being made, slowly, in the right direction.
Chelsea Davison, taking over from Sean O’Connor, leads a gender-balanced and diverse writing team of Vannessa Jackson, a former writing apprentice on The Late Show with Stephen Colbert; Sabeeh Jameel, who was a researcher on The Opposition with Jordan Klepper; Romen Borsellino, co-creator of Freeform’s Kal Penn Approves This Message; Nimesh Patel, a former writer for Saturday Night Live who was discovered by Chris Rock; Nelu Handa, a writer and performer on Canadian series Baroness Von Sketch Show; and Natasha Vaynblat, who previously worked at Comedy Central.
The show is now being run by Neil Punsalan, who was recently showrunner of Comedy Central series Doing the Most with Phoebe Robinson and has worked on TruTV’s Friends of the People and The Pete Holmes Show, replacing Aliyah Silverstein as showrunner. READ MORE
The new class participated in an intensive virtual five-day program that prepared them for staff writer roles on late night and sketch comedy shows. Now in its eighth year, the program helps bolster NBC’s inclusive initiatives by discovering developing late night and sketch comedy writers of diverse backgrounds.
“Over the past eight years, the Late Night Writers Workshop has made a significant impact on the late night and sketch comedy landscape. Many of our alumni now write for top shows across the industry, and we are confident this new class of talented writers will follow suit,” said Lisa Katz and Tracey Pakosta, Co-Presidents, Scripted Programming, NBC Entertainment. “The current seismic shift in our culture has illuminated how critical it is to include the lens of diverse people to provide cultural context to current events. These writers will enter the industry at a time where their voices are needed now more than ever.” READ MORE
The industry’s first directing pipeline program for unscripted shows has set its 2019-2020 class, helping to create equal representation behind the scenes on alternative series.
The Alternative Directors Program was launched two years ago to give experienced female and ethnically diverse directors the opportunity to expand their repertoire of alternative formats and complex directing styles. The ultimate goal is hiring them as show directors on an NBC or Universal Television Alternative Studios series.
This year, the program directors will rotate through two to three alternative shows across the network’s daytime, primetime and late night line-ups. During their tenure on each show, they will shadow the respective show directors through prep and production, with the goal of directing a meaningful segment on one of the shows they shadow. The show directors will also serve as their mentors and advocates. READ MORE
NBC has unveiled comedians Franqi French and Rene Vaca as the winners of its 16th annual StandUp NBC competition. This marks the first time in the program’s 16-year history that two winners have been chosen in a single year.
StandUp NBC is an annual search for comedians of diverse backgrounds and French and Vaca have taken the crown and will each receive a talent holding deal with NBCUniversal and a headlining spot at the National Association for Campus Activities (NACA) annual convention where they will perform for talent bookers from across the country. They will also split the responsibility of headlining the regional semifinalist showcases in five cities across the country at next year’s StandUp NBC. READ MORE
NBC has its latest “Writers on the Verge,” naming the Class of 2019-20 for its diverse writers program. Selected from more than 2,300 applicants are comedy writers Rishi Chitkara, Shirin Najafi and Min-Woo Park and drama scribes Andi Delott, Maya Houston, Mitali Jahagirdar, Lira Kellerman and Shani Am. Moore Read more about them below.
Now in its 14th year, Writers on the Verge assembles talented aspiring writers of diverse backgrounds who are “on the verge” of breaking out but would benefit from a final polish of their writing and pitch-presentation skills to prepare them for a TV career. The program is part of NBC’s talent infusion programs that discover, develop and advocate for onscreen and behind the scenes talent of diverse backgrounds, the network said. READ MORE
NBC’s push for diversity and inclusion continues as it unveils the 2019-2020 classes for Female Forward and the Emerging Director Program, two pioneering scripted initiatives to increase the representation of female and ethnically diverse directors by creating a pipeline into scripted television. The initiatives stand out as the only programs in the industry that give participating directors an in-season guarantee to direct at least one episode.
Female Forward, which aims to achieve gender parity in the director’s chair, ushers in its second year with seven directors helming episodes of NBC shows. The new class of Female Forward directors and the NBC series they will direct include Kris Lefcoe (Superstore), Brenna Malloy (Chicago Fire), SJ Main Muñoz (Chicago Med), Kim Nguyen (Brooklyn Nine-Nine) and Sara Zandieh (Good Girls). READ MORE
In NBC’s ongoing advocacy for representation in key production roles, they have launched the networks first below-the-line initiatives. The two newly created pipeline programs focus on diversifying representation among production coordinators and production assistants.
The new annual initiatives are spearheaded by NBC’s Scripted Programming Co-Presidents Lisa Katz and Tracey Pakosta, Alternative and Reality Group President Meredith Ahr, and Karen Horne, Senior Vice President, Programming Talent Development & Inclusion (TIPS).
The new Production Coordinator Program and Production Assistant Initiative provides on-the-job training for ethnically diverse talent who want to work on a television production. Both are early-career production roles that cover a range of key administrative tasks. Production coordinators typically have one to two years of on-set experience and oversee a team of production assistants. READ MORE
NBC has its latest “Writers on the Verge,” naming the Class of 2018-19 for its diverse writers program. Selected from more than 2,200 applicants are comedy scribes Bernard Badion, Edward Excaliber, Joanne Lee and Sara White and drama writers Pamela García Rooney, Marissa Lee, Tiffany Shaw Ho and Margot Ye.
Now in its 13th year, Writers on the Verge assembles talented aspiring writers of diverse backgrounds who are “on the verge” of breaking out but would benefit from a final polish of their writing and pitch-presentation skills to prepare them for a TV career. The program is part of NBC’s talent infusion programs that discover, develop and advocate for onscreen and behind the scenes talent of diverse backgrounds, the network said. READ MORE
The finalists for the 13th Annual NBCUniversal Short Film Festival were announced Monday with the fest setting a record for female representation in front of and behind the camera. The finalists will be recognized at an awards ceremony Oct. 24 at the Director’s Guild of America in Hollywood where their short films will be screened.
Known for celebrating diverse storytelling and storytellers, the NBCUniversal Short Film Festival finalists explore race relations, women’s rights, as well as gender and sexual identity. The finalists include a variety of perspectives — both dramatic and comedic — from diverse communities including B.U.T.S: Spanish Class, Kyenvu, Masks, Monday, Rani, and We Know Where You Live. READ MORE
NBC has named the inaugural class for its new “Female Forward” directors initiative which will provide female directors a pipeline into scripted television.
The 10 directors selected as finalists and the NBC series on which they have been paired are Rebecca Addelman (Brooklyn Nine-Nine), Daniela De Carlo (Chicago Med), Lee Friedlander (Good Girls), Heather Jack (Superstore), Katie Locke O’Brien (A.P. Bio), Ramaa Mosley (Blindspot), Olivia Newman (Chicago Fire), Monica Raymund (Law & Order: SVU), Lisa Robinson (The Blacklist) and Christine Swanson (Chicago P.D.).
Chosen from among more than 1,000 applicants, the finalists have helmed a range of projects including award-winning films that have been official selections at Tribeca Film Festival, Santa Barbara International Film Festival and Toronto International Film Festival, among others. READ MORE
Sarah Arthur is a Coordinator in the Talent Development & Inclusion Department. She graduated from Pepperdine University with a Film Studies degree in 2019. Sarah has been an Emma Bowen Foundation Fellow, a Television Academy intern, and is a recent graduate of the NBCUniversal Page Program. Passionate about authentic storytelling, Sarah is a staunch advocate for diversity, equity, and inclusion in the entertainment industry.
Kiry Shabazz has been named as the winner of the 14th annual StandUp NBC competition. Shabazz was chosen in a nationwide search for comedians of diverse backgrounds.
As part of his title, Shabazz will receive a talent holding deal with NBCUniversal and a headlining spot at the National Association for Campus Activities (NACA) annual convention where he will perform before talent bookers from across the country. He will also headline the regional semi-finalist showcases for next year’s StandUp NBC.
Shabazz was one of 1,250 stand-up comedians who auditioned at open calls earlier this year in Chicago, San Francisco, Philadelphia, and Atlanta. In addition to the open calls, the annual competition accepted online submissions. The 1,250 was then narrowed down to eight finalists including Shabazz, Jourdain Fisher, T. Murph, Dewayne Perkins, Abby Rosenquist, Jess Salomon, Kabir “Kabeezy” Singh, Tom Thakkar and TuRae. READ MORE
With more than 4,200 submissions, the 12th annual NBCUniversal Short Film Festival announced the winners from a slate of nine finalists in the grand finale event in Los Angeles tonight. The competition was stiff as the nine short films and web series presented were amazingly crafted and thoughtful entries, but the two shorts that came out on top were Cynthia Kao’s Groundhog Day For A Black Man and Cullan Bruce’s Lost Dogs.
Groundhog Day For A Black Man tells a hilarious, timely story of a black man continually reliving the same day where he encounters life-and-death scenarios with the police. The socially relevant comedywon for Outstanding Comedy and the Critics’ Choice Award. On the dramatic side, the Lost Dogswon for Outstanding Drama and Outstanding Actor. The short, inspired by the insane brilliance of Korean horror, told the story of a woman ridiculed by her family who longs to escape. Striking a deal with her brother to clear his illegal debt, she delves deeper into darkness. READ MORE
NBC’s Writers on the Verge, the network’s program to develop aspiring television writers from diverse backgrounds, has named eight writers to its class of 2017-18. This year’s crop includes comedy writers Nick Bouier, Octavia Bray, Eugene Garcia-Cross and Felicia Pride, and drama writers Celena Cipriaso, William Garroutte, Amy Lambert and Eileen Shim. They were selected from a pool of more than 2,600 applicants.
Founded in 2005, Writers on the Verge is an annual program for talented, aspiring writers of diverse backgrounds who are “on the verge” of breaking out, but need a final polish of their writing and pitch presentation skills to equip them for staff writer positions on television series. READ MORE
NBCUniversal Talent Infusion Programs has named JR De Guzman winner of the 13th Annual Standup NBCnationwide search for comedians of diverse backgrounds. With the win, De Guzman has landed a one-year talent holding deal with NBCUniversal. He also will perform later this month for talent bookers from across the country at the National Association for Campus Activities (NACA) annual convention, and will headline the regional semi-finalist showcases for this year’sStandUp NBC.
De Guzman was chosen from among eight other finalists out of more than 600 stand-up comedians who auditioned at open calls last year in New York City, San Diego, Nashville and Austin. He, along with the eight other finalists were later featured in a finale showcase hosted by comedian and StandUp NBC alumnus Orlando Leyba at The Improv in Hollywood. They performed their sets in front of an audience of television executives, casting directors, agents, managers and industry tastemakers. The other eight finalists are Raanan Hershberg, Jessica Keenan, Ismael Loutfi, Keith McGill, Rojo Perez, Gibran Saleem, Candice Thompson and Daniel Webb. READ MORE
NBCUniversal Talent Infusion Programs has finalized the list for its 2016-17 Writers on the Verge, the annual program for TV writers of diverse backgrounds who are “on the verge” of breaking out but need a final polish of their writing and pitch presentation skills. Winners will receive coaching and mentoring from industry pros during an intensive 12-week program with the ultimate goal of preparing them to be staff writers. At the end, they will be considered for available writing assignments on NBC series.
This year’s winners are comedy writers Mnelik Belilgne, Melanie Boysaw and Jeremy Hsu and drama writers Lorelei Ignas, Allyssa Lee, Rayna McClendon, Mellori Velasquez and Jeane Wong.
This is the 11th year of the program that is among the initiatives of NBCU’s program to promote and encourage people of diverse backgrounds. More than 2,000 applied this year. Recent alumni are staffed on series including The Blacklist (producers Brandon Margolis and Brandon Sonnier), Superstore, American Crime, Suits, Shades of Blue (co-EP Rashad Raisani) and NBC midseason series The Redemption and Midnight, Texas. READ MORE
NBCUniversal held its 11th annual Short Film Festival last night to honor its eight finalists, with Oscar nominee Henry Hughes emerging as the night’s big winner, as he took home three of the seven awards. Hughes won for Best Director, Best Drama, and the Audience Award for his drama Day One, which is inspired by a true story of a translator’s first day with a US Army unit. In addition to the awards, Hughes nabbed a development meeting with Universal and a $10K cash grant from Xfinity.
Finalists were able to screen their shorts in front of industry professionals in film and television as well as managers, agents and producers. Presenters at the ceremony, which took place at the Directors Guild of America, included comedian/actor Lil Rel Howery (The Carmichael Show), who opened the evening, along with Nico Santos (Superstore), Randall Park (Fresh Off The Boat), writer/director David E. Talbert (Universal’s Almost Christmas), Essence Atkins (NBC’s Marlon), Bresha Webb (Marlon), Veronica Falcón (Queen of the South), Tiffany Haddish (The Carmichael Show), Chrissie Fit (Pitch Perfect 2) and Star Trek Beyond director Justin Lin, who appeared via pre-taped video. READ MORE
Dulcé Sloan has won top honors at the 12th annual StandUp NBC comedy showcase. With the win, Sloan has been signed to a talent holding deal with NBCUniversal.
The showcase, hosted by actor-comedian and StandUp NBC alum Tone Bell (Truth Be Told) at the Hollywood Improv, capped a talent search to find the funniest emerging comics of diverse backgrounds that spanned Atlanta, Dallas, Seattle and New York. Nine finalists were chosen from a pool of more than 40 semifinalists. The others were Alex Sparling, Alvin Irby, Christina Galston, Ian Aber, Jesus Sepulveda, Orlando Leyba, Trenton Davis and Randy Syphax.
“Every year StandUp NBC finds unknown comics with solid potential for our programming,” said executive producer Jandiz Cardoso. “Last year we discovered Lavar Walker, who was immediately brought into the next season of Last Comic Standing.” Other StandUp NBC alumni who starred in NBC series this year include Brandon T. Jackson (Mr. Robinson), Ron Funches (Undateable) and Lil’Rel Howery (The Carmichael Show).
Sloan was honored as a New Face at this year’s Montreal Just for Laughs Festival. She has also appeared on ABC’s Resurrection and the Fox NFL Sunday pregame show segment Riggle’s Picks with Rob Riggle. READ MORE
Nick Guerra has been named winner of the 11th annual StandUp NBC comedy showcase. With the win, Guerra has been signed into a one-year talent holding deal with NBCU. The showcase, held at the Hollywood Improv in LA, capped a talent search to find the funniest comics of diverse backgrounds in the country. Comedians were evaluated on the originality of their material, delivery, cast-worthiness and overall performance.
“There are two things every comedian needs for his career to stay alive – recognition of talent and car repair money,” said Guerra. “I’d like to thank NBC for continuing to show me support and for the new transmission.” READ MORE