ViacomCBS announced the seven writers selected out of 1,000 applicants to participate in the Writers Mentoring Program for 2021-2022. Currently in its 18th year and helmed by the ViacomCBS Office of Global Inclusion, the program provides mentorships, access and opportunity for writers.
The eight-month mentoring program pairs writers with ViacomCBS executive mentors, who help them develop a new piece of material. Following the mentorship period, the writers participate in a 16-week workshop designed to teach them everything about the television business, as well as provide them access to agents, managers, executives, showrunners and producers.
“By focusing on professional growth and supporting these emerging writers in their craft, our Writers Mentoring Program helps to provide opportunities and build relationships with network executives and showrunners,” said Tiffany Smith-Anoa’i, Executive Vice President, Entertainment Diversity and Inclusion, Global Inclusion, ViacomCBS.
“Many of our participants from last year are now staffed on network shows, including the CBS comedies Ghost and the upcoming Smallwood, as well as The CW dramas All American and 4400. Also, we are proud of our alumni who have gone on to become executive producers and showrunners on various television series. I’d like to commend my former colleague Jeanne Mau, previously SVP Global Inclusion at ViacomCBS, for her tireless efforts with the program, and the careers that have been launched as a result.”
This program has helped launch the careers of 94 writers, including Leonard Chang (Snowfall), Akela Cooper (Star Trek: Strange New Worlds), Howard Jordan Jr. (Bigger), Angela Kang (The Walking Dead), Janet Lin (Bridgerton), April Shih (Dave), Aaron Rashaan Thomas (S.W.A.T.), and Julie Wong (Grey’s Anatomy), among numerous others.
Here are this year’s participants:
David Aguilar, drama writer:
David Aguilar is a Chicano screenwriter, Los Angeles native, UCLA Film School graduate, former private investigator and former high school teacher, and grew up in a place called “Hangtown.” He has completed the NHMC (National Hispanic Media Coalition) TV Writers Program and wrote a short film that won top prize for the CBS Leadership Pipeline Challenge. His scripts have placed in several competitions, including Launchpad, Screencraft and the Austin Film Festival. Aguilar has gained valuable writers’ room experience as a writer’s PA on the Amazon series “Absentia,” as a segment producer for Reelz Channel and Cesar Millan, and as a contributing writer to “The Latino Baseball History Project.” He’s traveled to Chiapas, Mexico to teach filmmaking to the Zapatista guerrilla army as well as to Havana to study Cuban cinema. He is repped by Marathon Management.
Vanessa Herron, drama writer:
Vanessa K. Herron was born and raised in Texas, where she resided in a haunted house for several years and lived to write about it. After years of working in Los Angeles radio as a producer and news editor, she optioned a feature script and decided to pursue writing full-time. Currently, Herron is a 2022 MFA candidate at USC School of Cinematic Arts. Her work there has garnered her an Annenberg Fellowship and a ViacomCBS/NAACP Fellowship, and led to her co-directing a music-centered cinematic project for USC Thornton School of Music. Recently, her scripts have reached the quarterfinals of the Nicholl Fellowship and placed in various contests, including Launch Pad and the Austin Film Festival. She writes about people who face their biggest fears, embrace their “otherness,” and design their own happy endings.
Luke Fujimoto Jensen, comedy writer:
Luke Fujimoto Jensen is a mixed-race Japanese American TV comedy writer, born and raised in Fargo, N.D. He graduated from Drake University with university honors and a degree in biochemistry, so naturally he went on to pursue a career in comedy. His produced work has been featured on Comedy Central and Funny or Die and at the Alamo Drafthouse. His scripts have placed in the Final Draft Big Break Contest, the Austin Film Festival and the Warner Bros. and Disney writing programs. Currently, he is an office manager and literary assistant at the Kaplan Stahler Agency. He is repped by Stagecoach Entertainment.
Margaret Lebron, drama writer:
Margaret Lebron was raised in Peoria, Ill., halfway between her dad’s Puerto Rican/Italian west side Chicago family and her mom’s rural farm town roots. She earned her PhD in performance studies from Northwestern University, where she wrote her dissertation on contemporary theater about military veterans. When she wasn’t on campus, she worked for a number of storefront theaters as a literary manager and dramaturg and performed improv at iO Theater. Lebron participated in the 2017 National Hispanic Media Coalition TV Writers Program and has worked as script coordinator on the series Mayans M.C., On Becoming a God in Central Florida and Better Things.
Ryan Lee, drama writer:
Ryan Lee was born in Paris, France to a Chinese father and Jewish mother, and raised in Palo Alto, Calif. Ever since watching Gore Verbinki’s Mouse Hunt at the age of 6, he has wanted to tell stories. He attended the University of Southern California School of Cinematic Arts, and since then, he’s developed feature films, television pilots and interactive web series scripts. In 2018, he was part of the CAPE New Writers Fellowship, and in 2019 his screenplay about the joys of college admission fraud was selected for the first inaugural CAPE List.
Khalid Moalim, drama writer:
Currently, Khalid Moalim is the script coordinator for The CW’s 4400. Moalim was born in Saudi Arabia to a Somali family, then lived in Egypt as a refugee before they immigrated and settled in Minneapolis, Minn. He graduated from Ohio State University where he focused on journalism, serving as an editor for the school paper and working at the local NPR affiliate. He has 20 brothers and sisters scattered throughout the world. Moalim writes character-driven family dramas that explore the collective beauty and messiness of a group of people. When he isn’t writing, he enjoys a good game of basketball at the park and exploring new coffee shops.
Stefanie Woodburn, comedy writer:
Stefanie Woodburn is a Eurasian writer/performer from Maryland with a dance and theater background who loves to write stories from the mixed-race perspective. An NYU summa cum laude graduate, she found her voice on Twitch, a livestream service for content, playing games for thousands of hours. Woodburn created the first short film funded through streaming video games, “POLE,” an official selection in 18 film festivals. She was a 2018 Cape New Writers Fellow and a graduate of Ron Howard & Brian Grazer’s Imagine Impact program. A huge nerd, she’s spoken on Comic-Con, WonderCon, and TwitchCon panels about gaming, hosting and content creation. She is repped by Verve.