EXCLUSIVE: Kevin Hart’s Hartbeat and the Sundance Institute today named Mayanna Berrin (Power Dynamics), Kiana Butler Jabangwe (Night Off) and Danielle Solomon (Hey Boo) as the recipients of this year’s Women Write Now comedic screenwriting fellowship, designed to elevate the next generation of Black women in comedy.
The Fellows, whose short film scripts were selected from a pool of hundreds submissions, will now further develop their material under the guidance of Hartbeat’s panel of script mentors and creative advisors including Leigh Davenport (Starz’s Run the World), Kay Oyegun (NBC’s This Is Us) and Yamara Taylor (ABC’s Black-ish). As part of the development process, each will also participate in an immersive career development lab, where they’ll receive mentorship from creative advisors including Hartbeat’s Head of Film Candice Wilson Cherry and VP, TV Development Tiffany Brown, as well as such industry veterans as Dear White People EP Stephanie Allain, director Marta Cunningham (Transparent), CAA agent Ava Greenfield, producer Codie Elaine Oliver (Black Love), former HBO executive and author Kelly Edwards (The Executive Chair: A Writer’s Guide to TV Development), Management 360 Partner Melissa Breaux, AMC SVP of Content Strategy & Inclusive Programming, Nikkole Denson-Randolph, and Amazon Studios & Prime Video Head of Emerging Audience Development, Janina Lundy.
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The fellows will subsequently bring their short films to life alongside guest directors Logan Browning (Netflix’s The Perfection), Tika Sumpter (Sonic the Hedgehog) and Nicole Byer (Netflix’s Nailed It), with each set to premiere at a private screening at the 2023 Sundance Film Festival. Projects will receive distribution across Hartbeat’s flagship consumer brand, the LOL Network, which reaches audiences across its O&O social media, audio and OTT partners. Hartbeat will also award each fellow with a 12-month first-look deal, during which they can submit original projects for production consideration and distribution across the LOL Network.
Hartbeat CEO Thai Randolph created the Women Write Now fellowship program alongside founding partners Candice Wilson Cherry, Jennifer Kushner and Michelle Satter of Sundance Institute. Last year’s inaugural set of fellows Wilandrea Blair, Danielle Nicolet and Moni Oyedepo collaborated with directors Gabrielle Dennis (A Black Lady Sketch Show), Meagan Good (Harlem) and Bresha Webb (Run the World) on their short films which were produced by Hartbeat and screened at a private screening event in Los Angeles. Blair was ultimately awarded a development deal with NBCUniversal Television & Streaming to develop a project for NBCU’s Peacock streaming platform, produced by Hartbeat, with all three fellows’ shorts currently available to stream on Peacock.
“As a leading player in comedic entertainment and one of the most sought after creative engines for studios, streamers and brands, we feel we have a responsibility to seek out, nurture and promote the next generation of talented storytellers and escort them into doors that might otherwise be closed,” said Randolph. “It’s our privilege to collaborate with this new cohort of creators and we are honored to have partners like Sundance who are as committed to this work as we are.”
“The Women Write Now program sets its participants up for success by prioritizing both development and distribution of these short films while also connecting these storytellers to a broader community of industry mentors and allies,” said the Sundance Institute’s Founding Senior Director of Artists Programs, Satter. “It’s an all-encompassing approach to artist support and we’re so pleased to be partnering with Hartbeat once again on this incredible and well-deserved opportunity for Black women in comedy.”
“Women Write Now has created an abundance of opportunities like I’ve never seen before,” added Browning. “From outreach to mentorship to dismantling Hollywood’s gatekeeping, this program builds an equitable legacy for Hollywood. Everyone involved has felt like family from day one, and I am honored to collaborate with so many kind and talented creatives.”
More information on the projects to be developed through the 2022 Women Write Now fellowship can be found below.
Writer: Danielle Solomon
Bio: Born and raised in Downtown Newport News, VA, Danielle studied broadcast journalism and playwriting at Howard University. Today she lives in the world of network television and continues to hone her storytelling skills in preparation for what’s to come.
Director: Logan Browning
About: Atlanta’s top braider, notorious for canceling on clients, finds herself having to braid her way out of being canceled by the internet.
Writer: Kiana Butler Jabangwe
Bio: Kiana Butler Jabangwe is a storyteller from Long Beach, California who writes about the everyday lives of Black women and girls. Kiana co-created the web series Mixed, and her writing has been published in the LA Times. Kiana is a graduate of the USC Annenberg School for Communication and Journalism.
Director: Tika Sumpter
About: It’s the first night new parents Pat and Curtis have without their baby, and they’ve been anxious for a chance to rekindle their flame. When Curtis convinces Pat to smoke a little weed, Pat experiences major mommy guilt and trippy hallucinations.
Writer: Mayanna Berrin
Bio: Mayanna Berrin is a writer, voice actor and stand-up comedian based in LA. After completing her BFA in Theatre at the University of Miami she completed the Second City Conservatory program and worked at Riot Games, Netflix and most recently Mattel where she writes, develops, and produces narrative YouTube content for brands.
Director: Nicole Byer
About: When a moonlighting dominatrix is reassigned at her day job as an executive assistant to work under one of her submissive clients, the kinky/professional pair must navigate constantly shifting and unforeseen power dynamics.
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