HartBeat and Sundance Institute announce 2022 "Women Write Now" comedic screenwriting fellows and directors Tika Sumpter, Logan Browning, and Nicole Byer.
Selected fellows Mayanna Berrin, Kiana Butler Jabangwe, and Danielle Solomon to develop original comedic projects with the guidance of some of the most accomplished Black writers, directors and executives in comedy
Each writer to receive a 12-month first-look deal with HARTBEAT and premiere their completed short films at a special exhibition during the 2023 Sundance Film Festival
HartBeat, the global, multi-platform media company creating entertainment where comedy meets culture, today announced Mayanna Berrin, Kiana Butler Jabangwe, and Danielle Solomon as recipients of this year's Women Write Now (WWN) comedic screenwriting fellowship.
The fellows were chosen from hundreds of submissions from aspiring screenwriters across the country to further develop their scripts 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"). Logan Browning (Netflix's "The Perfection", Netflix's "Dear White People"), Tika Sumpter ("Sonic the Hedgehog", ABC's "Mixed-ish"), and Nicole Byer (Netflix's "Nailed It", HBO's "Black Lady Sketch Show") have also signed on to direct the short films.
Developed in partnership with Sundance Institute, program founder and HartBeat CEO Thai Randolph created the fellowship program alongside founding partners Candice Wilson Cherry, Jennifer Kushner, and Michelle Satter of Sundance Institute to champion the next generation of Black women in comedy, bringing together some of the most accomplished Black writers, directors, producers and executives in comedy to mentor the group of emerging storytellers.
"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 Thai Randolph, HARTBEAT CEO. "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 Michelle Satter, Founding Senior Director, Artist Programs. "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."
The 2022 Women Write Now fellowship brings a new panel of creative advisors and special guest directors to guide each fellow through the development process of their original scripts. 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 twelve month first-look deal, during which the fellows can submit original projects for production consideration and distribution across the LOL Network.
As part of the development process, each fellow will also participate in an immersive career development lab, where they'll receive mentorship from powerful creative advisors working across the industry including HartBeat's Head of Film Candice Wilson Cherry and VP, TV Development Tiffany Brown, as well as industry veterans Stephanie Allain ("Dear White People", "Hustle and Flow"), director Marta Cunningham ("Transparent", "Insecure"), CAA agent Ava Greenfield, producer Codie Elaine Oliver (Black Love), former HBO executive and author of "The Executive Chair: A Writer's Guide to TV Development", Kelly Edwards, 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.
Upon completion of the screenwriting lab, the fellows will bring their original projects to life, under the guidance of HartBeat's creative team and the guest directors. Each project will then premiere at a private screening at the 2023 Sundance Film Festival.
"Women Write Now has created an abundance of opportunities like I've never seen before. From outreach to mentorship to dismantling Hollywood's gatekeeping, this program builds an equitable legacy for Hollywood," added Actress and "Hey Boo" Director Logan Browning. "Everyone involved has felt like family from day one, and I am honored to collaborate with so many kind and talented creatives."
The 2022 Women Write Now screenwriting fellows and their projects are:
- "HEY BOO"
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 one of the biggest social media influencers.
- "NIGHT OFF"
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.
- "POWER DYNAMICS"
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.
Last year's inaugural Women Write Now 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. Wilandrea Blair was awarded a development deal with NBCUniversal Television & Streaming to develop a project for NBCU's Peacock streaming platform, produced by HartBeat. All three fellows' shorts are also currently available to stream on Peacock.