Home Film & TV NBCU LAUNCH: Welcomes the 2024-25 Class of the NBC TV Writers Program

NBCU LAUNCH: Welcomes the 2024-25 Class of the NBC TV Writers Program

by Neil Bui

NBCU LAUNCH, the collective brand for the inclusion efforts across NBCUniversal’s entertainment television portfolio, announced the eight members of the 2024-25 class of its NBC TV Writers Program, the annual program for emerging episodic TV Writers: Bryce Cracknell, Domonic Diaz-Smith, Bixby Elliott, Helen Fernandez, Maia Henkin, Neda Jebelli, David Loong and Sebastián Rea.

NBCUNIVERSAL EVENTS -- NBCU Launch, "Writers Workshop, 2024" -- from (l-r): Bixby Elliot, Neda Jebelli, David Loong, Maia Henkin, Helen Fernandez, Domonic Diaz-Smith, Sebastián Rea, Bryce Cracknell -- (Photo by: Danny Ventrella/CORPORATE)
NBCUNIVERSAL EVENTS — NBCU Launch, “Writers Workshop, 2024” — from (l-r): Bixby Elliot, Neda Jebelli, David Loong, Maia Henkin, Helen Fernandez, Domonic Diaz-Smith, Sebastián Rea, Bryce Cracknell — (Photo by: Danny Ventrella/CORPORATE)

BRYCE CRACKNELL is a writer, producer and director based in Los Angeles. As a storyteller, Cracknell seeks to elevate narratives, histories and experiences that are often overlooked, cast aside or forgotten. He is currently in post-production on his directorial debut film, Save Yourself, a hybrid-documentary on climate justice produced by Effie T. Brown and Gamechanger Films. Cracknell is the founder and editor-in-chief of the Anthem Award-winning environmental justice publication The Margin. He has led social impact campaigns for narrative and documentary features and television shows including Descendant, Flee, My Name Is Pauli Murray, John Lewis: Good Trouble, Just Mercy and When They See Us. In 2023, Forbes named him as one of 68 climate leaders changing the film and TV industry. Cracknell is a Morris K. and Stewart L. Udall Scholar and a graduate of Duke University, where he earned a B.A. in public policy. Cracknell is repped by Kronicle Media. 

DOMONIC DIAZ-SMITH is a comedy and mystery writer who writes to make people laugh first and think second. After working as a producer at a creative agency and a live broadcast director for Black mega-churches, she decided to pursue a career as a screenwriter in 2018. Since then, Diaz-Smith has worked in TV development with Lily Singh’s Unicorn Island, served as a writer’s assistant for Emmy Award-winning producer Larry Wilmore and won the 2019 Warner Bros./TruTV Comedy Writer’s Award. Born in Memphis and raised in Los Angeles, the USC film school graduate is passionate about creating universal content that centers the stories of unexpected underdogs and their quirky relationship dynamics with nuance and rapid-fire jokes. Diaz-Smith is currently seeking representation.

BIXBY ELLIOT is a queer writer for theater, film and television. His work often reexamines the past through a queer lens, flipping history upside down and allowing other perspectives to take center stage in fun and inventive ways. Elliot’s plays have been produced in several major cities including New York, Chicago, Los Angeles and London. His play I Love You St. Petersburg! was published by major theater licensing company Samuel French. TimeOut Chicago selected Bixby’s Abraham Lincoln Was a F*****t as one of the “Top 10 Plays of the Year.” It was also nominated for a Jeff Award that honors outstanding theater in Chicago. Additionally, his short film “Aquamarine” screened in more than 30 festivals and won multiple awards, including Best Short and Best Screenplay. He is a graduate of the MFA Playwriting program at Columbia University and co-founder of The Brooklyn Generator. Elliot is currently pitching a new half-hour TV show with Byron Allen’s Entertainment Studios attached as producer. He also recently finished principal photography on his next short film The Yellow Sponge Is the Dish Sponge.  Elliot is currently seeking representation.

HELEN FERNANDEZ is a Mexican writer, producer and director, raised between the U.S. and Mexico, who often feels pulled between her Mexican culture and her American side. She channels her identity crisis into her writing by telling stories about unconventional women, complex family dynamics, and the occasional surrealist comedy. Fernandez has worked as a production assistant on Comedy Central’s Nathan for You and in TV development at Aaron Kaplan’s Kapital Entertainment. She was selected as a semi-finalist for the Paramount Writers Mentoring Program and participated in the Women in Film Mentorship Program for emerging talent. Currently, Fernandez is a showrunner’s assistant on NBC’s St. Denis Medical. In addition to her writing pursuits, Fernandez produces and directs a popular monthly sketch comedy show called Single Riders Only. Fernandez is currently seeking representation.

MAIA HENKIN is a Los Angeles-based filmmaker and screenwriter whose work explores themes of alienation, female trauma and social justice in the genre space. She began her career as an Off-Broadway playwright in New York. Her accolades include being a finalist for the Black List/WIF Feature Lab and the Black List/WIF Episodic Lab, a semi-finalist for the Sundance Episodic Lab, a semi-finalist for ISA’s Launch Pad Pilot Competition, a semi-finalist for the Austin Film Festival, and placed in the top 4% of scripts at the Final Draft Big Break Contest. The project she directed premiered at the Oscars®-qualifying independent short film festival HollyShorts, and HBO’s Catalyst Film Festival. Henkin is currently seeking representation.

NEDA JEBELLI is an Iranian American screenwriter who has always been interested in telling stories about outsiders and underdogs. Her work explores the intersection of the personal and the political through a comedic, satirical, and often surrealist lens. Jebelli graduated with honors from Columbia University’s MFA Screenwriting program where she wrote short screenplays that won awards at critically acclaimed festivals including the Venice International Film Festival, Tribeca Film Festival, SXSW, Telluride Film Festival, Clermont-Ferrand International Short Film Festival, and the Palm Springs International Film Festival. Her feature writing has been supported by the Catwalk Institute, the Short to Feature Lab, and the Columbia University Emerging Filmmaker Grant. Jebelli was most recently a script coordinator on NBC’s The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon. She was previously a writer’s assistant on NBC’s A Little Late with Lilly Singh and the showrunner’s assistant on Showtime’s Let the Right One In. Jebelli is currently seeking representation.

DAVID LOONG writes genre dramas featuring deep worldbuilding and multicultural, code-switching outsiders. Born in Hong Kong, he attended high school in Oxfordshire, England before getting a B.A. in history from Yale University. After brief career flirtations with consulting, crypto, and underwater archaeology, Loong earned an MFA from USC’s Screenwriting Division. He was selected for The Thousand Miles Project, UCP’s highly regarded talent incubator. After the program, he signed a deal with UCP to develop an original pilot, The Englishman, a boarding school thriller centered around a mysterious and cutthroat school competition, with Pachinko showrunner Soo Hugh. Loong is repped by Anonymous Content and IAG. 

SEBASTIÁN REA is an Ecuadorian American writer and director from New York City. As a queer, Indigenous, Latino immigrant, his stories provide unique perspectives of intersectionality and identity. He fuses his Quichua roots and Queens street smarts to create an Andean Futurism, weaving his ancestral mythologies with contemporary dramedy. In 2022, his short film Heritage received the Indigenous Inclusion Fellowship Grant sponsored by Netflix and the Los Angeles Latino International Film Festival. Rea was also selected as a Notable Writer at the Outfest Screenwriting Lab with the pilot version of Heritage. His previous short film, Ruta Viva, won Best Short at the New York Latino Film Festival and was licensed by HBO. He was the personal assistant to director Jason Moore on the Amazon Studios feature film Shotgun Wedding and is currently a production assistant to Jennifer Lopez at Nuyorican Productions in Los Angeles. Rea is currently seeking representation.

The NBC TV Writers Program prepares writers to be staffed on scripted series with the long-term goal of developing the next generation of showrunners whose distinct points of view and lived experiences provide unique perspectives to the writers’ room. The program was created in 2005 and includes talent from various socio-economic backgrounds, geographic locations, racial and ethnic backgrounds, people with disabilities, the LGBTQ+ community and veterans, among other communities.

As part of the program, the new class will develop an original pilot under the mentorship and guidance of NBCUniversal programming executives, hone their personal narrative in self-branding sessions, and participate in weekly workshops including writing intensives and mock showrunner meetings with NBC TV Writers Program alumni. These include Rashad Raisani (9-1-1: Lone Star), Keto Shimizu (DC’s Legends of Tomorrow), and writing team Brandon Margolis and Brandon Sonnier (LA’s Finest). Other guest instructors include showrunners with overall deals at Universal Studio Group (USG) such as Patrick Macmanus (Dr. Death), Lang Fisher (Never Have I Ever), and Tracey Wigfield (Saved by the Bell).

Upon completion of the program, the writers will be considered for available staffing opportunities across NBCU series. As of now, over 130 writers have participated in the program with 87% currently working as writers in the industry and over 30% now in senior-level positions, such as Debby Wolfe (creator and showrunner of Lopez vs. Lopez), Lee Sung Jin (creator and executive producer of Beef), Matt Bosak (showrunner of NCIS: Hawai’i), and the writing team of Tawnya Bhattacharya and Ali Laventhol (co-executive producers of Bel-Air).

The most recent NBC TV Writers Program class of 2022-23 has been staffed across eight shows produced by USG, including Aurora Ferlin (The Equalizer), Emman Sadorra (In the Know and St. Denis Medical), Amelia Swedeen (Based on a True Story), Tommar Wilson (The Irrational), Ida Yazdai (Extended Family), and William Yu (Fight Night and Dr. Wolf).

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