AFI Announces Recipients of Writers’ Room Ready Awards – American Film Institute

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AFI Announces Recipients of Writers’ Room Ready Awards

Program Pairs Winners With Industry Mentors

The American Film Institute (AFI) announced today the recipients of the 2021 and 2022 Writers’ Room Ready Awards, which recognizes outstanding original television pilot scripts written by AFI Conservatory Screenwriting Fellows. The program supports the next generation of television writers by pairing graduating Fellows from the film school with industry mentors, providing an opportunity for the winners to work directly with established artists. After being put on hold in 2021 due to the pandemic, the AFI Writers’ Room Ready Awards returns this year honoring two classes of AFI graduates, with the support of acclaimed and award-winning mentors.

The 2021 winners are: Suhana Chander, Gianmarco Maximilian Giacomelli, Christina Kelly Holmes, Lia Wang and Yancey Wang. Mentors include Lindsay Golder (AFI Class of 2014, CHAD, IN THE DARK), Eli Jorné (AFI Class of 2006, THE WALKING DEAD, SON OF ZORN, HEELS), Randy McKinnon (AFI Class of 2017, CHAMBERS, THE GRAND ARMY), Andy Siara (AFI Class of 2015, LODGE 49, PALM SPRINGS) and Christina Strain (AFI Class of 2015, FINDING ‘OHANA, SHADOW AND BONE, THE MAGICIANS).

The 2022 winners are: Max Hersh, Adam Rottler, Marley Schneier, Anna Vecellio and Mariana Zavala. Mentors include Vidhya Iyer (AFI Class of 2017, MIRA, ROYAL DETECTIVE, LITTLE VOICE), Nora Nolan (HEAD OF THE CLASS, TRIAL & ERROR), Amy Pocha and Seth Cohen (HEAD OF THE CLASS showrunners, AMERICAN VANDAL), Munis Rashid (AFI Class of 2016, S.W.A.T.), and Dailyn Rodriguez (QUEEN OF THE SOUTH, NIGHT SHIFT).

“Congratulations to the 2021 and 2022 recipients of the Writers’ Room Ready Award. We are incredibly proud of the dedication these writers have shown to their craft, exemplifying the highest standard of excellence and creativity,” said Susan Ruskin, Dean of the AFI Conservatory and EVP of the American Film Institute. “Together with the mentors, we are committed to supporting this next generation of talented writers as they share their stories with the world.”

ABOUT THE MENTORS:

Lindsay Golder (AFI Class of 2014) most recently served as a writer and producer on the sitcom CHAD, which debuted as the top-rated scripted cable program of 2021. Golder previously wrote on Starz’s horror-comedy SHINING VALE co-created by Sharon Horgan and Jeff Astrof, the CW dramedy IN THE DARK, the FOX sitcom THE MICK starring Kaitlin Olson, and the musical-comedy series SCHOOL OF ROCK. Golder is a Sundance Episodic Lab Fellow. In 2021, Entertainment Weekly listed her episode of CHAD (“Lakehouse”) as one of the 30 Best Episodes of Television of the year.

Vidhya Iyer (AFI Class of 2017) has worked with Imagine Entertainment, Disney TVA, Netflix Animation and Apple TV+. Her credits include writing on MIRA, ROYAL DETECTIVE, whose main character is the first South Asian protagonist on Disney Junior, and LITTLE VOICE, a romantic comedy-drama series produced for Apple TV+. She is currently writing on Season 4 of Hulu’s SOLAR OPPOSITES.

Eli Jorné (AFI Class of 2006) began his writing career in comedy with credits that include the animated show SON OF ZORN and WILFRED, a live-action comedy about a man who sees his neighbor’s dog as a grown man in a dog costume. Jorné recently worked on AMC’s THE WALKING DEAD and HEELS, which was renewed by STARZ for a second season.

Randy McKinnon (AFI Class of 2017) served as writer-producer on the WAR OF THE WORLDS TV series for Apple TV+, and was a writer for CHAMBERS, a Netflix original series starring Uma Thurman and Tony Goldwyn. McKinnon’s 8-episode podcast series PROPHECY, which he created, wrote, and directed, stars Kerry Washington and will debut on Audible later this year. He is currently the creator and executive producer of WILD RABBIT at Hulu.

Nora Nolan earned her chops as a stand-up comic in NYC and Washington, DC, before moving to Los Angeles and landing a spot in the Warner Bros. Television Workshop. Since then, she has been a writer on such shows as PARADISE PD for Netflix, TRIAL & ERROR for NBC and HEAD OF THE CLASS on HBOMax.

Amy Pocha & Seth Cohen are award-winning television writers who recently executive produced and served as showrunners on the reboot of HEAD OF THE CLASS for HBO Max. The duo won a Peabody for their work on Netflix’s AMERICAN VANDAL, and have been nominated for WGA, Emmy and Critics Choice Awards. Other credits include TOONED OUT (HBO Max), WHISKEY CAVALIER (ABC), PARADISE PD (Netflix), NO ACTIVITY (CBS All Access), UNDATEABLE (NBC), BAD TEACHER (CBS) and TRIP TANK (Comedy Central). They are currently staffed on a show produced by Netflix due to come out later this year.

Munis Rashid (AFI Class of 2016) won the Grand Prize at the 14th Annual American Zoetrope Screenplay Contest and the Carol Mendelsohn College Drama Fellowship at the 2017 Humanitas Prize. He was selected to participate in the 2018 CBS Writers Mentoring Program and went on to write for S.W.A.T. for three seasons. He is currently a producer for THE NIGHT AGENT on Netflix.

Dailyn Rodriguez was most recently the showrunner on USA’s QUEEN OF THE SOUTH and co-executive producer on NBC’s THE NIGHT SHIFT. She has also written on GEORGE LOPEZ, UGLY BETTY, 90210, IN PLAIN SIGHT, LIE TO ME and THE GLADES. She has sold pilots to ABC Family, Hulu and CBS. She has been nominated for two Alma Awards and received, along with her co-writers, a Writer’s Guild Award for Writing for a New Series (UGLY BETTY). She is currently a Board Member of the Writers’ Guild of America, West.

Christina Strain (AFI Class of 2015) is a former comic book colorist-turned-writer and screenwriter. Strain’s credits include the award-winning Marvel comic book series” Runaways” and “Generation-X,” the Syfy TV show THE MAGICIANS, the Netflix series SHADOW AND BONE and the 2021 action-adventure feature film FINDING ‘OHANA.

Andy Siara (AFI Class of 2015) is a TV and feature writer, with credits on LODGE 49 and ANGELYNE (now in post-production). His first feature, PALM SPRINGS, broke the record for the highest sale at the Sundance Film Festival – beating the previous record by 69 cents. The film stars Andy Samberg and Cristin Milioti and was acquired by Neon and Hulu. Siara is currently the creator and showrunner of the upcoming Peacock series THE RESORT.

 

WINNING PROJECTS

2020

JAANI | Half-hour Comedy
Written by Suhana Chander
2020 WeScreenplay Diverse Voices Competition, Semifinalist
2020 Screencraft Comedy Contest, Quarterfinalist
After Jaani loses her job, boyfriend and dignity, she moves back to the suburbs where her perfect sister-in-law lands her a job at an active living community teaching Bollywood Dance to a bunch of old white people. The only problem? Jaani doesn’t know shit about Bollywood.
FOR WOMEN ONLY | One-hour Historical Drama
Written by Christina Kelly Holmes

After being blacklisted in 1980s communist Romania, a classically-trained pianist becomes a black-market entrepreneur smuggling goods for women into one of the most oppressive regimes in modern history.
TWO KINGS | One-hour Drama
Written by Gianmarco Maximilian Giacomelli
A broken family man with a gambling addiction is coerced into serving his criminal twin brother’s prison sentence in China for a crime he didn’t commit. Upon his release, he must fight to get his wife and children back from his brother who’s taken everything from him but his life. Modern day adaptation of “The Man in the Iron Mask” by Alexandre Dumas.
MODEL MINORITY | One-hour Crime Drama
Written by Lia Wang
2020 Women in Film/The Black List Episodic Lab, Semifinalist
To pay for his sister’s exorbitant medical bills, an aspiring Chinese-American scientist is coerced into working for his long-lost father’s drug empire in the midst of the current United States opioid epidemic.
SOUTH SEA | One-hour Historical Adventure
Written by Yancey Wang
Austin Film Festival, 2nd Round
In the 1800s, when China and Britain are on the brink of the Opium War, a swordsman’s daughter falsely accused of murder joins a band of pirates. As romance grows between her and a notorious pirate captain, so does her desire to become the most powerful outlaw in Colonial Asia. Inspired by
real events.

2021

SEE YOU NEXT TUESDAY | Half-hour Comedy
Written by Adam Rottler

Second Round, Austin Film Festival Pilot Competition 2021
Top 10%, PAGE Awards 2021
A broke musical theater actress becomes embroiled in a double life after taking a lucrative job at a strip club in Brooklyn. But when she finds a community in the last place she expected, she’s forced to reckon with a failing engagement, a sputtering career and the only thing colder and harder than a stripper pole—adulthood.

LOST PROPHET | One-hour Horror Mystery
Written by Anna Vecellio
A washed-out FBI recruit returns to small-town Georgia to care for her grandmother, only to discover that she’s a powerful psychic whose dementia causes vengeful spirits to manifest in the real world.
EASTSHORE | One-hour Crime Drama
Written by Mariana Zavala
Set against the backdrop of police violence in the Bay Area, an Afro-Latina P.I. fights to bring justice to those abandoned by the system. But when her sister disappears into an underground trafficking ring that no one in power believes exists, the fight becomes suddenly much more personal.
MESSIAH | Half-hour Historical Comedy
Written by Marley Schneier
Based on a true story.
In the 1700s, Eve Frank and her father converted thousands to a religion that worshipped Eve as the only female Messiah in history. But when her father is imprisoned by the Empress of Vienna, Eve finds herself on a rescue mission that challenges everything she’s ever known.
BUTTERFLY | ONE-HOUR DRAMA
Written by Max Hersh
A working-class teenager moves from rural Canada to upper-class Boston with dreams of playing in the NHL. Now she must compete to become the starting goaltender for the boys hockey team, where she falls in love with her competition and ignites a cultural clash in her new hometown.

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