Screenwriting Lab Fellows

Marcos Davalos

THE DANCE CRUSADER A 15-year-old gay undocumented Latino boy enters a dance competition in 1993 determined to win a cash prize that could bring back his deported father, but not without the help of his alter ego, The Dance Crusader.

Born in Ecuador, Marcos Davalos grew up in Hollywood, Florida in the early 90’s, where he developed a passion for singing, acting, and dancing, especially to the music and choreography of his idols: Gloria, Janet, and Madonna. The first in his family to attend college, Marcos graduated from Grinnell College in Iowa, where he founded and directed EMANATE!, a burlesque dance troupe. Dreaming of making it big in the “real” Hollywood, Marcos moved to Los Angeles in 2012 to study at the AFI Conservatory, where he received his MFA in Film as a Producing Fellow and Gary Winick Scholar, along with the opportunity to work for film producer Chris Ranta (Wild Oats, Ender’s Game, Drive). 

While at AFI, Marcos developed and wrote his debut coming-of-age screenplay, The Dance Crusader, a story inspired by his own experience growing up a gay, undocumented immigrant teen in South Florida in the 90’s, with a passion for dance, and a love for the music of his idol, Gloria Estefan. To this day, Marcos has never lost a dance competition.

Nancy Nyman & Heather McNama

OTHER PEOPLE’S KIDS When a naive but well-meaning lesbian couple decides to build their family through the Los Angeles foster care system, they find themselves confronted by the complicated and often harrowing world of foster care.

Nancy and Heather began their writing partnership with the feature-length script Jesus Christ SuperStore followed by The Untitled Meryl Streep Project, the latter of which got the attention of Jane Lynch, which led to it being optioned.

Most recently, Nancy and Heather wrote the hour-long drama pilot Social Work as well as a spec of Elementary, and their Parks & Recreation sample landed in the top six scripts at Austin Film Festival. Their play, Resolution, which received its world premiere in Chicago this past October, was nominated for Chicago’s prestigious Jeff Award for Best New Play. Nancy and Heather have also sold a comedy pilot to The Disney Channel.

Nancy spent several years “treading the boards” as a professional actress in Seattle where she held roles in You Can’t Take It With You, The Odd Couple (Female Version), Damn Yankees, A Midsummer Night’s Dream, and Private Eyes.

As a photographer, Heather’s held an array of interesting jobs such as on-location photographer, underwater photography instructor, marine life videographer, photo editor for a major hotel chain, and project assistant for the book A Day in the Life.

Kase Pena

I LOVE HATE In the South Bronx, sibling rivalry stirs between Zek, who is cisgender and straight, and Matt a transgender woman. Zek vows never to accept Matt for who she is, causing major friction between the two.

Kase Pena was born, bred and educated in New YorkCity.  She is a Latina Transgender woman of Dominican descent and a versatile writer/director who enjoys working across all platforms: Features, Television, documentaries, and commercials.

A graduate of the City College of New York film program, Kase is mostly interested in relating human stories; the kind that tug-at-the-heart and have long-lasting staying power. Some of her favorite films include: “Vera Drake,” “Mean Streets,” “Bicycle Thief,” “Kramer vs. Kramer,” among others.

Two years ago, Kase wrote, produced and directed TRABAJO, a short film that has been picked up by HBO for distribution, following its successful film festival run, which included screenings in New York, San Francisco, Chicago, London, Germany, and France. For a few years now, she has been tirelessly working on a feature length screenplay that is loosely based on true life events.

Jack Savige

 SQUAD GOALS Alex, a breakfast cereal-serving barista, sick of life and his hipster clientele, wins a radio contest and becomes best friends with the biggest pop star in the world.

Jack Savige is a writer and director from Melbourne, Australia. After studying Professional Screenwriting at RMIT University, Jack continued to hone his craft and navigate the local industry through a mentorship with Academy Award winning producer (Harvie Krumpet, 2003), Melanie Coombs, via the Learned Optimism program. As a writer and director, Jack’s shorts include The Sequel, (Finalist – Australian Film Institute’s 200 Seconds Competition) Stalker (Under the Radar – St. Kilda Film Festival) and Don’t Stop Believin’. Jack’s television work includes the sitcoms twentysomething and Fix-Her-Up, where he served as a writer and director on multiple episodes. Jack also created the web series, B!tch, a dark high school satire, which has gained a cult following online. On the feature side, Jack has Muck-Up-Day, an original comedy, in active development with a Sydney based producer. A number of Jack’s screenplays have been performed at the Cold Reading Series Melbourne. Squad Goals is Jack’s first US screenplay.

Vasanti Saxena

SUN SISTERS Angie, a Chinese-American woman who is approaching the end of her life, struggles to come to terms with her life choices and make peace with Jessica, her lesbian daughter.

Vasanti Saxena is a playwright and screenwriter whose work has been produced/developed in New York at Ensemble Studio Theatre and New York Theatre Workshop; Chicago at Chicago Dramatists with Silk Road; and Los Angeles at Chalk Rep, Company of Angels, and Santa Monica Rep. Her play Sun Sisters, which she is adapting for the screen, was the winner of East West Players Pacific Century Playwriting Competition, a finalist for Chicago Dramatists Many Voices Project, and a semi-finalist for both the O’Neill National Playwrights Conference and the Princess Grace Award. Her short play Closing Time was published in The Best 10-Minute Plays 2011 (Smith and Kraus). A graduate of Brown University, Vasanti holds an MFA in Playwriting from Columbia University. She is a founding member of The Temblors, a collective of Los Angeles-based Playwrights.