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2022 Screenwriting Lab Fellows

Bri J. Hernandez



A closeted teenage transgender boy must keep his secret life as a male garage band singer away from his traditional Latino family.

Bri J. Hernandez is a twenty-three year old Latine writer and director. Working since they were sixteen, Bri has spent the past seven years developing their skills as a creator by producing their own projects utilizing art, theatre, and film. As an advocate for many social rights issues, Bri has prioritized creating material that fosters new conversations and helps amplify the voices of queer people of color. Their work primarily focuses on coming of age, friendship, and identity. They currently live in Austin with their two best friends and their cats.

Donovan Tolledo


FAT LIP (Feature)

Nerdy Asian-American middle schooler, Benjie, falls for a rebel sk8er boi. To gain his attention, Benjie must ditch his immigrant geek persona and transform into a radical, emo, all-American teen.

Donovan Tolledo is a NYC-based writer and producer born in Saudi Arabia and raised in the Philippines and Chicago. His written work often centers around the Asian-American experience, tackling immigration, sexuality, and masculinity. He received his MFA from Columbia University in May 2022. His work at Columbia has screened at Newfest, and his thesis short Fat Lip received support from Panavision New Filmmakers Program, was nominated for a National Board of Review student grant, and is currently on the film festival circuit. 




This semi-autobiographical dramedy follows a Chicano & his husband who return to Arizona for a quinceañera, but when his conservative mother discovers PrEP in his luggage he must come clean about his open relationship as family secrets are exposed.

Estevan is a queer, first-generation Mexican-American writer, director, and actor born and raised in South-Central Phoenix, Arizona. Estevan writes human experience dramas that explore sexuality, nostalgia, and otherness. He is the co-host of the comedy podcast Your Gay Cousins with Michael & Estevan. Most recently, he wrote on Love In Gravity, a queer anthology audio drama series. Previously, Estevan was the Writers’ Assistant and co-wrote an episode of the character-driven sexual assault drama, Long Slow Exhale (Spectrum). He was also the Writers’ PA on season 2 of LA’s Finest (Spectrum/Fox). Estevan began his career as a Manager of Television Development and Programming at Dick Clark Productions, penning red carpet specials and award shows. He was in the inaugural 2021 Sony Pictures Television Studio’s Emerging Writers’ Program and Estevan’s original drama pilot X was named the winner of Script Pipeline’s 2020 TV Writing Competition. Estevan received his BFA in Film & Television Studies from The University of Arizona and currently resides in Los Angeles.

James Acker


SADBOI (Feature)

Thrown out of the house, an emotionally-stunted high schooler must revisit old friends and repair burnt bridges all in the name of finding a place to sleep.

James Acker grew up in New Jersey, and he’s based his entire personality off that fact. In 2003, a joke of his was published in Nickelodeon Magazine. After a brief hiatus from writing, he won the 2020 Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences Nicholl Fellowship for his screenplay SADBOI. His young adult sports romance The Long Run will debut Feb ’23. When he’s not writing, James lives in Los Angeles with his wonderfully supportive partner and his two recurring stress dreams.

Joseph Sackett



A queer sci-fi rom-com about an alien who falls in love with a human.

Joseph Sackett is an award-winning filmmaker who has written, directed, and produced projects that have screened in competition at the Festival de Cannes, Outfest, Slamdance, and the Rooftop Films Summer Series among others. He received his MFA in Screenwriting and Directing from NYU Tisch Graduate Film. He was named as one of Filmmaker Magazine’s “25 New Faces of Independent Film 2020” and is a 2022 Marth MOCA Resident through The Cabins Collaborative. His first feature, HOMEBODY, premiered at Outfest LA where he won the Emerging Talent Award. He is currently in development on his next feature, Cross Pollination, which was named to the NYU Purple List 2022.

Katie Heaney



When a recently divorced lesbian learns her ex-wife is (already!) getting married again, she has to scramble to find a date she can present as her girlfriend to prove SHE’S doing just fine, too, thanks.

Katie Heaney is an author, screenwriter, and journalist based in Los Angeles. She has written six books, including the memoirs Never Have I Ever and Would You Rather?, and the novels Dear Emma (a modern adaption of Jane Austen’s Emma), Public Relations (currently optioned for film), Girl Crushed, and The Year I Stopped Trying. Her 2018 Modern Love essay “Am I Gay or Straight? Maybe This Fun Quiz Will Tell Me” was adapted for the Amazon Modern Love TV series in 2021. My Ex-Wife’s Wedding is her first feature script. 

Paloma Riojas


SHEPHERD (Episodic)

Dr. Luz Garza is a brilliant scientist wrongfully accused of murder who becomes a fugitive when she discovers her twin, who died ten years ago, is still alive. On a mission to find her sister, Luz and her loyal allies are pulled into a compelling conspiracy connected to Luz’s past, present, and future.

Paloma Riojas is a queer chingona who strives to create stories that authentically explore the complexities of being human. She’s been on The Black List Latinx TV List and the inaugural Mentorship Matters writers’ program in collaboration with Netflix, HBO, and Amazon. Paloma is currently developing shows with Cedar Park Entertainment and SB Projects. She’s been a Writers’ Assistant for Showtime and Paramount+ and previously was a development executive. Her work has premiered at Sundance and Cannes. Paloma has an MFA from the USC School of Cinematic Arts. She is represented by UTA and Frankfurt Kurnit Klein & Selz PC.

Riya Saxena



Heartstopper meets Never Have I Ever when a chaotic South Asian teen trio accidentally turns matchmaker for their community and must navigate outdated traditions, growing friendships, and modern day love.

Riya Saxena is a South Asian American writer, stand-up comedian, and improviser based in Chicago. She trained in improv at the Second City and studied writing at the Comedy Lab. Currently a first-year medical student at Northwestern, Riya has continued to write and perform. Most recently, she performed at the Second City as part of the “Evergreen” improv team. As a writer, Riya aims to provide genuine representation and precipitate intergenerational dialogue about differences within the South Asian community. Inspired by Bollywood, her writing integrates magic realism while centering around the lived experiences of the South Asian community.

Rubén Mendive



A documentary crew follows the misadventures of an openly queer, Latino on the Chicago City Council as he tackles personal & old school politics.

Rubén Mendive is a queer, formerly undocumented, Mexican immigrant raised on the South Side of Chicago. He was a writer/producer for Brown & Out V, a queer Latinx play festival, at Casa 0101 Theater in 2019 and a TV Writing Mentee in Lena Waithe’s 2022 Hillman Grad Mentorship Lab. He is also the host of La Lista: A Latinx Writers Podcast, a platform dedicated to connecting & highlighting Latinx voices in media. His writing deals with themes of immigration, queer identity & racial politics in America. He is currently based in Los Angeles.

Vernon Jordan, III



Lavender Boy is a semi-autobiographical coming of age feature film about a young boy who is queered by his ancestral ability to see ghosts. But when his Pop Pop passes away, the young boy is left to figure out this gift on his own and help a queer spirit on the journey to reconnecting in love. 

Vernon Jordan, III is a Philly-born ‘n raised writer, filmmaker, poet, and teaching artist. As an afrofuturist, he expands upon African American memories, dreams, hauntings, queer kinship, and intimate fluidity; his priority is the merging of the visual and the musical: a Visual Lyricist. With a BA from Muhlenberg College (’16) and a MFA from Brooklyn College (‘19), he’s currently the Assistant Director of Programs at cinéSpeak and a Professor of Screenwriting aka Poetics of the Screen at Moore College of Art and Design.  Their 2022 short film, One Magenta Afternoon, has played at 7 film festivals across the US and 2 internationally.

Past Screenwriting Lab Fellows

Adam Baran – Jackpot (Lab screenplay)
Amanda Kohr – Texts from Your Ex (Lab screenplay)
Cheryl Guerriero – Palmer (Lab screenplay)
Chris Renfro – One Big Hapa Family (Lab screenplay)
Darwin Serink – Thief of Sleep (in pre-production)
Dee Johnson – The Good Wife, Nashville, Rizzoli & Isles, ER
Emma McIvor – I Love You Like a Brother (Lab screenplay)
Fola Goke-Pariola – Paper Girls for Amazon Studios (In production)
Gary Jaffe – Our Last Summer (Lab screenplay. In production)
George Northy – G.B.F. (Lab screenplay), Charmed (2018)
Gideon Raff – Homeland, The Red Sea Diving Resort, The Spy
Jabari McDonald – Black Mud (Lab screenplay)

Jared Frieder – Three Months (Lab screenplay. In post-production)
Javier Fuentes-Leon – Undertow (Lab screenplay), The Vanished Elephant, Wild District, The Best Families
Jen Richards – Her Story
Jules Nurrish – Anchor and Hope
Julian Breece – When They See Us, The First Wives Club
Kase Peña – Trans Los Angeles, Brujas (In production)
Kristin Slaney – Agora Borealis (Lab screenplay)
Lauren Hadaway – The Novice (Lab screenplay. In post-production)
Lindsay Calleran – Caity (Lab screenplay)
Louise Wadley – All About E (Lab screenplay)
Luther Mace – Survivor’s Remorse
Michelle Sam – On the Spectrum for Amazon Studios (In production)
Molly Manning – Hightown
Nancy Nyman and Heather McNama – Call Your Mother
Naomi Iwamoto – Twenties, Happy Together, Connecting…
Natalie Jasmine Harris – Pure (Lab screenplay)
Nova Cypress Black – The Other Side (Lab screenplay)
Oates Wu – Water Has Another Dream (Lab screenplay)
Sav Rodgers & Taylor Gates – I Love You, Felix McNeil (Lab Screenplay)
Silas Howard – By Hook or by Crook
Travis Matthews – Interior. Leather. Bar., Discreet
Yen Tan – Pitstop (Lab screenplay)
Zackery Alexzander Stephens – Q-Force for Netflix (In production)

Past Mentors

Abdi Nazemian – The Quiet, Almost Family, The Artist’s Wife
Álvaro Rodríguez – Machete, Seis Manos, From Dusk Till Dawn: The Series, Chicago Fire
Austin Bunn – Kill Your Darlings
Aziza Barnes – Snowfall, Teenage Bounty Hunters
Barry Sandler – Making Love
Brian Dannelly – Saved!
Brittani Nichols – Suicide Kale, A Black Lady Sketch Show, Take My Wife
C. Jay Cox – Sweet Home Alabama
Chloe Keenan – Q-Force, Connecting…, Transparent
Don Mancini – Child’s Play, Bride of Chucky, Seed of Chucky, Hannibal (TV Series), Chucky (TV Series)
Don Roos – Single White Female, The Opposite of Sex, Happy Endings, Marley & Me, Younger, This is Us
Gabe Liedman – Q-Force, PEN15, Broad City, Transparent, Brooklyn Nine-Nine, Kroll Show, Inside Amy Schumer
Guinevere Turner – American Psycho, Go Fish, The Notorious Bettie Page, The L Word, Breaking the Girls, Charlie Says
Guy Branum – The Mindy Project, Connecting…, Awkward., Chelsea Lately
Keisha Zollar – Astronomy Club, Spitting Image, Busy Tonight
Marcos Luevanos – Love, Victor, Charmed (2018)
Micah Schraft – Mrs. America, Jane the Virgin, Jessica Jones
Michael Urban – Saved!, Who’s Afraid of Vagina Wolf?
Michele Mulroney – Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows, Power Rangers (2017)
Mikko Alanne – The Long Road Home, The 33, Mapplethorpe
Moisés Zamora – Selena: The Series, Star
Neil Landau – Don’t Tell Mom the Babysitter’s Dead; Melrose Place, Undressed
Patricia Resnick – 9 to 5, A Wedding
Patrick Tobin – Cake
Rose Troche – Go Fish, The Safety of Objects, The L Word
Tracey Scott Wilson – Respect, The Americans, Fosse / Verdon
Valerie Stadler – Producer and Founding Partner at Big Swing Productions

    Past Speakers

    Abby McEnany – Work in Progress
    Anni Weisband – Producer at Khalabo Ink Society
    Cora Olson – Talent & Literary Manager, Producer, Digital Distribution Strategist
    David Ruby – Manager of Original Comedy at HBO Max
    David Sigurani – Producer/Writer, SVP of Global Content at Blackpills. Producing credits include: The Boulet Brothers’ Dragula, Bonding
    Derek Simonds – Writer. Credits include: The Sinner, The Astronaut Wives Club, When We Rise
    Kirsten Schaffer – Executive Director at Women in Film
    Kyle Schmitz – Vice President, Comedy Development at Warner Bros Television. Credits include: Shrill, AJ and the Queen, Fuller House
    LaToya Morgan – Shameless, Parenthood, TURN: Washington’s Spies, The Walking Dead, Duster
    M. Dickson – Producer/Writer for Disenchanted, Hoops
    Mallory Schwartz – VP, Television & Film Development at Mythical Entertainment. Producer on Before You Know It
    Shantira Jackson – Writer. Credits include: The Amber Ruffin Show, Busy Tonight, Saved by the Bell


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