Social Impact12 January 2023
Research shows better representation behind the camera leads to better representation in front of the camera. As part of our ongoing commitment to increase representation across the industry through the , we are excited to announce the first-ever Netflix Created By Initiative. Through this initiative, Netflix is offering script development deals to 14 talented mid-level film and series writers.
To identify talent, Netflix joined forces with six leading organizations who are at the forefront of creating access to underrepresented creators within the industry: , , , , and . Each partner organization nominated candidates from their own writers’ programs and Netflix selected the final recipients.
The inaugural group of writers selected for this program are: Arun Croll, Ashley Eakin, Siena East, Zoila Amelia Galeano, Gillian Grassi and Zach Anner, Lauren Hadaway, Mitali Jahagirdar, Latasha Mercer, Diego Moreno, Jeffrey Nieves and Emily Eslami Nieves, Elisee Junior St. Preux, and Yen Tan.
The program is designed to ensure underrepresented and historically excluded talent are set up for success beyond the writers’ room. The development deals provide these writers with the opportunity to go through the studio development process and hone their projects alongside Netflix executives from the series and film teams. Additionally, all series writers will be invited to participate in a showrunner training lab designed to provide the essential skills needed to successfully run a Netflix series.
Learn more about the writers below:
Arun Croll is a Los Angeles based-screenwriter focused on horror and thriller films. His screenplays explore high concepts in uniquely contained settings, from forest canopies to Japanese-American internment camps. His work has been recognized by the Black List, CAPE, Austin Film Festival, Coverfly, and more.
Ashley Eakin is a writer/director with a physical disability. She is currently developing a half-hour tv show with 20th for FX, inspired by her AFI Directing Workshop for Women short film Single, that won the SXSW Special Jury Recognition award and has played at over 40 festivals. Last year, she was selected as a participant in the Initiative where she directed the short film that is currently streaming on Netflix. Eakin has also directed two episodes of Best Foot Forward on Apple TV+ and an episode of Growing Up on Disney+.
Siena East is a Choctaw writer, comedian, and actress. She is a co-producer on Fox’s Grimsburg and wrote on HBOMax’s upcoming reboot of Clone High. She is writing a romantic comedy feature for Searchlight and Olive Bridge, as well as her original television pilot and starring vehicle La Native for Amazon Freevee with Amplify Pictures signed on to produce. As a comedian and actress, Siena has performed at the Hollywood Improv and is in the newest season ofHBOMax’s The Sex Lives of College Girls. In her work, she loves exploring the idea of what the “freedom to be flawed” means in both Native and feminist stories.
Zoila Amelia Galeano
Zoila (Zoilita to her large Honduran family) knew since she was a toddler that she would be in show biz. One of her first paths in Hollywood was in post-production on scripted series at Warner Bros and Paramount studios. Later she jumped into reality television, where she worked as a Supervising Producer and Story Producer on such shows as Project Runway, Paris Hilton’s My New BFF and American Choppers. Life was sweet, but she secretly dreamed of becoming a writer. The idea of leaving her established career seemed scary, but then she became a stepmother to two teenage girls and a young woman. After that, nothing scared her. So, she gave up her glamorous life in post-production (not to mention the steady paycheck) to pursue her passion. She was accepted into the National Hispanic Media Coalition’s Writing Program, the CBS Mentorship Writers’ Program, NBC’s Writers On The Verge and the ABC/Disney Writers’ Fellowship. She won Baby First’s Rising Creators Project selling her animated pre-school children’s show Team Abuelita. She was staffed on the Hulu series East Los High, the bilingual series RPM Miami for Mun 2 and The Fosters for Freeform. She also wrote a freelance script for Hallmark’s Good Witch, sold a YA chat fiction story, “Deranged Marriage” to Snapchat subsidiary Hooked and wrote an Untitled Quinceanera feature for Focus Features. She created a YA series with Brat TV called B-Team and wrote a freelance script for the animated preschool sitcom Rosie’s Rules. She also became a playwright in 2020 with her first piece for stage titled Not Your Mamà’s Period which debuted on Period Piece, a virtual play about periods and the people who get them. Her newest play Foodie is scheduled for publication by Next Stage Press as part of a new anthology coming in 2023.
Gillian Grassie and Zach Anner
Gillian and Zach dated for a while but broke up when they realized they were romantically incompatible; Zach had zero previous dating experience and Gillian hadn’t seen Dumb and Dumber. Their first and much more fruitful creative collaboration was Zach’s memoir, If At Birth You Don’t Succeed, which they wrote over Google Docs and Skype across nine time zones while Gillian was living in Berlin and Zach was in Los Angeles. If At Birth You Don’t Succeed (2016, Henry Holt) received rave reviews, except from Zach’s hometown paper, The Buffalo News, which referred to it as “too much book.” It’s now being pared down to a TV series in partnership with Funny or Die. Their knack for creating viral content and online collaborations with the likes of Xbox, Microsoft, BraunAbility, and the Cerebral Palsy Foundation have amassed over a hundred million views across social media platforms and helped change the conversation around disability. As a writing team, they have worked on features at Netflix and joined the writer’s room as co-producers for Apple TV’s live-action family sitcom Best Foot Forward.
Lauren Hadaway is a Texas-born writer and director, with a background in the post-sound world. Her debut feature film The Novice won Tribeca 2021’s Best Feature and was nominated for five Independent Spirit Awards.
Mitali Jahagirdar is a 2022 WGA Award nominated writer for Disney+’s Just Beyond, based on R.L. Stine's graphic novel series. She previously adapted the YA novel Tiger’s Curse for Netflix, and most recently was Story Editor on Netflix’s The Henna Artist. The proud daughter of Indian immigrants, Mitali spent her early years in Central Florida, then left for New York City, where she studied Economics and Journalism at NYU. Mitali went on to serve as a litigation paralegal at Cravath, Swaine & Moore LLP before deciding to pursue her love of TV and film. In 2017 she received her MFA in Screenwriting from UCLA. Since then, her thriller and sci-fi/fantasy voice has been recognized by the CAPE New Writers Fellowship, the 2020 CAPE List, NBC Writers on the Verge Fellowship, Film Independent Screenwriting Lab, and the Sony Diverse Writers Program.
Latasha, a native of Queens, New York, studied film and broadcasting in NYC before launching multiple independent creative platforms beginning in 2010 and ushering in her first comedy web series, Sit Black & Relax. Currently signed to Damn Write Originals and a 2022 OTV Writing Fellow, Latasha's preparing to release her third comedy series, which she wrote, produced, and starred in: JustLatasha’s Inner Actions. Latasha's features include Teen Vogue, Entertainment Tonight Canada, Dark & Lovely, & more due to her public speaking work and observation on culture.
Diego Moreno is a Pascua Yaqui and Mexican American screenwriter from Tucson, Arizona. His 2016 Native Horror Short, My-A-Knee, won the Alexander Laing Memorial Award for Best Screenplay. In 2018, Diego received a BA in Film and Media Studies from Dartmouth College where his honors thesis, My Heroes Have Always Killed Cowboys, focused on portrayals of Native Americans in contemporary film and television. After undergraduate, Diego received his MFA from the screenwriting program at the Institute For American Indian Arts. Most recently, Diego was accepted into the 2021 SKINSFEST Native TV Writer's Lab, the 2021 National Hispanic Media Coalition Series Scriptwriters Program, the inaugural 2021 Mentorship Matters TV Writing Program, and the 2022 SKINSFEST Native Showrunner Program. Diego’s first staff writing position came in late 2021 with season two of the Spectrum Originals/Paramount TV Western Crime Drama, Joe Pickett.
Jeffrey Nieves and Emily Eslami Nieves
Jeffrey Nieves and Emily Eslami are writers on Seasons 1, 2, and 3 of Syfy’s Resident Alien. They also served as Executive Story Editors on Season 1 of the upcoming Paramount+ show, Wolf Pack. Jeffrey and Emily are a Puerto-Rican and half-Iranian married writing team. They write grounded sci-fi, and love to explore characters caught between warring identities. Jeff is a member of the WGA's Latinx Writers Committee, and Emily is a member of the Middle Eastern Writers Committee.
Elisee Junior St. Preux
Elisee Junior St Preux is a Haitian storyteller born in North Miami Beach, Florida. A self-taught artist and cinephile, Elisee is the owner of the film blog "The Movie Butter Playbook," and the screenwriting label, "À La MODE Films". Elisee is a recipient of Indeed's Rising Voices program in partnership with Lena Waithe's Hillman Grad Productions, a 53rd NAACP Image Awards nominee, and an HBO Short Film Award Finalist at the American Black Film Festival. Today, his work has premiered at Tribeca, Hollyshorts, and Urbanworld. In addition to his creative work, Elisee is a brass musician, community youth mentor, and mental health advocate. With a distinct style of vintage storytelling combined with modern cinema, Elisee's solemn goal is to bear witness and share stories that reflect today, honor the past, and reimagine the future.
Yen Tan is a Malaysian-born writer, director, and graphic artist. He premiered the critically-acclaimed Pit Stop at Sundance 2013, and the film was nominated for a John Cassavetes Awards at the 2014 Film Independent Spirit Awards. Yen also co-directed Until We Could (2014) with David Lowery, an Addy-winning PSA for Freedom to Marry that was narrated by Robin Wright and Ben Foster. His NYT Critic's Pick feature, 1985, premiered at SXSW 2018 and was inspired by his Short of the Week of the same title. Yen has been a fellow of Austin Film Society’s Artist Intensive, IFP’s Film Week, and Film Independent’s Fast Track. He was selected as part of Out Magazine's OUT100 of 2018. Yen is based in Austin, where he also works as an award-winning key art designer for independent films and documentaries.