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Netflix Launches Created By Initiative Offering Script Development Deals to Underrepresented Writers

The inaugural program from the streamer’s Fund for Creative Equity hosts 14 mid-level film and series writers

As part of the Netflix Fund for Creative Equity, the streamer has announced its first-ever Netflix Created By Initiative, which aims to increase representation of underrepresented talent behind the camera and that, in turn, facilitates more wholistic on-screen portrayals. The program will host 14 mid-level film and series writers who will be offered script development deals.

To identify talent, the platform harnessed expertise from six leading organizations that are at the forefront of creating access to underrepresented creators within the industry, including The National Hispanic Media Coalition, Coalition of Asian Pacifics in Entertainment, Native American Media Alliance, The Black TV and Film Collective, Outfest and Inevitable Foundation. Each partner organization nominated candidates from their own writers programs, with the streamer selecting the final recipients. 

The inaugural group of writers selected for this program are: Zach Anner and Gillian Grassi, Arun Croll, Ashley Eakin, Siena East, Zoila Amelia Galeano, Lauren Hadaway, Mitali Jahagirdar, Latasha Mercer, Diego Moreno, Jeffrey Nieves and Emily Eslami Nieves, Elisee Junior St. Preux and Yen Tan. 

Per the program, the development deals provide the creatives with the opportunity to go through the studio development process and hone their projects alongside Netflix executives from the television and film teams. Additionally, all series writers will be invited to participate in a showrunner training lab on how to successfully run a Netflix series. 

Below are the writers’ biographies, per Netflix:

Zach Anner and Gillian Grassie

Anner and Grassie dated for a while but broke up when they realized they were romantically incompatible; Anner had zero previous dating experience and Grassie hadn’t seen “Dumb and Dumber.” Their first and much more fruitful creative collaboration was Anner’s memoir, “If At Birth You Don’t Succeed,” which they wrote over Google Docs and Skype across nine time zones while Grassie was living in Berlin and Anner was in Los Angeles. “If At Birth You Don’t Succeed” (2016, Henry Holt) received rave reviews, except from Anner’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.”

Arun Croll

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

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,” which won the SXSW Special Jury Recognition award and has played at over 40 festivals. Last year, she was selected as a participant in the Netflix Emerging Filmmaker Initiative where she directed the short film “Forgive Us Our Trespasses” 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

East is a Choctaw writer, comedian and actress. She is a co-producer on Fox’s “Grimsburg” and wrote on HBO Max’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. East has performed at the Hollywood Improv and is in the newest season of HBO Max’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

Galeano (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” 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.

Lauren Hadaway

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

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, Jahagirdar spent her early years in Central Florida, then left for New York City, where she studied Economics and Journalism at NYU. She 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 Mercer

Mercer, a native of Queens, 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, Mercer is preparing to release her third comedy series, which she wrote, produced and starred in: “JustLatasha’s Inner Actions.” She’s been featured in Teen Vogue, Entertainment Tonight Canada, Dark & Lovely and more due to her public speaking work and observation on culture.

Diego Moreno

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, he 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 graduation, 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. His first staff writing position came in late 2021 with Season 2 of the Spectrum Originals/Paramount TV Western crime-drama, “Joe Pickett.”

Jeffrey Nieves and Emily Eslami Nieves

Nieves and 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.” Nieves and Eslami are a Puerto Rican and half-Iranian married writing team. They write grounded sci-fi and love to explore characters caught between warring identities. Nieves is a member of the WGA’s Latinx Writers Committee, while Eslami is a member of the Middle Eastern Writers Committee.

Elisee Junior St. Preux

St. Preux is a Haitian storyteller born in North Miami Beach, Florida. A self-taught artist and cinephile, he is the owner of the film blog “The Movie Butter Playbook,” and the screenwriting label, “À La MODE Films.” St. Preux 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. His work has premiered at Tribeca, Hollyshorts and Urbanworld. In addition to his creative work, St. Preux is a brass musician, community youth mentor and mental health advocate. With a distinct style of vintage storytelling combined with modern cinema, his solemn goal is to bear witness and share stories that reflect today, honor the past and reimagine the future.

Yen Tan

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. Tan 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. He 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. Based in Austin, he also works as an award-winning key art designer for independent films and documentaries.