Starz’ #TakeTheLead Writers’ Intensive Unveils Next Round of Finalists | Exclusive

The four finalists for the program in partnership with NALIP and NewFilmmakers Los Angeles will write a spec episode for a Starz series

Starz, NALIP and NFMLA

Starz has unveiled the next round of finalists for its #TakeTheLead writers’ intensive program, TheWrap can exclusively reveal.

The program, which features partnerships with National Association of Latino Independent Producers (NALIP) and NewFilmmakers Los Angeles (NFMLA), has narrowed down its phase two finalists to four scribes: Christopher Au, Lyn Alicia Henderson, Tyler Miguel Mercer and Xavier Burgin.

After 10 writers presented outlines and pitches of spec episode treatments for a current Starz series to executives during the first phase of the program in February, the four finalists will create a full spec episode for their selected Starz series — either “P-Valley,” “Power Book IV: Force,” “Outlander” or “Spartacus.”

We are so excited to partner with NALIP and NewFilmmakers Los Angeles for this next phase of the Starz #TakeTheLead Writers’ Intensive,” Starz original programming president Kathryn Busby told TheWrap. “By actively seeking out and giving opportunities to new writers, we can enrich our stories with fresh perspectives, challenge stereotypes and create content that resonates with our audiences.”

Beginning on March 4, the finalists will begin writing their spec episodes ahead of their complete pitch later this month. They will also receive support from several writing mentors, including “Bigger” showrunner and creator Felischa Marye, “Stumptown” writer William Jehu Garroutte and other Starz executives.

“It is thanks to the leadership at Starz that this opportunity exists and this year’s Starz #TakeTheLead Writers’ Intensive cohort of early career television writers are some of the best in the business,” NFMLA cofounder and executive director Larry Laboe said. “We couldn’t be more proud of this group and we wouldn’t dare shy away from recommending each and every one of our phase-one writers to top-tier staff writing opportunities. We are incredibly excited to champion these talented storytellers with our colleagues both within Starz and externally to outside leaders in the industry who are currently staffing or seeking new voices.”

“Programs like this confirm that partnerships between studios and nonprofits create immediate impact in the growth and positioning of talented writers that wouldn’t happen otherwise,” NALIP executive director Diana Luna added. “The program was a two-way street that provided meaningful connections, insightful conversations, extensive knowledge from Starz leadership and refreshing perspectives from the writers. This program showcases the untapped potential of diverse voices, ensuring they have a seat at the table in shaping the future of television storytelling.”

With nearly a decade of work for tech companies in Silicon Valley, Au wrote, directed and produced the Wall Street dramedy series “Bulge Bracket” on Prime Video, and was awarded a screenwriting grant from SFFILM and the Sloan Foundation to develop his feature script “Airborne.” Most recently, Au’s original pilot “Cloak & Data” was selected for the 2022 Film Independent Episodic Lab, where he also won the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation development grant.

Henderson aims to sheds light on the quirky side of queerness, motherhood, friendship and race though authentic and relatable characters. She wrote, produced and starred in the short film “Short on Sugar,” which scored a three-year run on HBO and Cinemax, and wrote a play titled “Girls Night Out.” She has also portrayed Pam Olbes on the long-running series “ER,” and earned three SAG Awards for “Best Ensemble in a Drama Series.”

Mercer is a director and writer whose short films have been featured at Outfest LA, NewFest and HollyShorts, among others. In addition to writing and producing over 200 episodes of MTV’s “Need to Know,” he recently directed GLAAD’s digital series “Dímelo,” Yahoo’s “Growing Up Reality” and the 2022 live VMA After-Show.

Best known for writing on Starz’s wrestling drama “Heels,” Burgin has written for WWE, CryptTV, Amazon Studios, the Discovery Channel and Paramount, and has directed AMC Network’s “Horror Noire,” Adult Swim’s “Juneteenth Holiday Special” and the BET series, “Giants,” which earned him a Daytime Emmy nomination. He has also shadowed on TV series “American Horror Story,” “The Ms. Pat Show” and “Sacrifice.”


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