Sundance Institute and Hartbeat have selected Mayanna Berrin, Kiana Butler Jabangwe and Danielle Solomon as the recipients of the “Women Write Now” fellowship for Black female comedic screenwriters.
Logan Browning (“The Perfection”, “Dear White People”), Tika Sumpter (“Sonic the Hedgehog,” “Mixed-Ish”) and Nicole Byer (“Nailed It,” “A Black Lady Sketch Show”) have signed on to direct three short films written by the fellows, which will debut at a special exhibition during the 2023 Sundance Film Festival.
Additionally, the fellows have been awarded a one-year first-look deal with Hartbeat, the multi-platform media company founded by Kevin Hart. Script mentors will include Leigh Davenport (“Run the World”), Kay Oyegun (“This Is Us”), and Yamara Taylor (“Black-ish”). The company’s Head of Film, Candace Cherry Wilson and its VP of TV Development Tiffany Brown will serve as creative advisors at the program’s career development lab.
They are joined by Producer Stephanie Allain (“Dear White People,” “Hustle and Flow”), director Marta Cunningham (“Transparent,” “Insecure”), CAA agent Ava Greenfield, producer Codie Elaine Oliver (“Black Love”), former HBO executive and author Kelly Edwards, Management 360 partner Melissa Breaux, AMC exec Nikkole Danson-Randolph, and Amazon Studios and Prime Video exec Janina Lundy.
Browning will partner with Solomon on her project “Hey Boo,” which follows a top Atlanta braider with a tendency to cancel on clients, who must braid her way out of being canceled by one of the biggest social media influencers. Sumpter is directing Kiana Butler Jabangwe’s “Night Off,” about two new parents who struggle to enjoy their first night away from their baby. Byer will work with Mayanna Berrin on “Power Dynamics,” a story about the daytime-nighttime relationship between a dominatrix and her client.
“Women Write Now has created an abundance of opportunities like I’ve never seen before. From outreach to mentorship to dismantling Hollywood’s gatekeeping, this program builds an equitable legacy for Hollywood,” said Browning. “Everyone involved has felt like family from day one, and I am honored to collaborate with so many kind and talented creatives.”
Michelle Satter, Founding Senior Director of Artist Programs at Sundance said: “The Women Write Now program sets its participants up for success by prioritizing both development and distribution of these short films while also connecting these storytellers to a broader community of industry mentors and allies.”
“As a leading player in comedic entertainment and one of the most sought after creative engines for studios, streamers and brands, we feel we have a responsibility to seek out, nurture and promote the next generation of talented storytellers and escort them into doors that might otherwise be closed,” added Hartbeat CEO Thai Randolph. “It’s our privilege to collaborate with this new cohort of creators and we are honored to have partners like Sundance who are as committed to this work as we are.”
Developed by Harbeat’s Randolph and Cherry, and Sundance’s Satter and Jennifer Kushner, “Women Write Now” launched in 2021. The inaugural class of fellows included Wilandrea Blair, Danielle Nicolet, and Moni Oyedepo. They were paired with directors Gabrielle Dennis (“A Black Lady Sketch Show”), Meagan Good (“Harlem”), and Bresha Webb (“Run the World”).