Universal’s Global Talent Development & Inclusion department today announced the opening of applications for three unique writing experiences: the Universal Writers Lab; the Universal Animation Writers Program; and the brand new Universal Global Writers Program, being put together in partnership with Working Title.
The Universal Global Writers Program, marking GTDI’s first talent program to be headquartered internationally, will work with both experienced and up-and-coming writers based in the United Kingdom who are pursuing careers on the feature side. The program will look to develop storytellers who organically incorporate multicultural and global perspectives in their writing and provides them with creative guidance from executives, producers and/or designated creative consultants to help shape their material.
As Uni’s first and flagship DEI program, the Universal Writers Lab aims to increase participants’ knowledge of the studio system, expand their networks both within NBCUniversal and industry-wide, as well as enhance their ability to deliver commercial concepts and scripts, setting them up for increased job opportunities and career momentum during and after their tenure.
In its second year, the Universal Animation Writers Program combines film and television content into one animation writing program that identifies and develops an inclusive group of talent who can build upon the studio’s commitment to telling stories with unique narratives that appeal to and reflect the vast diversity of its audiences. Writers will partner closely with animation creative executives at DreamWorks Animation and Illumination in a variety of ways including brainstorms, writers’ room participation and various writing exercises.
The launch of the Universal Global Writers Program makes Uni the only studio with three writing experiences dedicated to feature film, as well as the first major studio to launch a paid, international program of this nature. Today’s Uni announcement marks the first time the studio has launched applications concurrently, giving interested writers the chance to choose the experience that is best suited for them. All three experiences are paid, one-year opportunities that provide professional development through workshops, seminars, executive and creator-led roundtable discussions, as well as an in-depth look at the studio’s production process. Applications are currently open with a deadline of October 5th.
“When I first envisioned the department that would become GTDI, I wanted to bring diversity, equity and inclusion to the forefront of what makes our studio business so unique: innovative, diverse narratives from distinct, inclusive voices. What Janine [Jones-Clark, Executive Vice President, Inclusion – Talent & Content] and her team have created in the last five years has totally exceeded my expectations,” said Universal Filmed Entertainment Group Chairman, Donna Langley. “These three exceptional experiences – the inaugural Global Writers Program with our long-standing partners at Working Title, as well as the Writers Lab and Animation Writers Program – are just a snapshot of the incredible work they do. Every strategy and experience they develop brings so much to the table and touches nearly every aspect of our business, from marketing and distribution to development and physical production.”
“We have been so impressed and inspired by the amazing work the GTDI team has accomplished over the last five years,” added Working Title Co-Chairmen Tim Bevan and Eric Fellner. “With the new Global Writers Program, our partnership will continue to build upon our organizations’ joint missions of sharing impactful storytelling from unique perspectives connecting with audiences around the world.”
Alumni from across GTDI’s writing experiences have garnered success on various films, broadcast and cable television series. On the live-action writing front, Jennifer Coates became the first writer to receive a blind script deal with Universal after finishing the program, with Derek Asaff’s script from his tenure currently being developed by the studio. Additional successes include Juel Taylor, one of the writers on Universal and The SpringHill Company’s Shooting Stars, which recently finished production in Cleveland, and Leon Hendrix, co-writer and executive producer of Peacock’s upcoming series Cointelpro. Additionally, the first cohort of the Universal Animation Writers Program just finished their year with the Studio, where all the TV writers received freelance episodes of an upcoming DreamWorks Animation series.
When GTDI was established by Langley in 2017, it became the first-of-its-kind diversity, equity and inclusion department for a film studio. The business-led group creates programs, initiatives and strategies ensuring that DEI is at the forefront of Universal Pictures, Focus Features and DreamWorks Animation’s work culture and content creation, both in front of and behind the camera.
Working Title is a leading production company that has been behind more than 125 films, which have together grossed over $8.5 billion worldwide. Its films have won 14 Academy Awards, 40 BAFTA Awards and numerous prestigious prizes at festivals like Cannes and Berlin. The company’s upcoming slate includes: Ticket to Paradise, written and directed by Ol Parker and starring George Clooney, Julia Roberts and Kaitlyn Dever; What’s Love Got to Do With It?, written by Jemima Khan and directed by Shekhar Kapur, starring Lily James, Shazad Latif and Emma Thompson; The Swimmers, written by Jack Thorne and Sally El Hosaini and directed by Hosaini; Catherine, Called Birdy, written and directed by Lena Dunham, and starring Bella Ramsey, Andrew Scott and Billie Piper; and a film adaptation of the musical stage production of Roald Dahl’s Matilda, directed by Matthew Warchus and written by Dennis Kelly, with music and lyrics by Tim Minchin. Polite Society, a London-based action-comedy written and directed by Nida Manzoor, is in post-production for release next year. Meanwhile, Coralie Fargeat’s explosive feminist take on body horror, The Substance, starring Demi Moore and Margaret Qualley, is currently in production.
More information on Universal’s writers programs and initiatives can be found here.