NBCUniversal Talent Infusion Programs has named comedy writers Mnelik Belilgne, Melanie Boysaw and Jeremy Hsu as well as drama writers Lorelei Ignas, Allyssa Lee, Rayna McClendon, Mellori Velasquez and Jeane Wong as its 2016-17 Writers on the Verge. Now in its 11th year, Writers on the Verge is an annual program for talented, aspiring writers of diverse backgrounds who are “on the verge” of breaking out, but need a final polish of their writing and pitch presentation skills to equip them for a career in television. During the 12-week intensive program, they receive coaching and mentoring from industry professionals with the ultimate goal of preparing them to be staff writers on television series. “Writers on the Verge” is one of the tentpole initiatives within the NBCUniversal Talent Infusion Programs (NBCUNI TIPS) that promote and encourage people of diverse backgrounds to become the next generation of storytellers.
“These eight exceptional writers were chosen from among more than 2,000 applicants for their unique voices and points of view,” said Karen Horne, SVP, Programming Talent Development & Inclusion, NBC Entertainment and Universal Television Studios. “Our Writers on the Verge program has jumpstarted many successful writing careers. I fully expect our new class of Writers on the Verge to be the future writers, showrunners and executive producers who will bring fresh, authentic storytelling to television.”
The 2016-17 Writers of the Verge represent a variety of backgrounds:
Mnelik Belilgne: The hip hop artist turned comedy writer has worked on The Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt, Allegiance and The Michael J. Fox Show. As a musician, he released five albums and won rap battle competitions for BET, Redbull and Grindtime.
Melanie Boysaw: The Los Angeles native and University of California, Berkeley alumna is currently a writers’ coordinator at Conan, and also worked on the Conan O’Brien-produced series the Pete Holmes Show.
Jeremy Hsu: The Hawaii native got his start as a stand-up comedian performing at comedy clubs in New York. He then ventured into video editing working on reality shows and live events including the Super Bowl, before moving to Los Angeles to pursue writing.
Lorelei Ignas: Ignas is a produced off-off-Broadway director and playwright, and alumna of New York University’s Tisch School of the Arts. Previously based in Brooklyn, she moved to Los Angeles to pursue a career in Television and completed the UCLA Professional Program for Television Writing in 2013. Lorelei is repped by UTA and Rain Management Group.
Allyssa Lee: Southern California native Lee began her writing career as a journalist, reporting and editing for the likes of Entertainment Weekly, the Los Angeles Times and Women’s Health before turning her sights to television itself. She is currently a digital content producer and editor at FOXSports.com.
Rayna McClendon: McClendon got her start at the Creative Writing Program at the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill. Currently, she is the showrunner’s assistant to Veena Sud on her upcoming Netflix drama, Seven Seconds. McClendon has written two freelance episodes for television: one for The Disney Channel’s new series Andi Mack from Terri Minksy, and her first for MTV’s family drama Finding Carter. Additionally, she co-wrote webisodes for MTV’s Awkward, and was a writers’ room assistant for Awkward and Finding Carter. McClendon is represented by Kaplan Stahler Agency and Good Fear Film + Management.
Mellori Velasquez: A law school graduate once on track to becoming an in-house attorney, Velasquez walked away from law to enroll in USC’s MFA Writing for Screen and Television Program. Her legal background has inspired her to write female-centric gritty crime dramas.
Jeane Wong: San Gabriel, Calif. native Wong left her initial dream of working in politics behind to pursue her passion for writing. She is developing her original pilot The Thin Line at Universal Cable Productions while she works as a script coordinator on The CW’s Arrow. She is also a published author and comic book writer. Her short story “Crystal Brook” was published in Empower: Fight Like a Girl, and she co-authored The Vampire Diaries digital comics for D.C. Comics. She is also part of the inaugural Women In Film Black List TV Lab.
Over the course of 12 weeks, the new class of Writers on the Verge will learn how to develop spec and pilot scripts guided by Horne and independent story and script consultant Jen Grisanti, a former CBS/Paramount and Spelling Television executive. They will also learn how to effectively pitch their ideas in front of television executives, and receive valuable feedback on their scripts and pitch styles from industry professionals including network executives, showrunners and agents. At the end of the program, the writers will be considered for available writing assignments on NBC series.
Writers on the Verge has a proven track record of producing successful television writers. Recent program alumni are staffed on critically acclaimed and top-rated series including The Blacklist, Superstore, American Crime, Suits, Shades of Blue and NBC midseason series The Blacklist Redemption and Midnight, Texas. They also include Brandon Margolis and Brandon Sonnier who are co-producers on The Blacklist and Rashad Raisani who is a co-executive producer on Shades of Blue.