Eleven talented writers have been selected to participate in the 2017 HBOAccess Writing Fellowship. The competitive program—offered biennially in conjunction with the Writers Guild of America— is designed to give emerging, diverse writers the opportunity to develop a script suitable for HBO or Cinemax. This year’s fellows were chosen from 3,600 submissions.

The fellowship consists of an intensive one-week workshop covering the craft of writing, including story structure and character development, plus the business aspects of securing an agent and effective networking. Participants are then paired with an HBO creative executive for eight months as they develop a full-length pilot script. 

Learn more about HBOAccess and read about this year's writing fellows below.  

2017 HBOAccess Fellows 

Bryce Ahart & Stephanie MacFarlane
Ahart and McFarlane are both graduates from the NYU Tisch School of the Arts where they studied dramatic writing. Bryce works at the Weinstein Company as a Production & Development Intern. Stephanie recently returned from the UK where she was one of twelve writers studying in the NYU London Screenwriting Program.

Katherine Craft
Katherine Craft is a Texas native with extensive experience as a playwright and theatre maker. She is the resident playwright for Austin-based company the Exchange Artists, which has created award-winning, site-specific performances in parks, museums, bars, shopping malls, and parked cars. Katherine has also worked for years in arts education — she founded Conspire Theatre, a nonprofit that works with women during and after incarceration. She is currently the Program Coordinator for the Lilith Fund, a reproductive justice organization, while finishing the MFA Screenwriting program at the University of Texas.

Sara Alize Cross
As a director, Sara Alize Cross has completed short form narrative and documentary films and is in post-production on Manhattan Lullaby, a NYSCA grant funded feature documentary about NYC cultural landmark, Colony Records. Sara’s feature award-winning documentary producing credits include MurderballThe Order of Myths and 21Up America, executive produced by Michael Apted as part of the American adaptation of the acclaimed 7Up series. Sara has a BA in Film Studies at Columbia University, a Masters in Women’s Studies at Oxford and is currently pursuing her MFA in Production at the USC’s School of Cinematic Arts.

Dana Donnelly & Audrey Kaufman
Dana Donnelly and Audrey Kaufman recently graduated from college in the Pacific Northwest with degrees in English and Political Theory respectively. Their quirky sensibility and distinctly millennial take on the world makes for edgy comedy with a strong social commentary. They both currently live in Los Angeles.

Claudia Forestieri
As a producer for Telemundo’s L.A. affiliate, she’s earned five local Emmys and a GLAAD Media award for her work covering the Latino community. Claudia is an alumnus of both NALIP’s Latino Writers Lab and NBC’s Writers on the Verge program. Inspired by her mixed background, she’s drawn to the dramedy genre where she blends her passion for drama with her love of dark comedy. She is repped by Brant Rose.

Zen Freese & Benjamin Ross Lyerly
Zen Freese is a Philippine American writer/director based in Portland Oregon. Although he ought to settle as a successful commercial producer, he and his writing partner have spent mornings, nights and weekends pursuing their first love, narrative story-telling. He’s married to an aesthetically pleasing human, and is regularly informed that he’s happy. Benjamin Ross Lyerly was born and raised in Montgomery, AL. He’s been working for the last eight years in Portland Oregon as a freelance writer/director/producer in film and commercial. He has taught a Low-Budget Filmmaking course at Portland State University, and is currently producing a film called Going Dark.

Rehana Lew Mirza
Rehana Mirza is an award winning playwright and a playwright-in-residence at Ma-Yi Theater through the National Playwright Residency Program (with Mike Lew.) She has and MFA from Columbia University and her BFA from NYU Tisch.

Brandi Nicole Payne
Brandi Nicole Payne is a multi-hyphenate and “artivist” who loves to tell a good story. Her short film Muted, which starred Chandra Wilson and Malcolm-Jamal Warner won the Best Short award at the American Black Film Festival in 2014 and is currently airing on HBO. An Athena List Finalist and Second Rounder for both Austin Film Festival and the Sundance Screenwriters Lab, Brandi will be making her directorial debut later this year with a short film about new motherhood titled Aloha.