EXCLUSIVE: The Asian and Asian American community in the country has had a rough couple of weeks. One could also argue they have had a rough couple of years — or even decades — since the first Asian set foot on the soil of America. Nonetheless, now is the time for authentic, humanizing representation of Asian and Asian Americans to bolster community morale and to bring light to a time when things seem so dark.
The Coalition of Asian Pacifics in Entertainment (CAPE) and major industry partners have launched the ninth annual CAPE New Writers Fellowship, the premier non-studio professional development program that trains emerging writers to succeed in Hollywood. The fellowship boasts multiple showrunners and graduates that have been staffed on over 50 shows across all major network, cable, and streaming platforms.
Led by top industry writers, producers, agents and executives, the Fellowship was co-founded and is co-chaired by Steve Tao (VP, Current Programming, CWTV) and Leo Chu (Showrunner/EP, Ultraviolet & Blue Demon, Supah Ninjas, Afro Samurai). The sessions include master classes, panels, and workshops, as well as writing labs, in which Fellows revise their scripts under one-on-one mentorship with high-level industry professionals.
This year’s mentors and speakers include Monica Macer (Showrunner/EP, CBS’s MacGyver), Melinda Hsu Taylor (Showrunner/EP, The CW’s Nancy Drew), Sunil Nayar (Co-Showrunner/EP, CBS’s All Rise), Teresa Hsiao (Co-Showrunner/EP, Comedy Central’s Awkwafina is Nora From Queens), Alexander Woo (Showrunner/EP, AMC’s The Terror: Infamy, Netflix’s The Three-Body Problem), Albert Kim (Showrunner/EP, Fox’s Sleepy Hollow), Tanuj Chopra (Showrunner/EP, Netflix’s Delhi Crime), Kyle Harimoto (Executive Producer, CBS’s CSI: Los Angeles), Jason Ning (Executive Producer, Fox’s Lucifer), Vicky Luu (Co-EP, NBC’s Superstore), Cherry Chevapravatdumrong (Co-EP, Fox’s The Orville), Nazrin Choudhury (Co-EP, AMC’s Fear the Walking Dead), and April Shih (Supervising Producer, Dave), who has the special distinction of being the first alumni of the CAPE Fellowship to return as a mentor.
“For the past 30 years, CAPE has fought to break barriers in entertainment for our stories to be heard because we all know racism is not new,” said Michelle K. Sugihara, CAPE Executive Director. “Dehumanizing tropes in media such as the Yellow Peril, Perpetual Foreigner, and Model Minority leads directly to physical violence against us in the real world, which is why this is more than a representation issue, it’s a social justice issue.”
The participants of the 2021 CAPE New Writers Fellowship are:
- Bryson Chun is a Hawaiian filmmaker who has produced films that have screened for PBS, The Smithsonian Museum, The Criterion Collection, and festivals worldwide. He was a screenwriting fellow for Sundance, imagineNATIVE, LA Skins, and ‘Ohina Labs. Most recently, he was selected for The Blacklist’s Inaugural Indigenous List, which spotlights some of the best Indigenous film and television writers working within the U.S.
- Darek Cioch is a Korean and Polish American writer from Seattle. After studying film at the University of California, Santa Barbara, he began his entertainment career working for Anonymous Content and HBO. Since then he has been a writers’ assistant for television shows on ABC, NBC and FX. Darek is currently a researcher on FX’s Impeachment: American Crime Story.
- Jane Yubin Kim is a Korean American writer and performer based in Los Angeles. After graduating from UCSB where she studied film, she worked in post production and regularly performed and wrote comedy at the Upright Citizens’ Brigade, where she was a UCB Diversity scholarship recipient. She is repped by Authentic.
- Kyle Kubo & Fatima Liaqat are a comedy writing duo/life duo who first collaborated at BuzzFeed writing and producing viral videos. Kyle is biracial Japanese/white, Fatima is a queer, disabled Pakistani, and together they have a passion for writing comedy scripts that blend with other genres from musicals to sci-fi to horror and historical fiction. Their work has placed in Austin Film Festival and the WeScreenplay Diverse Voices competition and has been showcased at UCB theater stage, Vice, Vanity Fair, Bustle, Thrillist and more.
- Olive Song is a Chinese-American writer from the suburbs of Georgia. After surviving homelessness, foster care, and a professional figure skating career, they moved on to earn an MFA in screenwriting from USC. A part-time YouTube binger and a full-time storyteller, Olive has worked with both the Sundance Institute and Participant Media and is currently a Showrunner’s Assistant for an upcoming hour-long TV drama.
- Vinita Mehta & Richard Nguyen were raised by immigrants, and went on to study psychology at Columbia and Harvard, respectively. Their writing is informed by shared experiences in TV news and documentary production, providing psychotherapy, and D&I consulting. Their screenplays have been a Cinequest Top Ten Finalist, HUMANITAS New Voices Finalist, and Tracking Board’s Top 100 Pilots and Winner of the Mentorship Prize.
- Sonali Mehta is a TV writer’s assistant and former video game story editor. A genre-agnostic, all of Sonali’s writing centers around one relevant and complex theme. Sonali’s favorite shows include Succession, Breaking Bad, and Killing Eve. She is repped by Tulsea.
- Yugo Nakamura grew up in Tokyo as a half-Japanese, half-Jewish boy who spoke mostly Japanese. His family abruptly moved to NYC just before high school. Film and TV is what got him through the intense culture shock, which lead to his undergraduate film degree. Yugo had a career in postproduction before he set out to earn his MFA in Screenwriting at the AFI Conservatory, graduating in 2020.
After graduating from the fellowship, the participants join a distinguished roster of alumni including Bo Yeon Kim & Erika Lippoldt (Star Trek: Section 31), Lauren Moon (Silk, Atypical), Julie Wong (Grey’s Anatomy), Brian Shin (The Good Doctor), Eileen Shim (House of the Dragon), Kevin Lau (House of the Dragon, Lovecraft Country), Helen Shang (The Lord of the Rings, 13 Reasons Why), Lisa Bao (Nancy Drew); Aaron Ho (Fresh Off the Boat), Tania Lotia (Witcher: Blood Origin), Nikhil Jayaram (Shades of Blue), Marisa Tam (L.A.’s Finest), Franklin jin Rho (Pachinko), Allyssa Lee (Charmed), Teresa Huang (MacGyver), Thomas Wong (Good Trouble), Jeremy Hsu (Jimmy Kimmel: Live!), Ken Kobayashi (Hit Monkey); Chris Wu (Man in High Castle), Joanne Lee (Coop and Cami Ask the World), Gabriel Ho (Clarice), Andrew N. Wong (Superman & Lois), D. Dona Le (FBI: Most Wanted), Nathan Ramos-Park (Club Mickey Mouse), Leonard Chang (Snowfall); Ken Cheng (House of Chow), Iram Parveen Bilal (I’ll Meet You There), among others.