Meet the 2017 Fellows
Madalyn Baldanzi is a Brooklyn-based writer, director, and teacher. She wrote for several house sketch teams at the Upright Citizens Brigade Theatre, and currently teaches sketch comedy there. Madalyn was a writer on go90’s MR. STUDENT BODY PRESIDENT, Seasons 1 and 2, a “House of Cards” meets “high school student council” comedy. Her work has been featured on Funny Or Die, Above Average and The Huffington Post. She writes, produces, and directs comedy videos with her production company, Fancy Family. In her spare time, she enjoys reading contemporary fiction and supporting the US Women’s National Soccer Team.
Her pilot is SEQUEL TOWN: In a summer beach town that’s survived off the revenue of a blockbuster movie filmed there in the 80s, the plucky mayor confronts the reality of the town’s bankruptcy and the impending departure of her daughter for college.
Kaitlin Fontana is a writer, director and performer, and a National Magazine award-winning essayist. Her work has been featured on A&E, MTV, VH1, CBC, and CTV, and in Vulture, Reductress.com and Rolling Stone. She is the creator of The Box, an intersectional feminist comedy and panel show. She co-wrote and starred in CTV’s election comedy series THE PARTY, and her pilot CASEY CAN’T was a finalist in the 2015 Launchpad Pilot Competition and winner of the 2017 Showtime Tony Cox Episodic Screenplay Award. Kaitlin was born in Fernie, BC, Canada, a distinction she shares with Rush guitarist Alex Lifeson.
Her pilot CASEY CAN’T is a dark comedy about a flawed writer who is blackmailed into managing a hipster music blog by its manchild owner, heir to a porn fortune. It’s about being too old for this shit before you’re 40.
Olen Holm is a screenwriter and actor based in Brooklyn, NY. Screenwriting includes DREEM PUSSY, a semi-finalist for the 2017 January Sundance Screenwriters Lab, chronicling the revenge a woman takes on past assailants after botched reassignment surgery from an underground physician; LEMONAIDS, a comedy pilot about a man coming to terms with the fact that with new medications he is no longer going to die from HIV; and the short film LOOK BOTH WAYS. Olen received a BA in French from UCLA and an MA in Cultural Anthropology from CIIS, focusing on postcolonial studies, globalization, and social and institutional forms of oppression and marginalization.
His pilot is LEMONAIDS: After new medication ends a 20-year HIV death sentence, a single, aimless and broke 40-year old man living in Brooklyn is forced to move back in with his suburban Midwestern parents, work at the family factory, and reckon with a future he thought he would never have. LEMONAIDS takes a comedic look at a man – with the help of his family and friends back home – finally discovering his unrealized potential.
Sarah Kraus is an actor and writer. She wrote RECONSTRUCTION, rated one of the Top 100 Pilots of 2016 by The Tracking Board Launch Pad Pilots Competition and a Top 50 Teleplays selection in the Cinequest Screenwriting Competition. Sarah started her career in opera. Born in Richmond, Virginia, she graduated from the University of Virginia and earned a Master of Music degree from the Manhattan School of Music.
Her pilot is UNORTHODOX: In Brooklyn, a family in the restrictive Hasidic community struggles with infidelity, homosexuality, and addiction as they intersect with the outside world.
Ian Olympio-Nyanin is a 26-year-old Taurus from the suburbs of Maryland. With a BA in film from American University, he moved to New York in hopes of becoming “somebody.” There, he began his career in the CAA mailroom before assisting the Chief Diversity Officer. Ian is currently enjoying the freedoms and perils of freelance writing. Along the way, he’s learned invaluable life lessons like how to trust his own voice. He might not be “somebody” yet, but he’s definitely found himself. Please inquire about his 500-page memoir on his tumultuous relationship with cheese—’As Gouda as it Gets’.
His pilot is GREATER HEIGHTS: 18-year-old Oscar Cruz chases beauty and straddles the gap between his working-class Dominican roots and the upper-class world of his prep school peers, during the summer before his freshman year of college. Haunted by a tragic love affair abroad, Oscar journeys down a path of rebellion that leads him to discover his true self. But who and what must he sacrifice along the way?
Bryan Parker is a Brooklyn-based filmmaker. He’s the co-founder of the production company Think/Feel, whose commercial and activist works have been featured by: Vice, MTV, BBC, SXSW & more. Originally from Seattle, Bryan is an alum of Harvard University, where he played basketball while studying government and film. Following graduation, he played professional basketball in Europe, and later produced films on human rights for the United Nations in Myanmar. He holds an MFA in Film Directing from Columbia University and was the recipient of their prestigious FMI Directing Prize. Today his work focuses on blending Hollywood genres with radical subject matter.
His pilot is THE RIZE: Faced with being forced out of the projects by a gentrifying realty company, a teenage boy discovers he may be the key to saving his neighborhood from far darker forces at work.
Zack Phillips is a writer and performer in New York. He is head writer for video at Above Average’s sports site, The Kicker, and he wrote the web series LAURIE for IFC and BIG THICK IDEAS for Above Average. He also plays a recurring role on the second season of Steven Soderbergh’s THE KNICK. At the Upright Citizens Brigade Theatre, Zack has performed and written for house improv, sketch and video teams for six years, and teaches sketch writing there. Other credits include: staff writer for the Onion sports show GOOMF; writer for TruTV’s Impractical Jokers; contributor to The Onion’s clickbait parody Clickhole. Previously, Zack worked as a print reporter in Washington DC. His writing partner is Natasha Vaynblat.
His pilot, EASTERN BLOCK, is about Karina is an ambitious, aloof 24-year-old who’s spent her whole life trying to break away from her crazy Russian family. When she loses her dream job on Wall Street she’s forced to move back home to the Eastern Block section of outer Brooklyn and take a job running her family’s extremely old-fashioned Russian Deli.
Virginia native Joyce Sherrí stepped off a Greyhound bus at New York City’s Port Authority bus terminal on August 23, 2010. Armed with her passion for creative writing, Joyce hurled herself into the independent film capital of the world in pursuit of a career as a writer and director. The following year, Joyce was accepted into the Tisch Graduate Film program at New York University, where she received an MFA in Filmmaking. Joyce has several projects all in varying stages of development including THE AGES, a television series based on her NYU thesis film FOREVER.
A fantasy interwoven with southern gothic themes, THE AGES, follows the turbulent relationship of Beau Hayes and Monica Flatts, an interracial couple in Virginia during the 1940’s who fall victim to a hate crime and miraculously become immortal. Through their immortality, Beau and Monica will journey from one decade to next in search of the right time to love one another.
Mae Smith is a writer/director living in Brooklyn. She graduated from Columbia University and subsequently worked at Participant Media and the Agency for the Performing Arts. While at Columbia, Mae wrote and directed several plays and served as President of Columbia Undergraduate Film Productions. She is currently the producer, director, and co-writer of the comedic sex education web series, EDUCATED FLEAS, which will be released in early Fall. Mae discovered she was a comedy writer when she wrote dramas that made people laugh. She hopes to use humor to foster empathy in the place of stigma.
Her pilot is TRIGGER WARNING: While investigating a policy that forces students struggling with depression off campus, Muslim transgender student journalist Fatimah gets kicked out of school and is forced to move in with three other eccentric students taking time off. Based on real policies at many universities, Trigger Warning is a half-hour dark roommate comedy about three women and a hapless dude navigating a stigmatized process in the face of an institution (and a racist squirrel!) that only recognizes them for their otherness.
Sofia Quintero is a writer and producer who tells stories that meet audiences where they are and take them someplace better. Raised in a working-class Puerto Rican-Dominican family in the Bronx, the Columbia University graduate and self-proclaimed “Ivy League homegirl” has published six novels and twice as many short stories across genres including YA, chick lit and “hip-hop noir.” She co-founded Chica Luna Productions, which won the Union Square Award in 2006. She earned her MFA in Writing and Producing Television from the TV Writers Studio at LIU. Sofia’s latest book is the award-winning YA novel SHOW AND PROVE.
Her pilot is BONDS: female bail bond agent in the South Bronx takes an unorthodox approach to her business.
Natasha Vaynblat has been a writer/producer on MTV’s GIRL CODE and continues to freelance for TruTV, WeTV, BirdBrain, and Big Energy Productions. She’s co-written and starred in two original series for IFC’s Comedy Crib and her writing has been featured in McSweeney’s, Reductress, and Funny or Die News. Her first two loves are improv and sketch, and she continues to do both at UCB. She’s written and performed two solo shows at UCB: The United Federation of Teachers and Self Help Yourself, Help! And she improvises every Saturday with WHAT I DID FOR LOVE at UCB EAST. When not performing, she’s letting her two dogs lick her face. Her writing partner is Zack Phillips.
Her pilot, EASTERN BLOCK, is about Karina is an ambitious, aloof 24-year-old who’s spent her whole life trying to break away from her crazy Russian family. When she loses her dream job on Wall Street she’s forced to move back home to the Eastern Block section of outer Brooklyn and take a job running her family’s extremely old-fashioned Russian Deli.
Albert Wang is a Brooklyn-based writer/filmmaker dedicated to writing and developing strong original content for Asian American and other underrepresented communities. Born and raised in Alabama, Albert aspires to create media content that can appeal to all audiences, both in the US and internationally. He has also written articles on the US-China film co-production business for various publications. Albert is a graduate of Stanford University, the University of Alabama School of Law, and life itself.
His pilot is RECURSED: A hotshot tech entrepreneur loses everything, only to discover he has the ability to see ghosts.
Joyce Wu grew up outside of Detroit. After seeing her New York debut, Backstage hailed her as “a promising young playwright.” She was awarded a scholarship to attend New York University’s Tisch School of the Arts, from which she graduated in 2014 with a Master of Fine Arts degree in film production. Her short films have won awards at festivals around the world. Her first feature film SHE LIGHTS UP WELL screened at the United Nations, was acquired by American Express for its AmexNow app on Roku and Smart TVs, and is currently available on iTunes and VOD.
Her pilot is MR. RIGHT: Frustrated with the “bro” culture at the dating app where she works, a user experience designer quits her job and through a chance encounter, meets a washed-up reality TV star and it sparks an idea for an on-demand service that pairs busy, ambitious women with attractive men.