Programs provide an opportunity to develop and hone creative skills, focusing on cultivating talent through hands-on experience.
Nickelodeon has named nine participants for their annual Writing and Artist Programs. The programs are designed to cultivate a new generation of creative and original talent through extensive, hands-on work. Led by the ViacomCBS Office of Global Inclusion, for its 21st annual Writing Program, four aspiring television writers will hone their skills while working at the Nickelodeon studio and five emerging artists will develop their craft during the ninth annual Artist Program.
“These programs are critical to ensuring that underrepresented creators are given the opportunity and the access necessary to launch their careers, including engaging with incredible talent who have a track record of delivering authentic content that is representative of the diverse audiences we serve,” commented Marva Smalls, ViacomCBS’ Global Head of Inclusion.
Throughout 2020, Nickelodeon’s Creative Talent Development & Outreach team pivoted from in-person recruitment to a virtual approach, hosting a series of live webinars called “Knowledge is Power Happy Hour,” in collaboration with diverse professional groups, including Latin in Animation, Black N’ Animated, Coalition of Asian Pacific’s in Entertainment, Women in Animation, and the International Screenwriters’ Association, along with past program applicants. The webinars covered topics including Program FAQs, Inside the Nickelodeon Writers’ Room and Artist Portfolio Dos and Don’ts.
Within the Writing Program, all participants get to network with executives and show creators, gain firsthand experience writing scripts, pitch story ideas, and attend workshops, seminars, classes and experience working writers’ rooms. These writers will develop their skills with hands-on work during the year-long program. The writers will be individually paired with Nickelodeon’s Brian Banks (VP, Live-Action, Current Series), Kelley Gardner (VP, Current Series Animation), Bryan Schwartz (Director, Live-Action, Current Series) and Nathan Schram (Director, Animation Development), who will work with them on professional development, writing and network building at the studio.
The Writing Program participants are:
Angel Hobbs: Born and raised in Los Angeles until her family moved to San Bernardino, California. With her life uprooted, she found comfort watching classic Black television shows like The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air. Around the house, school and mall, Hobbs pretended to be television characters in her own made-up storylines. Now, an engineer turned television writer, Hobbs loves to write family comedies about flawed characters learning to embrace the things the world told them were weird.
Adam Lujan: A Los Angeles-based television writer, he grew up the son of U.S. Air Force vets in Colorado Springs, Colorado. Growing up openly queer in his conservative town inspired him to tell his own stories with queer people at the center. He earned his Bachelor of Arts in Film Production at the University of Denver in 2015 and his Master Fine Arts in Dramatic Writing from New York University's Tisch School of the Arts in 2018.
Hunter Toro: A writer and comedian from a mixed family in Florida - his father is Puerto Rican, and his mother is White. Never quite sure where she fit in, she turned feelings of alienation into a sense of humor and now writes animated and live-action stories depicting what she wishes she could have seen growing up: Latin pride, blended, nontraditional families, and complicated female protagonists. Toro is a graduate of University of North Carolina Chapel Hill and was recently selected for the 2020 Black List x Women in Film Episodic Lab.
Saeed Crumpler: Crumpler’s story begins at San Francisco State University, where he fell in love with screenwriting and the local music scene. As a Black man from Oakland, he had no role models to follow in the film and television industry, so he followed in the footsteps of music role models instead. For 20 years, Crumpler was a local hip-hop star, also gaining fans around the world. Feeling creatively limited by music, in 2018 he decided to fully immerse himself in screenwriting once again.
During the six-month Artist Program, aspiring artists will learn from lead artists and practice their craft as they work on an animated series in various stages of production. This year marks the first time the program offers a CG generalist track, which was opened to service many of the Nickelodeon Animation Studio’s upcoming CG productions.
The Artist Program participants are:
Dominique Evans (General Design Track): Evans’ journey in visual development began when she discovered fanfiction and began to write and illustrate her own stories. By high school, she was weary of the overwhelmingly strife-laden narratives of black characters in stories, especially in her favorite genres of science fiction and fantasy. This led her to draft her own original works. She carried her focus on diversifying storytelling to Moore College of Art & Design, where she majored in illustration. After graduation, Evans dedicated a year of service to the AmeriCorps program, all the while working on two freelance comic projects.
Anh Bui (General Design Track): Born and raised in Haiphong, Vietnam, Bui spent her early days finding entertainment in her everyday surroundings. When her parents finally bought a television, she became enamored with American cartoons, even though she could not understand what the characters were saying. Driven to study art and animation, she emigrated to the U.S. through a high school international student program and went on to earn a scholarship to study animation at Columbus College of Art and Design. She recently relocated to Los Angeles to seek out a career in animation visual development.
Carl Edward Mongan (Storyboard Track): A Los Angeles-based story artist and amateur party clown without makeup, Mongan pursued animation. He graduated from California College of the Arts with a degree and a beret. He worked with a Berkeley non-profit called Avi Health, where his team created short pediatric videos to educate children on their health conditions. As a story artist, Mongan works to make people laugh by bringing his dark humor to life. As a party clown, he just wants to twist a balloon or two.
Jasmine Reyes (Storyboard Track): Reyes was born in the Bay Area and raised by her Filipino immigrant family in a loving, multigenerational home. Since she was a child, Reyes saw storytelling as a way to understand and connect to the world around her. She went on to study animation at De Anza Community College, where she found her passion for storytelling and drawing through storyboarding. She moved to Los Angeles to continue her studies at Art Center College of Design.
Samuel Pagán (CG Generalist Track): Pagán is a Puerto Rican artist who specializes in lighting and compositing. He studied animation at Atlantic University College in Guaynabo, PR and started his career by developing his talents in commercial work and animated series. As an artist and storyteller, Pagán aims to share his passions and experiences in a way that is entertaining and meaningful by combining storytelling techniques with interesting visuals.
Alumni of the programs who have gone on to hold positions on Nickelodeon shows include May Chan (co-executive producer, The Astronauts); Angelica Russell (storyboard artist, Santiago of the Seas); Anna Hill (storyboard artist, The Loud House); Sarah Jaques (art director, Santiago of the Seas); Shannon Parayil (background designer, The Loud House); Marisa Torres (color stylist, The Loud House Movie); and Jonathan Butler and Gabriel Garza (co-creators, Bella and the Bulldogs).
Outside of Nickelodeon, many program alumni have gone on to freelance and staff positions at various networks, including HBO, DreamWorks, Netflix, Comedy Central, Disney Channel, Disney+, Kids’ WB!, ABC, FOX, PBS, Cartoon Network, and the CW.