2017 Writing Fellowship

Your Story Begins Here

The HBOAccess® Writing Fellowship provides mentorship for up to 8 diverse, emerging storytellers. Following a one-week intensive of master classes, participants are immersed in 8 months of mentoring by HBO creative executives, as each participant develops a script suitable for HBO® or Cinemax®.

Katherine Craft

Katherine is a Texas native with extensive experience as a playwright and theater-maker. She is the resident playwright for the Austin-based theater 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, and is finishing the MFA Screenwriting program at the University of Texas.


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

Claudia Forestieri

As a producer for Telemundo’s LA affiliate, Claudia has earned five local Emmys® and a GLAAD Media Award for her work covering the Latino community. She 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.

Rehana Lew Mirza

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

Brandi Nicole Payne

Brandi is a multi-hyphenate and "artivist" who loves to tell a good story. Muted, her short film starring Chandra Wilson and Malcolm-Jamal Warner, won the HBO Short Film Competition at the 2014 American Black Film Festival and is currently airing on HBO GO. An Athena List Finalist and Second Rounder for both the 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.

Bryce Ahart & Stephanie McFarlane (Writing Partners)

Bryce and Stephanie both graduated from the NYU Tisch School of the Arts where they each 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 12 writers studying in the NYU London Screenwriting Program.

Dana Donnelly & Audrey Kaufman (Writing Partners)

Dana and Audrey 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 make for edgy comedy with a strong social commentary. They both currently live in LA.

Zen Freese & Benjamin Ross Lyerly (Writing Partners)

Zen is a Philippine-American writer/director based in Portland, OR. Although he ought to settle for being a successful commercial producer, he and his writing partner have spent mornings, nights and weekends pursuing their first love—narrative storytelling. He's also married to an aesthetically pleasing human and is regularly informed that he's happy. Benjamin was born and raised in Montgomery, AL. He's been working for the last 8 years in Portland as a freelance writer/director/producer in film and advertising. He has taught a Low-Budget Filmmaking course at Portland State University and is currently producing a film called Going Dark.