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NHMC Television Writers Program: Class of 2016
Belinda Arredondo is writer and muppet enthusiast living in New York City. A graduate of the writing and publishing program at Emerson College, she is currently an Associate Producer with Sesame Workshop where she produces the Spanish language series Sesame Amigos. Most recently she wrote for the classic PBS Kids series Arthur and developed a new live-action web-series featuring the beloved Sesame Street muppet Abby Cadabby. Prior to Sesame Workshop, Belinda wrote and produced dozens of digital games for a variety of PBS Kids shows including Arthur, Martha Speaks, Curious George, and Peep and the Big Wide World. A native of Los Angeles, Belinda is interested in writing ½ hour comedies that expose the underbelly of urban geekdom.
Gene Augusto is an only child born on Christmas Day who swears he does not have a messiah complex. Gene learned at a young age that he enjoyed making people laugh through imitating his parents, classmates, and just about anyone around him. Upon graduating in TV/ Film from Cal State Fullerton, he continued to cultivate his fondness for characters with unique points of view through sketch comedy. Gene has trained and performed for over a decade at the Upright Citizens Brigade, iO West, and The Pack Theater. He recently had the honor of serving as the first Hispanic head writer for the CBS Diversity Showcase with the 2016 show. His sketch videos have been featured on Yahoo News, Newsweek, Cracked, The Advocate, and the front page of Funny or Die. Gene previously worked for Paramount Pictures where he was the two-time winner of Paramount’s Green Shorts Film Contest. Put him in a room and he’ll work miracles, just don’t expect him to walk on water.
Sofia Davila is a bi-cultural and bilingual Puerto Rican who focuses her writing on the stories behind damaged people. Stories about less-than-perfect characters struggling against their inner selves are what she finds relatable. With this in mind, she wrote “Hush,” a feature film about a teacher at a religious school who abuses one of her students, which won the 2016 Akiva Goldsman Prize for Best Screenplay at Wesleyan University. Building on that success, Sofia has had the opportunity to intern at companies such as Mun2 and FilmDistrict, amongst others, and now works as the Assistant to the EVP of production at Sierra-Affinity. Aside from feature films, Sofia also writes one hour dramas about alternative communities that appear one way on the outside, but are much darker on the inside.
Victor M. Dueñas
Victor M. Dueñas is a Mexican-American writer, producer, and stand-up comedian based in Los Angeles. His offbeat bicultural humor is the result of having hella funny immigrant parents plus early exposure to the American classic The Golden Girls. He attended Pomona College where he majored in Spanish Literature. Upon graduation, he pursued stand-up comedy eventually performing at legendary clubs like The Laugh Factory, The Comedy Store, and The Ice House. Victor has written, produced, and directed several short films including Teach Me Tiger and Boy Politico. He previously worked as an elementary school teacher and used this life experience in his role as Development Assistant for the third season of the Emmy-nominated series East Los High. Victor is also a trained clown and performed for many years under the alias Patches the Clown. He continues to clown around professionally in his current position as segment producer and writer on EstrellaTV’s hit Spanish late night talk show Noches con Platanito. His work on this show allows him to merge his love of comedy with that of storytelling… and finally put that damn Spanish degree to good use.
Pablo Goldstein is a comedy writer and a native Angeleno, born to a mosaic artist and an actress-turned-lingerie entrepreneur and raised in a multicultural home where nobody was the same ethnicity. Since graduating from UC Santa Barbara, Pablo’s writing has been published in The New Yorker and McSweeney’s Internet Tendency, among other publications. Pablo is currently the assistant to the Head of Management at Buffalo 8 Productions and previously worked for TV luminaries Vin Di Bona and Tim & Eric. Pablo hopes to develop and create work for TV that blends his love of oddball family dynamics with his desire to see his hometown’s diverse cultural landscape portrayed in all its absurd glory.
Gabriela Montequin is a comedy writer with an MBA in Film Production & Business from J.P. Catholic University. Raised by a German-American mother and Bolivian father, she calls herself a ‘cultural mutt’ because of the subtle but significant clashes from both sides of her family. Inspired by the tension between American privilege and immigrant aspirations, Gabriela writes characters from diverse backgrounds looking for their place in the world – always with a sense of humor, even if it gets dark. In all, the common underlying theme that grounds her work is the value of family.
Renier Murillo is a drama/horror writer raised by a Costa Rican mother and Ecuadorian father in the small Florida town of Homestead. You’d think Renier would’ve rather forgotten the time his childhood home nearly blew away during Hurricane Andrew or when he completely blew out his knee while performing in a college musical. Instead, he transforms those painful memories into thrilling stories — bringing light to life’s much darker days. Renier took his love of drama and horror to the page, obtaining his BFA in Theatre from Florida International University and MFA in Screenwriting from the University of Texas at Austin. His play Just Coffee was a finalist at the 2013 Tennessee Williams/New Orleans Literary Festival. Additionally, he appeared in the role of Ricardo Martinez in the Lifetime drama series Army Wives. Ultimately, his true passion lies in television writing. Renier continues to embrace the slightly absurd but amusing experiences that come his way, such as recently winning a booty shaking contest at the popular drag/hamburger joint, Hamburger Mary’s.
Brian Otaño is a drama writer and first-generation Brooklynite, born to Puerto Rican parents– an NYC firefighter and a seamstress-turned-educator. While earning a BFA in Dramatic Writing from SUNY Purchase, Brian worked in production and management on Broadway (Avenue Q and Rent) before joining the Scenic Art staff at The Metropolitan Opera. Brian is the recipient of several playwriting fellowships, residencies and showcase readings with Roundabout Theatre Company, New York Theatre Workshop and New Dramatists, among others. As an emerging writer, Brian’s work has given voice to fiery Latinas, sexually-adventurous couples, the disappearing working class and vengeful ghosts. Brian recently moved to LA to follow his passion for creating culturally diverse TV, populated by quick-witted, morally complex people and informed by his life-long fascination with the supernatural.
Jesenia Ruiz is a first-generation Mexican-American who grew up with her single-mother and two siblings in St. Paul, Minnesota. Jesenia’s relationship with her hard-working mother has deeply influenced her writing style, as she aspires to create female-driven narratives that work to defy gender norms. She loves action-packed TV dramas in particular, and wants to reclaim the genre for women by creating strong, female protagonists who are emotionally layered and morally complex while kicking ass and causing explosions. Jesenia studied film at Carleton College and later graduated from USC with an MFA in Writing for Screen and Television. She is currently working on a female-driven thriller for Lifetime called Her Forgotten Daughter.
Sammy Sarzoza is from the snow-ridden city of St. Paul, Minnesota and credits that cold weather upbringing for his strong work ethic. A third-generation Mexican-American, Sammy spent his childhood in search of wormholes and chupacabras he believed to be lurking in the surrounding suburbs of the Twin Cities. He graduated from the Cinema program at Minneapolis Community and Technical College, where he acquired skills in shouting (Directing), highlighting (Producing), and coffee drinking (Screenwriting). He’s the son of a pipefitter and has worked in a wide range of jobs including: delivery driver, wedding DJ, school teacher, hand massager, and women’s roller derby videographer — all of which inform his passion for writing about blue collar families and the life experiences of the everyday people. Sammy currently lives in sunny Los Angeles and his apartment is filled with his quirky action figure collection.
Geoff Harris, Program Mentor: Geoff was Vice President in charge of Story and Writer Development at NBC for twelve years. He now works as a free-lance writer/producer and teacher of TV-writing intensive workshops for and Latino and Native American writers sponsored by ABC and NBC. He has also taught Web Series Writing at Cal State University, Los Angeles, as well as classes in Story Analysis at the American Film Institute. In addition, he works as a judge in the ABC Writing Program and leads seminars for ABC fellows about television writing. While at NBC, Geoff helped in the development of primetime TV shows, including some of the most successful comedies, dramas, movies and mini–series in television history. Since then, he has developed scripts for many writers in TV and film, including some for his students who have gone on to staff positions on TV shows such as ABC’s Samantha Who? and NBC’s Medium, among others. With a Masters degree from Notre Dame University and a PhD (abd) from Columbia University, Geoff began working as a reporter for the now-defunct Los Angeles Herald Examiner daily newspaper. Afterwards, he became a creative executive in television. Geoff currently lives in Sherman Oaks, California with his wife, Melissa, and their two children.