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Benjamin-Shalom Rodriguez (or, “Ben”) is an award-winning filmmaker and comedian from South Gate/Norwalk/Long Beach (divorced parents, so he moved a lot). Humble brags: Ryan Murphy Half Initiative Finalist, completed Fox Writers Intensive and Film Independent’s Project Involve, wrote for CBS Showcase 2018, and his feature, PEDRO TRIES TO GET MARRIED, was a top seven finalist for Robert Rodriguez’s Rebel Without a Crew. Ben’s also created several digital series: Pushy Riot, MARIconBEN, Strictly Vers, and the upcoming, Stoned Breakups. He also directed/co-starred in two sold out Comedy Central Stage shows, Call Me By Your Sketch Show and SE: Sketch Eye, and his last two shorts, Alpha and Bettas, played numerous fests, Bettas winning “Best LGBTQI Short” at IFS LA Film Festival. In a past life, Ben was DoD for Lionsgate/Eugenio Derbez’s 3Pas Studios, and prior, a talent manager at Sofia Vergara’s LatinWE in Miami. In his free time, he’s a filmmaking mentor for Edward James Olmos’ Latino Film Institute: Youth Cinema Project. He performs anywhere and everywhere he can.
Pamela García Rooney is a native of Laredo, Texas, a border town to Mexico. She was raised by evangelical Christians who spoke in tongues and convinced her she was a faith healer at the age of ten. This unconventional approach to life and her Mexican-American culture have deeply influenced her storytelling. She earned an MA in counseling after receiving a BA in English from UT Austin where she focused on writing poetry and fiction. She moved to LA and trained as an actor at Playhouse West. Previously a high school English teacher, she now writes full-time and lives in Los Angeles with her husband and two young daughters. Pamela is proud to be a part of the NHMC program as well as an NBC Writers on the Verge fellow this year. She is represented by Paradigm Talent Agency and Kailey Marsh at Brillstein Entertainment Partners.
Daniela began her career in the fashion industry, working in the photography offices of Elle magazine. She also co-founded a luxury menswear company sold at Bergdorf Goodman and Saks Fifth Avenue. In 2013, she was selected to attend the Yale Writer’s Conference in New Haven. Shortly afterward, her short story, You Wanted an Explosion, was published in the University of Southern California’s literary journal, Fractal Magazine. Her screenplays and teleplays have placed in the Austin Film Festival, Tracking Board, ScreenCraft, and Final Draft Big Break contests. In 2017 her script, The Letters, was also honored by advocacy group We For She’s WriteHer list as one of the best unproduced scripts featuring female-driven inclusive content. The script is in active development. Daniela is currently prepping a festival run for her short film, The Cake, which marks her directing debut. She is a member of the National Association of Latino Independent Producers, and continues to write and develop inclusive dramatic and genre projects.
Writer and filmmaker, Natalia Provatas, is a first generation Los Angeles native of Puerto Rican and Greek descent. Last year, her personal essay “What It’s Really Like Inside the Elite Conference for Health Bros” for Refinery 29 was voted one of Apple News’ “Weekly Must Reads.” Additional published work can be found on Dame Magazine, Creator Magazine, The Gloss, and Manifest Justice. She was also project manager for On the Inside, the largest art collection of currently incarcerated LGBTQ prisoners that opened at Abron’s Art Center in NYC last fall, and will be coming to The Craft and Folk Art Museum in Los Angeles summer of 2019. Natalia co-directed/co-wrote the dark comedy short film Canary Suicides, which won the “Audience Award” at Holly Shorts, and was an official selection at both SXSW and Cleveland International Film Festival. She also directed and co-wrote the comedy web series Lazy Actress. Previously, Natalia was a production and editorial coordinator for the DreamWorks Animation features, The Croods, Me and My Shadow and Monkeys of Mumbai, respectively. She also worked on the writing team of BOO: Earth Division for DreamWorks Animation Television. Growing up, Natalia was drawn to writing as a way to share her struggles about trying to fit into the world at large as a mixed-race American. She also writes about sex, the body, female identity, and surviving breast cancer from a multi-culture lens. She currently resides in Silverlake with her fluffy dog, Norman. Both dance for treats.
Lisa Quintela is the daughter of Cuban immigrants. Born in New Jersey, and raised in Miami, she lived in New York City for the last 18 years before recently moving to Los Angeles. Lisa started off her career working in film and theater development for Jean Doumanian Productions (Bullets Over Broadway, August Osage County). She then became an entertainment journalist, editor, and critic for various publications including The Washington Post, Entertainment Weekly, Latina magazine, People en Español, and Paper magazine, among others. She continued to write as she attended law school. During that time she also clerked for a renowned New York criminal judge and, upon graduation, she worked as an attorney specializing in tech, entertainment and advertising law. She has a B.F.A from NYU Tisch School of the Arts, and a J.D degree from Fordham Law School. Inspired by her diverse background and myriad experiences, she’s most drawn to the dramedy genre. She is currently repped by ICM.
Eric M. Esquivel is a veteran of the Comic Book Industry whose most recent offering, DC Vertigo’s BORDER TOWN #1, sold out its first print run (something that hasn’t happened at DC Vertigo since Neil Gaiman’s 2013 offering, SANDMAN: OVERTURE #1).
Eric has made a career writing household names like THE FLASH, GUMBY, LEGO BATMAN, SONIC THE HEDGEHOG, and SUPERMAN– but that was just to break into The Industry, and start building his brand. Eric’s true passion is increasing the Latinx presence in the realms of Sci-Fi, Horror, and Fantasy.
Most of the comics being adapted for television and film today were created back in the 1930’s, when only one kind of person was allowed to tell their story (I bet you can guess which kind!). Eric’s hope is that, by creating more Latinx characters in Comics, it’ll create more jobs for Latinx actors, writers, and directors in the future.
Emanuel Gironi is Cuban-American and a produced, multi award-winning writer-director-actor. This is his segundo time at bat with the N.H.M.C. and the L.A.T.C. scene showcase. In 2016, Emanuel played the role of “Nando”, the Archie Bunker, Cuban dad character in “The Comedian”, and now, in this 2018 turn around, Emanuel is behind the scenes as the writer of “CALL ME LUCIA”, which will be experienced live on stage at the El Portal Theatre, in the Valley. Emanuel recently guest starred as an actor on the hit TV show SWAT (Sony-CBS), ONE DAY AT A TIME (Sony-Netflix) and “ABRIENDO MUROS” (Telemundo mini-series) and is excited to announce he has been accepted into the 2018 N.H.M.C. TV Writers’ Program. Emanuel is currently a producer-director with Republica Havas ad agency and was honored to serve his community for years, teaching filmmaking, writing and theatre to inner city school kids via the East L.A. Classic Theatre program and with the Los Angeles Academy of Arts and Enterprise, a LAUSD charter high school.
Maritza Avelar is a comedy writer from Houston, Texas and is currently based in Los Angeles. She is one of five daughters to a Mexican mother who raised her on horror movies and Spanish-dubbed martial art films. Having two older and two younger sisters, Maritza is happy to be in the middle and is grateful for their humor, which motivates her each day. She began her writing career through journalism, but decided to pursue screenwriting after attending a video tech class. While attending The University of Texas, Maritza was a script supervisor for multiple short films, a writer’s assistant and worked for KLRU-PBS. She focuses her writing on the narratives of Latinx women and wants to challenge the stereotypes continuously used in the television medium. Before being accepted to the NHMC TV Writers Program, she was a Writer’s Assistant for Story House’s Tijuana and a Reports Compliance Assistant for the DGA.
Allegra Caldera is a writer, actor and director. Born in Los Angeles, she grew up (mostly) in Albuquerque, New Mexico, before moving to a suburb of Washington D.C. for high school, where she joined an ensemble of traveling, Shakespeare-performing teenagers. She’s been hooked on telling great stories ever since. While studying English at Harvard, Allegra directed four plays, acted in a few more, helped run a nonprofit student theater group, and led freshmen on a pre-college backpacking trip. She also studied acting at the British American Drama Academy in Oxford. Upon graduating from Harvard in 2017, she won a writing prize – best essay on Shakespeare – for part of her senior thesis. Today, Allegra continues to write and act in Los Angeles, where she’s training at The Actor’s Gang and Upright Citizen’s Brigade. Her current writing projects focus on climate change, borders, justice, friendship, and growing up.
Jerry Hernandez is a native Angelino and was raised by Puerto Rican parents in the city of Downey, California. He performs stand up all over Los Angeles and also writes for the sketch team, The Color Collective. Jerry’s screenplays and pilots have placed in the Nicholl Fellowship, Austin Film Festival and have been rated in the top 4.6% on The Black List. When he’s not writing or performing, Jerry loves watching sports and rooting for the Dodgers and Lakers. This takes a toll on his sanity, but don’t worry, he’ll be fine.
Michelle Calderon is a Dominican-American comedy writer from Chicago. She can’t remember a time before writing stories but growing up she had an aptitude for math and science. She attended a boarding school for such nerds, and began college as a Biochemistry major. However, her passion for writing couldn’t be ignored, and she graduated with a degree in Creative Writing. After taking time to travel around the world doing volunteer work, Michelle decided to focus on screenwriting by attending the Florida State University College of Motion Picture Arts. She received her Master’s there and is now a recent Los Angeles resident. Michelle draws on her life experiences in her work but also likes building new worlds that her characters can adventure through. Whether animated, coming-of-age, or fantasy, or all three in one, Michelle’s work is warm and comedic in tone and often explores different cultural perspectives.
Elfi Martinez is a walker between worlds. From inner-city Chicago to Wall Street to Hollywood, he has lived a life of eclectic and profound experiences. Born a poor kid in a tough neighborhood in Chicago, Elfi grew up surrounded by cops (his father was a cop) but all of his friends were robbers. Where violence was power, he used story to disarm, connect and survive. His chameleonic ability to understand and shapeshift between the polarities of American identity provide him with a unique worldview and storytelling voice.Elfi writes dramedies that feature marginalized protagonists struggling to become the roses that bloom from the concrete. As a writer of color, Elfi strongly believes that his experiences as a Latino born and raised in the United States are also American stories. His stories illustrate the tapestry of American identities that unite our underlying humanity despite our surface differences.
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.
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