Nickelodeon has selected its 10 participants for its annual Writing and Artist Programs, designed to develop the next generation of creative voices from underrepresented communities.
Helmed by the ViacomCBS Office of Global Inclusion and aligned with the company’s Content for Change initiative, for its 22nd annual Writing Program, four aspiring television writers will have the opportunity to hone their skills while working at the Nickelodeon studio and six emerging artists will develop their craft during the 10th annual Artist Program.
The news comes on the heels of the second year of remote programming, which marked the most successful year ever for Nickelodeon’s Creative Talent Development & Outreach team. All five artists from the 2021 Artist Program were staffed on Nickelodeon productions and all four writers were staffed on projects across ViacomCBS.
“Nickelodeon’s long-running Writing and Artist Programs continue to provide aspiring creative minds with the tools to help launch their careers and deliver inclusive stories that reflect the voices of our diverse audiences,” said Marva Smalls, Executive Vice President, Global Head of Inclusion, ViacomCBS and Executive Vice President, Public Affairs, Kids & Family Entertainment Brands, ViacomCBS Media Networks. “Aligned with ViacomCBS’ Content for Change initiative, these programs also affirm our commitment to ensuring an equitable and inclusive pipeline that removes barriers to entry for underrepresented storytellers and continues our work to change the face of content creation.”
This year’s addition of Peer Mentoring strengthens the program’s overall impact, providing participants with invaluable one-on-one mentorship, as well as a deeper introduction to Nickelodeon’s culture and inclusive work environment.
Within the Writing Program, all participants have the opportunity 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 yearlong program.
The writers will be individually paired with Nickelodeon’s Linda Halder (Senior Manager, Live Action Development), Mary Harrington (Executive Producer, Preschool Development), and Conrad Montgomery (VP, Animation Development), who will work with them on professional development, writing and network building at the studio.
The Writing Program participants are:
- Kobie Scott: Born and raised in the Big Peach State of Georgia, Kobie Scott was always connected to animation. He was accepted into Georgia Southern University, planning to be a staff writer in the video game industry, but quickly realized TV writing was more his speed. He bought books about scriptwriting and story structure, and took animation classes that gave him a greater understanding of the art form and possibly carpal tunnel.
- Lauren Monroe: Lauren Monroe (she/her) is a fat, queer, neurodiverse writer who grew up in Atlanta with a nerdy mom who cosplayed at conventions, taught high school English, and instilled a love of fantasy storytelling. Now Monroe happily writes colorful fantasy worlds for kids with queerness and nuanced perspectives of diverse bodies and brains.
- Hannah Suria: Hannah Suria is a writer and performer from Orange County, Calif. and the proud daughter of immigrants (a mixed mom from Singapore and a Tamil-Sri Lankan father from Malaysia). Writing stopped being a hobby and became an integral part of her life when, as an aspiring actor, Suria quickly discovered roles for women who look like her were few and far between.
- Frank Paiva: Frank Paiva (he/they) is a gay and queer person of size from Seattle. Growing up in the early 2000s, they struggled to find a blueprint for the rest of their life in popular media. Newly based in Los Angeles, Paiva writes comedies with heart, with a particular interest in LGBTQ history and expanding the range of body types audiences see onscreen.
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. The Artist Program tracks include storyboard, general design or CG generalist. The CG track was first offered last year to service many of the Nickelodeon Animation Studio’s current and upcoming CG productions.
The artists are paired with artistic mentors at Nickelodeon to guide their production experience, including: Ashley Kliment (Art Director, The Loud House); Jeff Chozon (Art Director, Transformers) and Jermaine Jose (Art Director, Transformers); Kimberly Mills (Storyboard Director, Big Nate) and Vypac Voeur (Lead CG Generalist, Big Nate); Chris Graham (Supervising Director, Santiago of the Seas); and Sica Von Medicus (CG Supervisor, Max & The Midknights).
The Artist Program participants are:
- Cherrie Wang (Storyboard Track): Cherrie Wang has spent her entire life doodling on anything she could get her hands on. Her family didn’t understand the world of art and animation, so Wang attended the University of Southern California where she earned her degree in Computer Science and Engineering. She taught herself how to storyboard via the internet and recently moved back to Los Angeles to pursue her calling full-time.
- Katarina Perez (CG Track): Katarina Perez is a Mexican-American artist born and raised in Houston, Texas. When introduced to a 3D animation course in high school, she was enamored by all that you could do in a 3-dimensional space. This propelled her to pack up and move to Dallas to pursue a Bachelor of Animation at the University of Texas at Dallas.
- Roger Hernandez (CG Generalist Track): Born in the Greater Los Angeles area to immigrant parents from El Salvador, Roger Hernandez’s parents were always a pillar of support and despite limited resources, they got him through college where he pursued his dream in CG animation at Cal State Northridge. Though truly a CG generalist, his primary focus is CG modeling. Sculpting 3D models is his passion and it is his goal to share his vision and talent through his art.
- Emily Monjaraz (General Design Track): Emily Monjaraz started her career illustrating kids’ books and doing graphic design for toy companies that encourage girls to pursue careers in STEM. Her mission is to create content for children learning how to harness their differences into super-powers as well as create stories and characters that represent the world in which she grew up.
- Booker Jackson (Storyboard Track): Booker Jackson is from Sacramento, Calif. and was captivated by animation from a young age after seeing a fun Nickelodeon behind the scenes segment about a day in the life of a story artist. Jackson is passionate about diversifying the world of animation and mentoring those who will come after him.
- David Lu (General Design Track): David Lu hails from Vancouver, Canada, where he spent his formative years watching a variety of cartoons that influenced him into becoming an artist. Convinced by his family that art was not a feasible career, Lu went to the Bay Area to write code in exchange for cold hard cash. However, Lu’s artistic desires were not satisfied, so for the past couple of years he has been focused on building his portfolio to break into the animation industry and live his childhood dream of creating cartoons.
Alumni of the programs who have gone on to hold positions on Nickelodeon shows include May Chan (co-executive producer, The Astronauts), Sarah Jacques (Art Director, Santiago of the Seas), Anna Hill (storyboard artist, The Loud House), Ahn Bui (BG Painter, Middlemost Post), Samuel Pagán (CG Generalist, Rugrats), Carl Edward Mongan (Storyboard Revisionist, Kamp Koral), Angel Hobbs (Staff Writer, That Girl Lay Lay) Marisa Torres (Background Painter, Santiago of the Seas), Jonathan Butler and Gabriel Garza (co-creators, Bella and the Bulldogs) and more. Outside of Nickelodeon, many program alumni have gone on to freelance and staff positions at various networks, including Showtime, HBO, DreamWorks, Netflix, Comedy Central, Disney Channel, Disney+, Kids’ WB!, ABC, FOX, PBS, Cartoon Network, and the CW.