Faculty: Writing for Television

Faculty

JILL GOLDSMITH (Fall/Winter/Spring Live Q&A and Lecture Series)

Jill is a television writer and producer with credits on Emmy-winning series including NYPD Blue, The Practice, Ally McBeal, Law & Order, Boston Legal, and Rizzoli & Isles, and was a finalist for the Humanitas Prize for an episode of Boston Legal. She has sold projects to ABC, NBC, and Universal, and currently has a pilot in development. She has also been a featured speaker at numerous conferences and writing programs, and has appeared as a panelist on C-Span Close Up, CBS News, and CNN. Prior to writing for television, Jill spent seven years as a Public Defender in the Juvenile and Felony Trial Divisions of the Cook County Public Defender's Office in Chicago. She received her J.D. from Washington University School of Law, and served an internship with U.S. Senator Paul Simon on the Senate Judiciary Committee. She also received an MFA in Screenwriting from the UCLA School of Film, Television, and Digital Media, and is a contributing author to the book, Lawyers In Your Living Room! Law On Television, in which she wrote the chapter entitled, Writing For Television: From Courtroom to Writer's Room.

MATTHEW THOMPSON (Fall/Winter Live Q&A and Lecture Series)

Matthew is a television, film, and new media writer whose credits include My Name is Earl and Raising Hope.  In addition to writing professionally for more than a decade, he has also worked as a script consultant, helping to improve countless pilots and spec scripts.  In his spare time he’s an Emmy-nominated songwriter and a “Best Dad” nominated father.  He also often writes about himself in third person and is known for being much less long-winded than his father.

NEIL THOMPSON (Fall/Winter Live Q&A and Lecture Series)

Neil grew up in Ames, Iowa, and attended Iowa State University, earning his B.S. degree in History, with distinction, in 1970.  While at ISU, he was a member of Phi Kappa Phi honor society, lettered in both cross country and track for the Cyclones, and was tapped for Cardinal Key, the highest award granted to undergraduate men for service to the university.  

After college, Neil moved to Minneapolis, Minnesota, where he began a performing career with the long running improvisational theatre company Dudley Riggs’ Brave New Workshop.  In 1975, Neil migrated to Los Angeles to pursue an acting and writing career that spanned over thirty years.  After appearing on several shows, including M*A*S*H, Laverne and Shirley, Happy Days, Kojak, McCloud, and Private Benjamin, Neil shifted his focus to writing comedy.  He wrote on staff for fourteen prime time network comedy series, contributing sixty-five credited scripts. He co-created and executive produced two series and co-executive produced six more. His credits include Police Squad!, Happy Days, Dreams, You Again?, Webster, Night Court, Stand By Your Man (Co-creator and Executive Producer), The Boys are Back, The Faculty (Co-creator and Executive producer), Men Behaving Badly, Union Square, Caroline in the City, God, the Devil, and Bob, and Malcolm in the Middle for which he was three times nominated by the Writers Guild of America for best comedy script of the year.  He won the award in 2003.  

In 2008, Neil received his M.A. degree in U.S. Cultural History from California State University at Northridge.  He has since taught five different history courses at CSUN, including one he created entitled “Hollywood and History,” a course which uses popular film as a means of understanding the social, cultural, and political themes of twentieth century America.  

From 2012 - 2019 Neil taught half hour comedy spec, pilot, and room running class in the MFA program at UCLA.  He is excited to participate in lecture and discussion sessions with the UCLA Professional Program, beginning in the Fall of 2020. 

Neil is married to actress and hypnotherapist Barbara Brownell.  They have three children, five grandchildren, and one dog.  His son Matt has taught comedy courses in the Professional Program for many years.  

SUSAN HURWITZ ARNESON

Susan is a television writer who received her MFA in Screenwriting from UCLA. Best known for her work as a writer on six seasons of South Park, and is currently a writer for Amazon's The Tick. In the past she has also been a Consulting Producer on NBC's Mr. Robinson with Craig Robinson and a writer on ABC's Malibu Country starring Reba McEntire and Lily Tomlin, and the Fox animated series Bordertown. Susan has developed several television series and sold pitches to Fox Television Animation, MTV and others.

image042KAREN BARNA

Karen is a television and film writer whose credits include The Mountain and Step Up 2: The Streets. A graduate of the Warner Brothers Television Writers Workshop, Karen is currently developing a film adaptation of a historical travelogue, among several other projects. She was a Screenwriting Instructor for Dan Decker's The Screenwriters Group, is a graduate of the University of Michigan Law School and an active member of the Writers Education Committee and E-Publishing Committee at the WGA.

image045ARI EISNER

Ari is a graduate of New York University's Tisch School of the Arts Film and Television Program.  A television, feature, video game and ezine writer, he's written for the CBS sitcom Still Standing and has had pilot deals with Warner Bros., Touchstone, MTV, Warner Horizons, Fox 21, MGM and NBC Universal.  He's taught writing and directing at the Inner City Filmmakers program and is a member of the Groundlings improv group, and a Second City graduate.  He co-created the trailer mash-ups 10 Things I hate About Commandments, Must Love Jaws, and Glen & Gary & Glen & Ross which were featured on CNN and in Rolling Stone and Time Magazine.  10 Things I hate About Commandments is on display at the Museum of the Moving Image in New York City. He's currently developing a pilot for IMGlobal television and Muse Entertainment.

image046STEPHEN ENGEL

Stephen's weekend work of writing screenplays eventually led to his departure from being a lawyer to his success as a television creator, writer, director and producer on such hit series as Dream OnMad About YouJust Shoot Me and The Big Bang Theory. A graduate of Tufts University, Engel continued his education at NYU and earned a law degree. He then joined a New York firm, and spent his weekends writing screenplays, leading to assignments for producers including Joel Silver and Steven Spielberg. Ultimately, Stephen quit his law job and -- in the words of his parents -- "flushed thousands of dollars of education down the toilet" to write full-time for television and movies. In 1991, Engel moved to Los Angeles to write for the award-winning HBO comedy Dream On. He spent four years on the series, serving as the showrunner the last two years. Engel went on to create and executive produce CBS's Work With Me, starring Nancy Travis and Kevin Pollak; NBC's Inside Schwartz, starring Breckin Meyer; and ABC's The Big House, starring Kevin Hart.

JENNIFER FISHER

Jennifer is a television writer/producer whose credits include Titus, Wanda at Large, The Bill Engvall Show, and Ellen, where she was part of the Emmy Award-winning staff that wrote Ellen’s “coming out” episode, aka The Puppy Episode.  She’s had pilot deals with Twentieth Century Fox, NBC/Universal, Touchstone, Warner Bros., Warner Horizon, and has pitched and sold multiple half-hour comedy pilots, with producers including Lisa Kudrow’s Is or Isn’t Entertainment and Zadan and Maron’s Storyline Entertainment.  A Los Angeles native, Jennifer received her BA in Film and Television from Cal State University Long Beach.  She's currently developing an hour-long dramedy and avoiding as much gluten as humanly possible.

KELLY DeLEON FULLERTON

Kelly is a screenwriter with experience across many different formats including features, one-hour television, half-hour television and animation. Two of her most recent movies, "Switched Before Birth" and "Ice Wine Christmas" will premiere this year on Lifetime Television. Additional credits include"MiddleMost Post" for Nickelodeon Animation and "Courage to Soar: The Simone Biles Story" for Lifetime Television. She was executive story editor for Freeform’s critically-acclaimed show, "The Fosters" and worked on NBC's "Next Caller" as well as MTV’s hit comedy "Awkward."

Kelly received her M.F.A. in screenwriting from UCLA as part of the television showrunner track. In addition to writing, Kelly is thrilled to be part of the professional program faculty at the UCLA School of Theater, Film & Television as well as being a lecturer at the Dodge College of Film and Media Arts at Chapman University. She received her BA in theatre arts with an emphasis in acting and directing from UC San Diego.

In addition to being a writer and teacher, Kelly is sometimes a story consultant and always an auntie.

image043GEOFF GEIB

Geoff received his MFA in 2010 from the UCLA School of Theater, Film and Television where he won the Michael Minor and Robert Green award in screenwriting. He was a staff writer on the final two seasons of Medium and has written and developed multiple original scripts with Glenn Gordon Caron, the creator of Moonlighting, including the sale of his drama pilot Happy Accidentsto CBS Paramount. He has taught at CSULB, the graduate school at Hollins University, and in the Professional Program at UCLA. Geoff's IMDb page also proudly lists the PA work he did on Gilda Radner's Greatest Moments from 2002 and his dramatic turn as the 'Lightswitch Guy' in the hopefully never seen independent film Ante Up.

DON HANDFIELD

Don is a filmmaker, screenwriter, comic book creator, producer and novelist. He is the co-creator of History Channel's drama series Knightfall. The series was one of the top cable drama launches of 2017. Season 2 recently finished airing with Mark Hamill (Star Wars) co-starring. Handfield’s first comic series THE RIFT was picked up by Steven Spielberg and Amblin Entertainment for the final episode of the reboot of Amazing Stories anthology that aired on Apple +. His latest graphic novel LOOT (to be published in 2021) is currently in development as a streaming series, and his book UNIKORN was picked up by Armory Films (MUDBOUND, PEANUT BUTTER FALCON) for development into a feature film.

Handfield is currently producing along with Marc Platt (LA LA LAND), the adaptation of SWITCHED ON, the critically-acclaimed book from John Elder Robison at Focus Features with Emma Frost (White Queen) adapting. Handfield is also producing the US-remake of top grossing Vietnamese horror film, HOUSEMAID, with CJ Entertainment (SNOWPIERCER, PARASITE) that was adapted for the US market by Academy-Award winning writer Geoffrey Fletcher (PRECIOUS).

Handfield developed and produced THE FOUNDER starring Michael Keaton and KILL THE MESSENGER starring two-time Academy Award nominated actor Jeremy Renner, with whom Handfield co-founded production company The Combine. Handfield wrote and directed the Saturn Award winning film TOUCHBACK starring Kurt Russell and Christine Lahti. Handfield also wrote the novel, which was a top seller on Amazon and received a starred review from Publisher’s Weekly.

Handfield recently became a partner and Board Member of Scout Comics & Entertainment, one of the top indie publishers of the current age. ABC Studios recently optioned the Scout series HENCHGIRL, and Amazon is currently developing the series LONG LOST. Handfield’s comic book series THE MALL was optioned by Ivan Reitman’s Montecito Pictures. His upcoming YA Graphic Novel LOOT was optioned by Blue Ant Media for adaptation into a TV series. Handfield also behind acclaimed comic series THE SOURCE and THE DARK AGE, the latter of which became the best-selling series ever for publisher Red 5.

His short film My Name Is starring French Stewart won best short at several film festivals including the top prize at the Atlanta Film Festival, qualifying it for entry into the Academy Awards. He was named one of the top new faces of independent film by Filmmaker Magazine in 2005 and has written screenplays for Warner Brothers, DreamWorks, Paramount and Lionsgate, among others.

image047CHUCK KIM

The son of Korean immigrants, Chuck proved his geek cred by forgoing his acceptance to law school to be an editor at DC Comics.  After working several years on such characters as Batman, Superman, and Aquaman, Chuck moved to Los Angeles and worked for E! Online as a reporter. He got his big break when he was picked as a writing fellow in the Disney/ABC writing program.  Chuck wrote for several seasons on the NBC hit series Heroes, as well as comic books, with characters ranging from the Powerpuff Girls to the X-Men to Superman.  His animation work includes Ben 10 and Dexter's Laboratory. He still remains proud of designing the lower half of a short-lived version of Aquaman's costume. He lives with his husband David and mixed-breed labrador Lilly.

ANDREW ORENSTEIN

Four days after graduating from the University of Western Ontario in 1992, Andrew left his native Canada and headed to Hollywood. Since that time, he has written and/or produced over 500 episodes of television, spanning many genres, from sketch comedy to half-hour sitcom to one-hour drama. His first break came when he was hired as one of the original staff writers on the hit NBC series 3rd Rock from the Sun. He stayed for 100 episodes, rising to the rank of producer. Since then he’s written for a variety of series including Malcolm in the Middle, Everybody Hates Chris, and the CBS medical drama, Dr. Vegas, starring Rob Lowe and Amy Adams. Mr. Orenstein also created the sitcom Package Deal for City TV/Hulu, and Just Add Magic: Mystery City for Amazon TV. Most recently he co-created the single camera children’s mystery, Ghostwriter, for Apple TV.

JUDD PILLOT

Writer, producer, director, Judd Pillot, has over twenty-five years’ experience in prime-time TV and film.  An Emmy winner, and recipient of the prestigious Humanitas Award, Judd has run such hit shows as “COACH”, “Mad About You”, “Just Shoot Me”, “Eight Simple Rules”, “According to Jim”, "Something So Right," and many others.  He was also the Executive Producer on the "COACH" reboot for NBC/Universal.

Judd's projects are not limited to comedy.  He wrote and produced the USA Network one-hour drama, "Operating Instructions," and wrote the action thrillers, "Us/Them," and “No Americans Will Be Harmed.”  Judd's also worked in feature films, having written several screenplays, including "Crazy on the Outside," starring and directed by Tim Allen, co-starring Ray Liotta, Sigourney Weaver, Kelsey Grammer and Julie Bowen.  He also provided production rewrites on “The Bounty Hunter” starring Jennifer Aniston and Gerard Butler.

In addition, Judd's done extensive teaching, consulting, and guest lecturing, and had the honor of being invited to Singapore's Ngee Ann Polytechnic to present a three-day writing and show running seminar.  He also travelled to Moscow, consulting for Sony Pictures International on "Voronins", the Russian version of the wildly successful U.S. sitcom, "Everybody Loves Raymond" - a project that garnered Judd a spot in the Guinness Book of World Records.

Judd is currently writing and developing projects for broadcast, streaming, and cable, including an adaptation of the hit, Mexican telenovela, “Por Ella Soy Eva” for Endemol Shine, "Curb Appeal", a dark comedy exploring the fall and rise of a disgraced Miami real estate hot shot, and a miniseries based on “The Divorce Seekers,” chronicling four couples as they tumble through the six week, “quickie” Reno divorce craze in 1947.  He’s published several short stories and essays, his romantic comedy, “I’m Gonna Make You Love Me” has been optioned by MGM, and his time-travel-and-Italian-food-themed screenplay, "Pizza & Past," for Sony Pictures International, is currently in post-production.

DAVID RADCLIFF

David is an alum of the UCLA MFA Screenwriting Program, where he received both the Jack Nicholson Screenwriting Prize and the George Burns & Gracie Allen Comedic Writing Scholarship. 

In television, David’s writing credits include ABC’s The Rookie and Netflix’s educational comedy series Waffles + Mochi, which stars First Lady Michelle Obama and was nominated for Outstanding Youth Program at the Television Critics Awards. He was also a creative consultant on the Academy Award-nominated documentary Crip Camp and went on to join the marketing efforts for that film.

David was born with cerebral palsy and uses a wheelchair or crutches. As Chair of the Disabled Writers Committee at the Writers Guild of America, West, he leads efforts to staff and network talented disabled writers. He is also a steering committee member of the Think Tank for Inclusion & Equity, a collaborative of working television writers from underrepresented groups. 

In addition to receiving top honors at the Austin Film Festival and being selected for the Disney Writing Program, David was the recipient of USC’s Lloyd Greif Entrepreneurial Prize at the Marshall School of Business and of the Crunch Innovation Award at the Annenberg School of Communication.

David is frequently a judge for the Nickelodeon Writing Program and has been an expert judge for the Sentinel Awards, a ceremony — held by the Norman Lear Foundation — that honors accurate depictions of health and science topics in television.

MICHAEL RUSSO

Michael is a TV Writer/Producer whose credits include ABC’s legal thriller series How To Get Away with Murder and the CW’s supernatural horror show The Originals. Michael received a B.S. in Radio/Television/Film from Northwestern University’s School of Communication, an M.F.A. in Screenwriting from UCLA’s School of Theater, Film & Television, and is a graduate of the Warner Bros. Writers’ Workshop. 

MARK SARACENI

Mark has written and produced over 150 hours of TV's most original and highest rated content including The Sopranos, The X Files, EZ Streets, JAG, Law and Order, The Practice, Cover Me, Farscape and Mystery Woman for studios including HBO, Paramount, Fox, Universal, CBS, and SyFy. He also wrote and produced animated TV including Steven Spielberg's Tiny Toons, Batman, Aladdin, Little Mermaid, Taz-Mania and 2 Stupid Dogs for Warner Bros., Disney, and The Cartoon Network.  He has three Emmy Nominations for best writing and a Golden Globe award. He worked in production on multiple seasons of sitcoms including NBC's Spencerand Under One Roof. But his career began in NYC, where—after working Off-Broadway as Stage Manager on The Fantasticks and on the Broadway shows Sophisticated Ladies and Piaf—he became Production Manager and Producer for over 100 national TV commercials. Campaigns included, "Got Milk?," the Diet Coke product launch, Miller Lite's "Tastes Great/Less Filling," Dr Pepper's, "I'm A Pepper!" and ongoing ads for McDonalds, Budweiser, Heineken, Volvo, Ford, Nike, Pepsi, Oil of Olay, and Clairol—all while moonlighting as a production assistant and all-around go-fer on TV specials at Rockefeller Music Hall, Broadway theaters, and for MTV music videos.

JOEY SIARA

Joey is a Los Angeles based screenwriter. He spent his twenties performing in a noisy indie-rock band and has seen nearly every state in the country through the cracked window of a Ford Econoline. His music has been featured in several TV shows – from SONS OF ANARCHY to PARENTHOOD to GOSSIP GIRL. He has a Master’s from Harvard and an MFA from UCLA. He was staffed on EMERGENCE for ABC, co-wrote a comedy feature for Limelight Pictures, and published a short-story -- The Last of the Goggled Barskys for Slate. He currently has a project in development at Hulu with his brother Andy (screenwriter of PALM SPRINGS) and is staffed on a new series -- THE RESORT for Peacock.

TIMOTHY STACK

2020 marked Tim’s 40th year in the entertainment industry.  He started out as an actor and joined the Groundlings in 1980 working with such notables as Paul “Pee Wee Herman” Reubens and the late Phil Hartman. He found some success, and got some regular roles (Reggie in ‘83, Our Time in ‘85, and Parker Lewis Can’t Lose in ‘89) on television. But slowly over the years, he transitioned to writing and got his first staff job in ’93 on a show called On Our Own.  Then he was able to combine the two talents; acting and writing, in ’94 by co-creating and starring in the talk-show spoof, Nightstand With Dick Dietrick.  In 2000 he did the same by partnering with FX and Howard Stern for the Baywatch spoof, Son of the Beach.  Since then he has been a Writer-Producer on My Name Is Earl, Raising Hope, The Millers, Kirby Buckets, and currently has several projects in development, including an animated pilot for Twentieth Century Fox Television.

HUGH STERBAKOV

Hugh has sold television and feature scripts to cool places including Disney, Paramount, Fox, SyFy and Freeform, and developed projects with awesome people like Seth Green, Mila Kunis, Donald De Line, Gale Anne Hurd, Ben Stiller and the team at Midnight Radio. He created, wrote and executive produced Transylvania, a pilot for CBS Television Studios and the CW, which was produced but didn’t go to series. His therapist says he’ll get over that someday (but she’s lying). He also co-created and wrote the critically acclaimed comic book Freshmen, authored the novel City Under the Moon, and has two Emmy nominations and an Annie Award for Robot Chicken. He’s currently writing Lucid, a tech thriller for Warner Bros. and Blumhouse, with Ashton Kutcher slated to direct. Just like the Fresh Prince, he was born and raised in West Philadelphia. But that guy is a huge movie star, and Hugh has an MFA in screenwriting from UCLA. So… call it a draw?

AMY TOOMIN STRAUS

Amy is a veteran TV writer, having written on the staff of ten shows, including Friends and Grounded for Life. While on Friends, she co-wrote “The One With the Embryos.” She has also co-written pilots for ABC and CBS, as well as a screenplay of Malcolm in the Middle. Most recently, she has several projects in development and is in post-production on a documentary. She teaches in the Stephens College MFA in TV and Screenwriting Program, as well as at Chapman University’s Dodge College of Film and Media Arts. Straus holds a BFA from New York University’s Tisch School of the Arts.

image053GAIA VIOLO

Gaia was born in Italy, moved to London as a teenager and graduated in Classics at an Ivy League University, UCL (University College, London). While in Europe, she worked on several Italian TV shows and British commercials. Gaia has attended USC for screenwriting and graduated from the UCLA MFA Screenwriting Program, where she won the UCLA Writers Showcase and was a recipient of the Samuel Goldwyn Writing Award.  After receiving the awards, two of her TV pilots were sold to Sony Television and Sony Crackle. She has taught a series of lectures at UCLA for the Professional Program in Producing and is currently an in-house writer in the Disney live action program. She is repped by CAA, Madhouse and Myman Greenspan. 

DAVID WAGNER

David began his career in the entertainment industry at 10 years of age performing in numerous musicals, including "The King & I" with Yul Brynner. Wagner went on to become the 1984 vocal champion on Jr. Star Search with Ed McMahon. He also voiced the character of Linus Van Pelt in the CBS Special "You're A Good Man, Charlie Brown", and recorded the Peanuts album "Flashbeagle." Wagner graduated with a BA in Film with an emphasis in screenwriting from CSUN, and completed two years of UCLA's Professional Program in Screenwriting where he won the "Best Screenplay" competition. Wagner went on to write several movies including "National Lampoon's Van Wilder" with Ryan Reynolds, and "The Girl Next Door" with Emile Hirsch and Elisha Cuthbert.

image049RICK WILLIAMS

After receiving his certificate from the UCLA Professional Program in Screenwriting (where he won the Professional Programs Screenplay Award), Rick went on to earn his MFA in Screenwriting from UCLA as well.  As a Masters student, Rick won several awards including the William J. and Lee Phillip Bell Fellowship in Television, the Jack Nicholson Prize in Screenwriting, and Honorable Mention in the UCLA MFA Showcase.  Rick began his career as a paid Story Analyst for such companies as ABC Television, Walt Disney Studios, Paramount Television, Out of the Blue Entertainment (Sony Pictures), Hopscotch Entertainment, and The Gersh Agency.  As a feature writer, Rick developed a sci-fi action script for Josephson Entertainment/Fox Studios.  As a TV writer, his credits include Star Trek:Voyager, Jessie, Kickin' It, and the animated shows Packages From Planet X, Marvel's Avengers Assemble, and American Dad! where he served as a staff writer.  Along with his writing partner, Rick recently served as a staff writer on the Nickelodeon show Bella and the Bulldogs. While working at Nickelodeon, Rick and his partner sold a pilot, which they are currently developing.  Rick's greatest love is writing and sharing his knowledge with students.  Just kidding -- it's bourbon and being sarcastic. 

DANIELLE WOLFF

Danielle credits include several series for Marvel Television, prime-time dramas for Fox, several web series, and Kyle XY Continuum, which received a nomination for an Interactive Media Programming Emmy. Her stage credits include Weightless, which has appeared at the Attic Theatre in Los Angeles and off-Broadway at the Producers Club in New York, as well as Eating Existentialism and Huntsville, a radio play broadcast on NPR. Her writing has also appeared in several publications, and her debut collection of short fiction, Mass Ave, was published.

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