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MFA in Television Writing Program Builds Pipeline to TV Industry

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Julie Bean (top left), showrunner from Grownish; Alan Kingsberg, director of the MFA in TV Writing program; and MFA student Omani McDaniels.

One of the first stand-alone Television Writing MFAs in the world, Stony Brook’s graduate program is being recognized by the industry as a top source of talented writers. Recent graduates are hard at work on shows at Showtime, Hulu, Netflix, ABC Signature and more.

During a recent thesis review, MFA director Alan Kingsberg was joined by Bash Doran, showrunner of Traitors and writer from Boardwalk Empire and Looming Tower. Doran was not only Mallory Baysek’s second reader for her thesis script but has hired Baysek to work on a number of high profile projects from Hulu, ABC Signature and Netflix.

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Staged reading of Mallory Baysek’s pilot, ‘SHESPN.’

Doran and Baysek are also partnering to develop Baysek’s thesis project SHESPN, a one-hour drama about a woman’s sports show. Baysek is the second Stony Brook MFA student hired by Doran; MFA student Talisa Chang joined the writers’ room on a new Hulu show that Doran is developing.

Also joining Stony Brook thesis reviews were Lesley Arfin, showrunner and creator of Netflix’s Love, and Will Dowsett, head of development for the Duplass Brothers. Together they helped critique a heartfelt magical-reality drama written by graduating student Tamar Haviv. Julie Bean, showrunner from Grownish, rounded out the group by advising Omani McDaniels on her irreverent comedy, Fallen Grace, a show about race and class.

“Having top industry insiders give notes and advice on a thesis script is invaluable as it brings the real world of writing, selling, developing and getting hired to the student just as they are about to graduate,” Kingsberg said.

Stony Brook’s MFA in TV Writing has also brought in Michael Rauch (showrunner of Royal Pains, Instinct and Monarch) and Jacqueline Reingold (executive producer, The Good Fight) to teach showrunner classes, using pilots they wrote for streamers and networks in mock writers’ rooms staffed by Stony Brook MFA students.

Bash Doran

Internships from industry leaders like Jason Kim (Girls, Barry), Kevin Wade (Blue Bloods), Tom Fontana (Homicide, Oz, City on a Hill) and Sarah Jessica Parker (Sex and the City, Divorce) have helped MFA students to gain invaluable industry experience and, in some cases, land jobs.

Guest speakers visit each fall, including Marti Noxon (Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Sharp Objects), Courtney Kemp (showrunner Power), Melissa Gibson (showrunner Anatomy of a Scandal, House of Cards), Warren Leight (showrunner Law and Order, SVU; In Treatment), Soo Hugh (showrunner Pachinko) and Grace Edwards (Insecure, Kimmy Schmidt), all bringing the industry into the classroom.

Located in the heart of Manhattan, Stony Brook’s MFA in Television Writing is a two-and-a-half year graduate program that offers the most extensive TV writing curriculum in the country, including classes on Writing Original Pilots, Writing a Spec, Limited Series, Showrunner, Web Series, Business of TV, Acting and Directing. MFA students complete three original pilots and one spec script, as well as write and produce a webisode while in the program. The MFA is part of the prestigious Lichtenstein Center which includes programs in Creative Writing, Film, Television and more.

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