We’re pleased to announce the three finalists in the first annual UCLA Extension Television Writing Competition: Duke Cullen, Erika Mcpherson, and Tricia Smith! Each finalist will spend the summer working one-on-one with a professional television writer who will help ensure that the scripts are the best they can be. Once the judging is complete in September, the winners will receive cash prizes, be named in an ad in the Hollywood Reporter, and have their names and loglines sent to more than 1,000 entertainment industry executives. As with our longstanding screenplay competition, this invaluable Hollywood-industry exposure is capable of launching careers.

Our finalists, in alphabetical order:

Name: Duke Cullen
Project: Dexter: The Dark Is Rising
Logline: Dexter is taken over by his “Dark Passenger” after a botched medical procedure. Dexter’s sister, Debra, questions her partner about his investigation into Rita’s murder.

Name: Erika Mcpherson
Project: Every Other Weekend
Logline: Young Fred struggles to raise himself and his kid sister despite the well-intentioned efforts of their divided and disorganized parents.

Name: Tricia Smith
Project: It’s Always Sunny In Philadelphia: The Gang Gets Kidnapped
Logline: After the gang gets kidnapped, they push their captors to their breaking point and are dumped in the middle of the woods. They are then forced to figure out a way to survive.

Writers’ Program: How does it feel to have placed in the top three?

Duke Cullen: It’s a great honor to place in the top three, considering how many seriously talented writers entered this year’s contest.

Erika McPherson: Being a television writer has been my aspiration for a long while. It’s encouraging to have my work selected for this competition. It’s not easy to attend classes after a full day’s work or to dedicate weekends to assignments. I’ve been satisfied with the progress that I’ve made. My writing has improved and I’ve learned a lot. I’m excited by this competition and the emerging opportunities it may bring.

Tricia Smith: When I first read the email I was in shock, I had to read it three times before I believed it was real.

WP: Who is your mentor for the competition and how is it working with him/her?

DC: I was very lucky to be mentored by Matt Witten. His writing resume consists of most of the great television shows airing over the last several years. To have him read my work and mentor me to the final judging is mind blowing!

EM: I’m thankful that UCLA Extension is offering me the invaluable opportunity to improve my script. I’m looking forward to working with Phil Kellard.

TS: I am paired with Alan Kirschenbaum and I couldn’t be happier. I was lucky enough to have him in a rewriting class. He absolutely is great at what he does and I can’t wait to work with him on this script.

WP: Are there any particular Writers’ Program instructors or courses that have had a notable influence on you?

DC: My screenwriting courses with Keith Giglio have shattered any constraints keeping me from elevating my writing skills. Richard Manning‘s Writing the One Hour Drama literally put my classmates and me into a working and highly functioning Writers Room that allowed me to create the submission that brought me to the finals. All my courses, most notably, Brooks Wachtel‘s Writing for Animation has introduced me to other serious new writers that I look forward to moving up the ranks with.

EM: I’ve had the fortune of working with amazing instructors at UCLA Extension. They’ve shared their years of television comedy writing experience with warmth and welcome candor. The foundation of my script was formed in David Issacs‘ Creating from Character course. His unique approach to developing characters provided a structure and world in which my story could unfold. In Alan Kirschenbaum’s, Advanced Sitcom Rewrite course, I was guided to remove unnecessary bits and to follow the story. The care and deftness that these instructors offer are the true gold of the Writers’ Program.

TS: I’ve enjoyed working with all of my instructors, but I must say that Alan and Barry Vigon have had the biggest impact on my thought process when writing.

Best of luck to all three of our finalists as they continue their journey to an exciting career in the entertainment industry!

Kate Sipples is the Program Assistant for Creative Writing (Onsite). Follow her writing adventures at http://twitter.com/KateofGoodHope.

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