Insecure’s executive producer and showrunner Prentice Penny has announced the launch of The First Up, a new program for writers of color at his alma mater USC School of Cinematic Arts.
The First Up program aims to give BIPOC writers the opportunity to have their work seen by veterans in the industry, while “providing real-world work experience as they look to careers in the entertainment industry.”
According to the description of the program, “students will receive guidance and participate in the process of creating a film or TV project from script development to pitching to network and studio executives.”
Only students of color at USC’s School of Cinematic Arts are eligible to participate in the program.
For entrance into the program, applicants must submit a writing sample, either a TV or feature script. If selected, they will submit a five-minute live pitch of their show or film idea. After the final candidates are chosen, executives from Penny’s production company, A Penny For Your Thoughts, will assist them through the remaining developmental stages. Lastly, candidates will pitch to networks and studios through Penny’s overall deal at Disney/Onyx Collective, which includes all the subsidiaries under the Disney umbrella—Hulu, FX, Disney Plus, Marvel, Star Wars, Pixar, ABC, Fox, ESPN, Fox Searchlight, National Geographic, and 20th Television.
Penny will also create a database for participating students’ work, which will allow agents, managers, showrunners and executives to access their projects and create additional pathways for career advancement.
“I’m so excited to partner with USC’s School of the Cinematic Arts and start The First Up program for graduating seniors who are writers of color,” said Penny. “One of the hardest and scarier things is to enter into the workforce without any momentum and no clear understanding of how to get your career started. I know it was for me and it’s even more daunting when you see limited opportunities for people who look like you. I’m so grateful that Dean Daley, Justin Wilson, and the rest of SCA are aligned in helping my company make that change and I couldn’t think of a better place to do it than my Alma Mater.”
“One of the aspects that has always set our school apart is the way our alumni use their unique platforms to actively support students and help them launch careers in our industry,” added USC’s SCA Dean, Elizabeth M. Daley. “Prentice Penny is one of our most esteemed alumni, and has dedicated his production company to creating hit content that centers upon people of color, but finds fans in everyone. For him to provide this level of guidance to students with similar goals is extraordinary. We couldn’t be more thrilled to help implement this program and to see our students reach their goals and continue to make enormous impacts within the industry.”
The year-long program will begin this summer with three SCA writers in their final year of undergraduate or graduate studies.
Penny, who graduated from SCA in 1995 with a BFA in Writing, was named the recipient of the School’s Mary Pickford Awards this year.