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New M.F.A. program begins in L.A.

August 4, 2015

The first class of students enrolled in the Master of Fine Arts in TV and Screenwriting began coursework in Los Angeles this week.

Already, the group has heard from visiting lecturer Winnie Holzman, a dramatist and screenwriter known for having created the popular ABC series “My So-Called Life,” as well as the smash hit stage musical, “Wicked.”

“Winnie’s visit was really inspirational,” said Chase Thompson, an assistant professor of digital film at Stephens and a student in the program. “To hear from someone of her caliber was a great way to start this program. I’m excited to be a part of it.”

The M.F.A. is a low-residency program that allows students to work under professional mentors, including Director Ken LaZebnik, a screenwriter with credits including Hallmark’s “When Calls the Heart,” and “Touched by an Angel.”

The program is online with 10 days each semester at the Jim Henson Studios in L.A., where students engage in workshops with working writers, visit studios, connect with agents and learn the business of Hollywood.

While open to both women and men, one goal of the program is to boost the number of women working as screenwriters. Women accounted for just 11 percent of writers working on the top 250 films of 2014, according to a Celluloid Ceiling Report.

The M.F.A. has garnered much support among working professionals. Faculty members include Dr. Rosanne Welch, a veteran television writer whose credits include “Beverly Hills, 90210;” Carol Barbee, a writer and producer who has written for “Judging Amy” and “Providence;” Philip LaZebnik, best known for writing screenplays for films such as “Pocahontas” and “Mulan;” and Kathleen McGhee-Anderson, a writer and producer whose credits include “Little House on the Prairie” and “Any Day Now.”

“We’re off to a great start in L.A.,” LaZebnik said. “Our students, faculty and network of advisers are enthusiastic, ready to work and determined to make history in Hollywood.”

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