Black Talent TV (BTTV) is back with another best list. First, we had Best Webseries, thenBest Directors and now we are here: best screenwriters. Stories of all different backgrounds must be told and without screenwriters, that job would never get done. From Israel to Jamaica all the way to Los Angeles and Hollywood, these screenwriters have changed the entertainment industry for the better with the provocative, engaging and inspiring pieces of writing on and off-screen. This list’s purpose is to showcase the best screenwriters of 2019. These creatives that stem across multiple backgrounds, ethnicities, and experiences all display levels of forward-thinking, change agency, social justice and uniqueness in their works. Some have been in the field for 25 years and some just starting, either way, check out the 15 best screenwriters of 2019 below!
15. Jamie Rhodes
Jamie Rhodes is a screenwriter, novelist, playwright, director, and producer. He is known for countless different projects through various mediums, including his novel Prey Messiah, his supernatural-horror short film Sebastian’s Pen, his stage play Tom Cat, and his film project Night of the Unspeakable. Rhodes is passionate about screenwriting, as he notes he is a storyteller at heart. His stories revolve around characters truly finding themselves and discovering their purpose. Rhodes also notes that he loves screenwriting because he is able to take on social and political issues while also telling a visual story that engages an audience. He told me once, “Everything begins with a story and that story must be written.” If you want to transcend into a different world that is horrifically grand, check out Rhodes’ work!
14. Gabrielle Shepard
Gabrielle Shepard is a Los Angeles based writer, director, and producer. Shepard earned her MFA in Film and Television Producing at Chapman University where she also found her love for Screenwriting and Directing beyond her classroom assignments. She has also earned a B.A in English Literature with a concentration in Film and Africana Studies at Agnes College. As she began creating more work outside of the classroom she began to break out, having her projects such as The Homecoming and Electrogenesis programmed across many film festivals including the Austin Film Festival, the Pan African Film Festival, the Cannes Short Film Corner, Long Beach Comic-Con and Milwaukee Film Festival. From Lionsgate to William Morris Endeavor, Shepard is a woman of many trades — marketing, management, writing and more. She continuously brings fresh, imaginative and empowering projects to life. Shepard embodies what it means to be educated as she uses her knowledge to showcase many different lifestyles. Shepard is most known for her short film Queen that was debuted at the Austin Film Festival and Candid which was written as a part of the AT&T Hello Lab Mentorship Program where Shepard is under the mentorship of Octavia Spencer.
13. Everett Mason
Everett Mason is a screenwriter, director, and producer. His resume includes a few short films including Happy Birthday and Getting to Know America. In addition, Mason’s short film, The Audition, was announced as an official selection for the inaugural Black Web Fest in 2017. He graduated from Azusa Pacific University with a Bachelor of the Arts in Cinema Arts and Screenwriting, where he found his passion in his third year at the University. Mason is known for screenwriting stories that are outside of the box, creative and never before seen. Mason has been hired internationally to write scripts and develop compelling stories and concepts. Fortunately, he has even been able to share some of his scripts with the likes of Terrance Howard, artist Janet Jackson, and Director Dave Meyers.
12. Dui Jarrod
Dui Jarrod is a screenwriter, director, and playwright. Jarrod is notably known for Brooklyn. Blue. Sky., the first acquired web series for BET.com after winning the Xfinity Best Web Series Award at the American Black Film Festival. Also, Jarrod’s new series, King Ester that portrays the life of Ester, a trans woman struggling to find her path in New Orleans as Hurricane Katrina looms in the distance. Along with his beautifully written webseries that typically focus on the complexities of love, race, class, and gender, Jarrod’s resume also includes the film Lesson Before Love and TV series Sauce. Jarrod’s emotionally illuminating films, shorts, and webseries have helped him receive a selection for Sauce at the Seattle International Film Festival while King Ester became an official selection for this year’s American Black Film Festival’s Web Series.
Yhá Mourhia Wright is a screenwriter, actress, and overall creator. In May 2016, she graduated with her MFA in Acting and developed a long resume full of diverse playwriting and screenwriting. Upon graduation, she founded her production company, YháWright Productions! and developed the company’s first original series, #LoveMyRoomie in which she is the screenwriter, director, and Executive Producer. For this work, she won Best Actress at GLOW Festival as well as, received a nomination for Best Screenwriter. Also, Wright won Best Director (Web Original category) at the 2018 Newark International Film Festival. Not only that but Yhá Mourhia is the Assistant Director/Producer of a short film entitled SPOT: A True Period Piece. Her writing tends to explore mental health, friendship, sexuality and culture amongst women of color in today’s society. If you want to watch realistic and meaningful miniseries then Wright’s work is where you should start!
10. Vashmere Valentine
Vashmere Valentine is a multi-award-winning film director and screenwriter. He has been noted for his contributions teaching directing and screenwriting to inner-city students with the Big Picture Alliance in Philadelphia, PA. Beyond helping the community around him, Valentine’s most notable work is the multi-award-winning fantasy short film,The Wish and the Wisp which currently holds 28 awards and 28 nominations from film festivals worldwide. Valentine always had a love for writing, even beginning at 8 years old. Over the years he has amazed the writing and film industry alike with his unforgettable characters and imaginative ideas. Valentine currently works as both head writer & film director at Good Screenplays, a screenwriting company specializing in high concepts for remakes and original works, while living in Atlanta GA. His current projects include a TV fantasy series titled The Unbelievable Tales of C. J. Pumpkins and his anticipated feature Horror film titled The Death App.
9. LaShawn Williams
Lashawn Williams is an actor, producer, and screenwriter. Born in Chicago, Illinois Lashawn was around creativity his whole life beginning in music as a recording artist, producer, and songwriter. Later, Williams discovered his true passion was filming. He relocated to Los Angeles and has been working steadily as an actor, writer, and producer ever since. Williams has starred in Algorhythm, Reality Bites, and Hidden Springs while also focusing on the behind the scenes aspects of the industry, such as writing for Hidden Springs and Intuitions in 2019. Williams also is known for co-writing, co-producing and starring in the feature drama Prescience alongside veteran stars Eric Roberts and Linda Gray. Most recently, Williams has been developing a vampire web series entitled The Fallen. 2018 and 2019 were banner years for Williams and his success won’t stop there!
8. Daphna Levin
Daphna Levin is one of Israel’s most remarkable and talented screenwriters. After directing over a hundred different commercials for local and international brands, Levin has also paved the way for popular television shows. She is the creator of TV shows Nevelot and Euphoria that was recently bought by HBO and is the director, creator, and screenwriter of MÍGUEL that was nominated in the Cannes Series Festival in 2018. Levin has received acclaim by viewers for evoking raw emotions in her characters, capturing the trials and tribulations of life with irony, humor, and nostalgia. Levin is an award-winning screenwriter for the hit Israeli series, In Treatment, that also sold to HBO, for which she won two Israeli TV Academy Awards. She wrote and directed the TV drama Three Fingers that was nominated for Best TV Drama as well.
7. Issa Rae
Known for originality and a great sense of humor, Issa Rae’s hit webseries has helped Rae receive over 23 million views and over 200,00 subscribers. Her quick wit and finding the humor in day to day life has also garnered Rae to appear on some of the most popular best lists, such as Glamour Magazine’s “35 Under 35”, Forbes’ “30 Under 30” and Entertainment Weekly’s “Breaking Big” lists. Rae was the recipient of the Shorty Award for Best Web Show for Awkward Black Girl. Rae has multiple other webseries and projects, including Insecure, a half-hour comedy show for HBO. This series premiered and quickly critical acclaim flew in, earning Rae a Golden Globe nomination. Not only that, but she also is the writer for The Choir and The ‘F’ Word and made her directorial debut with The Hate U Give. If you want some giggles, check out Rae’s work!
6. Mara Brock Akil
Mara Brock Akil is a native of Los Angeles and began her writing career in 1994. She wrote for South Central, The Jamie Foxx Show, and Moesha. Beyond that, in she was the creator of the UPN series, Girlfriends and the spin-off, The Game. Some of Brock Akil’s other works included ABC sitcom Cougar Town and creating BET’s Being Mary Jane. Brock Akil also made waves with Love Is __ in 2018 as it depicts the relationship of a young black couple trying to compromise their hopes and dreams to remain together. Brock Akil’s works oftentimes focus on chronicling the life of women on the road to success — trials, tribulations and the mess of relationships included! She draws inspiration from her own life and the life of her friends in order to create realistic depictions for her screenwriting. Her work has been applauded, even helping Brock Akil receive BET’s 2005 Outstanding Writing for A Comedy Series award for Girlfriends, the 2012 NAACP Winner Image Award for Outstanding Writing in a Comedy Series for The Game and again in 2016 Outstanding Writing in a Dramatic Series for Being Mary Jane. She also has brought home the 2014 Black Reel Outstanding Screenplay, TV or miniseries award for Being Mary Jane and the 2018 Black Reel Television Award for Outstanding Drama Series for Black Lightning.
5. Kenya Barris
Kenya Barris is an American writer and producer. He is known for countless popular television shows, including the critically acclaimed ABC Original Television Series Black-ish and Grown-ish, as well as movies such as Girls Trip and Shaft. Black-ish was the 2018 NAACP Image Awards Best Comedy Series, 2017 NAACP Image Award for Outstanding Writing in a Comedy Series and the Entertainment and Children’s Peabody Award in 2016. Barris was also nominated for a Primetime Emmy Award for Outstanding Comedy Series in 2016 and a Gold Derby Outstanding Producer of Episodic Television Comedy in 2016. Barris not only has made waves with his hilarious pieces, but he also has won the Rod Serling Award for Advancing Social Justice Through Popular Media. Barris is using his platform on and off the screen, discussing issues about feminism, youth, and race. He discusses these seemingly taboo topics in hilarious banter and dialogue between characters. If you want to experience Barris’ honesty and charm, you can stream some of his shows here.
4. Robin Swicord
Robin Swicord is a screenwriter, known for Oscar-nominated The Curious Case of Benjamin Button, Writers Guild of America Nominated Little Women, Matilda and most recently for When They See Us. She has been in the field for a long time, with an extensive resume and a list of nominations and wins under her belt. She was the winner of the Satellite Award for Outstanding Adapted Screenplay for the Memoirs of a Geisha, Online Film and TV Associations Film Award for Best Writing in a Screenplay Based on Material from Another Medium for the Curious Case of Benjamin Button and the Tangerine Entertainment Juice Award at the Hamptons International Film Festival for the Hamptons.
3. Attica Locke
Attica Locke is a screenwriter and author. She is a former fellow at the Sundance Institute’s Feature Filmmaker’s Lab who once focused on the art of screenwriting. Recently, she was a writer and producer on Netflix’s When They See Us and also the upcoming Hulu adaptation of Little Fires Everywhere. This LA-based writer not only works on television shows and films but also on novels. Her first novel Black Water Rising was nominated for an Edgar Award, an NAACP Image Award, and the Los Angeles Times Book Prize. Following the success of her first novel she has written The Cutting Season that won the Ernest Gaines Award for Literary Excellence, Pleasantville that won the Harper Lee Prize for Legal Fiction, Bluebird, Bluebird and most recently, her latest novel Heaven, My Home will be released in September of 2019.
2. Julian Breece
Writer and director Julian Breece is a graduate of Harvard University with a Bachelor of Arts degree and USC’s Graduate School of Cinema-Television with a Masters of Fine Arts degree. His debut short, The Young & Evil, was screened at major festivals and was an Official Selection of the Sundance Film Festival. Breece’s first feature screenplay Ball won a Slamdance Feature Screenplay Award and went on to become a Finalist for the Academy of Motion Picture Arts & Sciences Nicholl Fellowship in Screenwriting. Breece is not only an impeccable screenwriter and director but also is the Co-Founder of Game Theory Films, a production company launched with his producing partner, Aaliyah Williams. Beyond that, Breece has directed his first feature, Heartland, in 2009. He continues his screenwriting and filmmaking career to this day, recently writing for Netflix’s When They See Us episodes Part One and Part Two where he has been nominated for multiple awards such as Black Reel’s Outstanding Writing, TV Movie/Limited Series for his screenwriting for Episodes One & Two.
1. Michael Starrbury
Michael Starrbury is a writer and actor, most known for The Inevitable Defeat of Mister & Pete, The Great Unknown and his work on When They See Us. Currently, he is writing a project with Ava Duvernay. This project is based on the 2015 book The Battle Of Versailles: The Night American Fashion Stumbled Into The Spotlight And Made History by fashion journalist Robin Givhan. All of his works continue to receive great success, such as when the First Lady Michelle Obama screened The Inevitable Defeat of Mister & Pete at the White House and his countless nominations for that same movie. He has been nominated for Best First Screen Play by Film Independent Spirit Awards and the Black Reel Awards for Outstanding Screenplay. He also has just received word of his two Emmy nominations for his work on When They See Us, including Outstanding Writing for a Limited Series, Movie or a Dramatic Special.