Erin Wood, David Merritt

Erin Wood, David Merritt

*Universal Cable Productions (UCP) has selected Erin Wood and David Merrit II as the winners of the company’s second annual Pitch Fest competition, reports Variety.

In its second year, UCP focused on diversity with the goal of discovering writers and stories that highlight a range of topics from ethnicity, gender, and sexual orientation, to socio-economic status, age, physical abilities, and religious beliefs.

The competition attracted more than 1,400 submissions, with 18 finalists given 10 minutes to pitch their idea to UCP’s development team. The winning pitches, “Futures,” submitted by Wood, and “The Haints,” submitted by Merritt, have both been placed into active development at the studio.

“We had a harder time picking the winner this year, which is why we picked two,” Dawn Olmstead, executive vice president of development for Universal Cable Productions and Wilshire Studios, told Variety. “There were probably 10 real strong contenders and two came out of that. Last year we had 500 submissions, this year we had 1,400. So we nearly tripled the amount of submissions so it was really hard to get down to the finalists.”

Wood is a graduate of UC-Berkeley and holds a Bachelor of Arts degree in multicultural literature. Her winning submission, “Futures,” is centered around five brilliant millennials from disadvantaged backgrounds who discover they are each owned by private shareholders who are banking on their future. With the realization that their lives are not their own, they will be forced to focus their superior minds on how to break free.

Merritt earned a bachelor of arts degree in art history from East Carolina University and a master’s degree in film from the University of North Carolina. His winning submission, “The Haints,” is a sci-fi thriller set in the early 90’s where six African-American teens are implicated when a white female classmate goes missing. Determined to bring her back alive, the teens delve into the world of tormented spirits and demons that plague the forest surrounding their urban home.

Infusion Programs (NBCUNI TIPS), which are dedicated to promoting diversity and inclusion within the television industry.