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Young Alum Up for Humanitas Prize Fellowship

Honoring film and TV writers who celebrate the human experience

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Juliana Rabadjija

Tonight, Humanitas Prize nominee Juliana Rabadjija (COM’15) could win $10,000 and the chance to write a script for a 20th Century Fox TV show. Photo courtesy of Rabadjija

It may not be as flashy or glamorous as the Oscars or the Golden Globes, but a Humanitas Prize is equally respected. The annual awards honor film and television writing that explores the human experience in an entertaining, enlightened way.

Among this year’s nominees is Juliana Rabadjija (COM’15), who is competing for a Humanitas Prize College Drama Fellowship, which comes with $10,000 cash and a freelance script assignment for a 20th Century Fox TV show. The award winners will be announced tonight at the annual Humanitas cocktail gala held in Los Angeles at the Directors Guild of America. Rabadjija is up against two other recent college grads for this year’s prize.

As stated on its website, the purpose of the Humanitas Prize, now in its 41st year, is to encourage, sustain, and recognize screenwriters whose work “explores the human condition in a nuanced, meaningful way, which, ultimately, inspires human compassion, hope, and understanding in the human family.” Among recent past winners are John Ridley (12 Years a Slave), Larry Kramer (The Normal Heart), Nancy Oliver (Lars and the Real Girl), Geoffrey Fletcher (Precious), and Abraham Higginbotham (CFA’92) (Modern Family). This year, 38 writers were named finalists in 10 categories, including feature film, documentary, and children’s animation. While the awards tend to go to established screenwriters, three specific awards are earmarked for up-and-coming writers: the David and Lynn Angell Student Comedy Fellowship, the Student Drama Fellowship, and the College Drama Fellowship.

Humanitas board member Hart Hanson, creator of the TV show Bones, says the chance to write for a Fox TV show gives a rookie writer an “invaluable opportunity, not only to be paid to do what they love, but to be in the writers’ room with seasoned professionals and experience the way television scriptwriting works in the real world.”

Rabadjija, who graduated last May with a degree in film and television, was nominated before Commencement by Kam Miller, a College of Communication assistant professor of television. Rabadjija learned in October that she was a finalist.

The aspiring film and television screenwriter wasn’t familiar with the Humanitas Prize prior to being nominated, but says that once she learned more about it and its mission, she was honored. “It’s in line with what I want to do, which is write stories that make a difference,” says Rabadjija, who completed BU Study Abroad’s Los Angeles Internship Program as an undergrad. “I didn’t think I would make it to the finals, so when I found out, I was shocked.”

Rabadjija submitted for consideration a pilot she wrote for Miller’s class about a male bulimic student and a female high school wrestler who joins the wrestling team at a small private Christian school. She has to face people who are uncomfortable with the team becoming coed. “The pilot was about breaking those gender norms, having the best people on the team,” Rabadjija says. Her writing has been inspired by shows like Friday Night Lights and Freaks and Geeks, she says, which communicated important messages in nuanced, often compassionate ways.

“Juliana wrote a compelling pilot script that flipped gender norms and offered a fresh take on important societal and interpersonal topics,” says Miller, who is also a television writer and producer.

Currently a development intern at Mike Mathis Productions, which produces docudramas for TLC and Investigation Discovery, Rabadjija is applying for writer and assistant jobs in Los Angeles as well as writing a film script with a friend. While she doesn’t expect to win tonight, she acknowledges that she has prepared a few words just in case.

“I think that film is a great medium to get a message out,” she says. “That’s why I got into it.”

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Amy Laskowski

Amy Laskowski can be reached at amlaskow@bu.edu.

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