The 2021 residents are the second cohort of the METL residency program, which launched in spring of 2020 as the brainchild of METL Director Ryan Schmaltz and was inspired by Pixar’s innovative team creativity template.
Meet the Residents
The 2021 cohort, which began in May, consists of two teams of seven residents, and is funded in part by a $25,000 Grants for Arts Projects award from the National Endowment for the Arts (NEA). The residents work together to brainstorm, research, ideate and meet with award-winning faculty and industry advisors. The teams will launch two fully-realized virtual reality projects at the completion of the residency in October 2021.
Mikaela Byrd – Screenwriter/ProducerMikaela Y. Byrd is a screenwriter and animation enthusiast, expressing herself through her writing to create social dialogues. Her goal is for people of all backgrounds to recognize themselves in her work. She is currently completing her M.F.A. in Screenwriting from UNCSA. Mikaela uses sci-fi worlds to create a safe and immersive place for viewers to learn about people they wouldn’t normally encounter and be confronted with problems they wouldn’t typically face. She writes to humanize the world so that things like class, race, and everyday fears can be a discussion and not a barrier.
John Curran – Technical ArtistJohn Curran is a graduate from UNCSA with a concentration in animation. John has had experience helping bring characters to life and supporting the technical backbone of animated projects. Inspired by Valve’s real time cinematics, this led to him exploring 3D animation. John gives credit to the Serious Sam mod community for launching his journey into game development. He is both a character artist in regards to crafting appealing forms, while at the same time rooted in a solid sense of body mechanics as an animator.
Arif Khan – Screenwriter/ProducerArif Khan is a British writer and director, based in Los Angeles and San Francisco. He's held roles at Airbnb Creative Studio, Warner Bros. Animation and Oculus Story Studio, the Emmy award-winning Facebook team dedicated to the research and development of virtual reality storytelling. His short films and VR projects have screened at genre festivals all over the world, including the Sitges International Film Festival, Trieste Science+Fiction Festival, Imagine Film Festival and Festival Européen du Film Fantastique de Strasbourg. Prior to receiving his M.F.A. in Film Production at University of Southern California School of Cinematic Arts, he earned his Masters in Creative Writing from the University of Cambridge.
Drew Paryzer – Screenwriter/ProducerDrew Paryzer is a playwright and interactive storyteller. His plays have been developed at institutions such as the Kennedy Center, the Roundabout Theatre and the Playwrights' Center. Interactive work includes the escape room Resilience Sentry (UT Austin), the point-and-click sci-fi adventure Superfluxus (Pivot Arts Festival 2020), the Halloween crafts fair + cult ritual FinalCon (Austin Critics Table Nomination) and Meow Wolf’s Omega Mart. He is an affiliated artist with the National New Play Network and the Playwrights’ Center. Drew holds a B.A. from Sarah Lawrence College and an M.F.A. in Playwriting from UT Austin, where he was a James Michener Fellow.
Daniel Sabio – Game DeveloperThe Glad Scientist (b. Daniel Sabio) is a Puerto Rican conceptual new media artist, programmer and designer. Their work primarily focuses on immersive performance and installation arts and is driven by a research-based approach balanced with an understanding of emotional and transformational responses to an art experience. Their work has been welcomed internationally at ISEA (International Symposium of Electronic Art), SXSW, Bass Coast, VRHAM!, FILE and Ars Electronica, as well as exhibited in galleries in New York City, Berlin and Tokyo. Their collaborations and group work have supported Brainfeeder’s Little Snake (with Ommatidium Studios) and members of Japan’s legendary experimental band BOREDOMS (with Cosmic Lab).
Darren Woodland – Technical ArtistDarren Woodland Jr. combines digital technology, narrative and design to create entertaining and informative experiences. As a multimedia artist/musician he focuses on interactive media, immersive technology, sound design and storytelling. Darren has an educational and research background in media arts, sound and music, and games. He has received a Bachelor of Arts degree from the University of South Carolina in Media Arts/Art Studio and a Master of Art and Design degree from North Carolina State University in Experimental Media Arts. In the near future he will be working towards a PhD in Digital Media from Drexel University.