This story is from UCLA Today, a discontinued print and web publication.

Screenwriting faculty member to direct new film

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A UCLA lecturer, alumna and philanthropist as well as a successful television screenwriter and producer is about to add another impressive credit to her résumé: Felicia Henderson of the UCLA School of Theater, Film and Television (TFT) will write and direct the best-selling book trilogy, "Flyy Girl."
 
The coming-of-age story, by Omar Tyree, follows a young African American woman from her adolescence in Philadelphia in the 1980s to young adulthood as an aspiring writer in Los Angeles — a trajectory that perhaps finds some parallels in Henderson’s life.
 
One of eight children born and raised in Pasadena, Henderson recalled that she always loved to write, but when she attended UCLA in the 1980s, she earned her B.A. in psychobiology. She spent several years pursuing a career in business and enrolled in an M.B.A. in corporate finance at the University of Georgia, where she won a game-changing fellowship: The NBC National Fellowship landed her in a job in television — a season at NBC reading and analyzing scripts.
 
That experience brought her to the realization "that I am a writer in my soul," recalled Henderson, who teaches advanced screenwriting at TFT. "It is the only thing I know I have to do for the rest of my life."
 
Following her NBC stint, Henderson was accepted into the Warner Bros. Television Writers Workshop, considered by many to be Hollywood’s premier program for new writers seeking careers in television. She went on to become a staff writer for "Family Matters" and "The Fresh Prince of Bel Air." And while writing remained at the center of her work, she quickly added other TV industry titles to her résumé, serving as co-producer of "Moesha" and executive producer of "Sister, Sister."
 
In 1999, Henderson was invited to create "Soul Food: The Series," a one-hour drama for the Showtime Network based on the hit film, "Soul Food." She went on to serve as executive producer and director. The critically acclaimed series ran for five seasons, becoming the longest-running drama in television history to feature an African American cast.
 
While continuing to work in television, Henderson returned as a graduate student to TFT, where she earned her M.F.A. in 2004 — along with UCLA’s Tom Bradley Alumnus of the Year award that same year — and her Ph.D. in 2008.
 
"I don’t think it is possible to know too much about what you do," said Henderson, who holds TFT’s Zakin-Hunter chair in screenwriting. "I’ve worked at a network, a studio, have written sitcoms and created a drama. Although it all starts with the written word, I’m not naïve enough to think that success happens in a vacuum."
 
Among her recent credits are a season as co-executive producer on the CW Network’s "Gossip Girl," co-executive producer on the Fox series "Fringe" and executive producer of Black Entertainment Network’s "Reed Between the Lines."
 
Of her upcoming new role as a film director, she said, "I'm more than excited to make my feature film directing debut adapting the iconic ‘Flyy Girl’ novels. Writing the screenplay and knowing I'm directing the film has been creative joy."
 
Henderson has received professional recognition throughout her career, including a Gracie Award for her depiction of women, commendations from the Black Screenwriters Foundation, and the National Organization of Women in Film TV & Radio Diligence Award.
 
She also generously gives back to UCLA. She has endowed the Felicia D. Henderson Screenwriting Scholarship at UCLA and, created the Four Sisters Scholarship at TFT with three friends and Hollywood colleagues,
  
"Giving back is really the best reward of success," Henderson said. "If people like us don’t step up, the creative minds of the underrepresented might not get the opportunity to pursue their dreams."
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