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WGA East, New York City Agencies Launch Diversity Initiative for TV Writers

The Writers Guild of America East has teamed with New York City’s Mayor’s Office of Media and Entertainment and the Department of Small Business Services for the Made in NY Writers Room, a fellowship program that aims to bolster the diversity of the writers in the city’s television writing staffs.

The six-month fellowship, which will accept open submissions starting Sept. 15, will accept 500 applicants for up to 12 writers (working either as individuals or as teams of two) to work one-on-one with New York-based showrunner mentors, including Beau Willimon (“House of Cards”) and Richard LaGravense (“The Divide”), who both attended a launch event for the program Thursday morning. Lee Daniels (“Empire”), Sarah Treem (“The Affair”), Julie Klausner (“Difficult People”), Julie Martin (“Law & Order: SVU”), and Brian Koppelman and David Levien (“Billions”) will also participate as mentors.

Writers will submit a pilot script for an original series, and each winner of the fellowship will work with a mentor to hone the script and establish industry connections. Regardless of whether they win, each applicant (up to the 500 cutoff) will receive written feedback from the two pros who read the script for evaluation.

The program could cost as much as $500,000 depending on the number of submissions, with all the money coming directly from city funding, according to MOME. The initiative’s organizers will work with several city organizations, including Ghetto Film School and New York Women in Film and Television, to reach out to writers whose perspectives are under-represented among TV writers. According to a WGAE study of data up through 2014, only 13% of television scribes were minority writers, while 29% were women.

“There’s two big goals here,” Willimon said at the launch event. “To get more series in production here in New York City, and to diversify the stories that we’re telling.”

MOME commissioner Julie Menin, the commissioner of the Department of Small Business Service Gregg Bishop, and WGAE executive director Lowell Peterson were also among those who turned out to announce the initiative at the WGAE offices in downtown Manhattan.

The Made in NY Writers Room program will accept applications via the WGAE website from Sept. 15 until Oct. 20, or until the program reaches its 500-submission cutoff.

 

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