Writers Guild Pushes for Diversity Tax Credit in New York

The Writers Guild of America East has asked New York Governor Andrew Cuomo to support providing diversity production credits for TV shows.

The legislation would expand the state’s incentive program to include credits for shows that include writers and directors who are women or people of color.

The WGA East delivered nearly 500 letters to the governor Monday — with high profile signers such as Tina Fey and “Spotlight” writer-director Tom McCarthy — in support of proposed legislation that would designate $5 million of the $420 million Empire State Film Production Tax Credit for productions that hire female or minority writers or directors. It would be the first time a film state tax credit has included a diversity clause.

Signers included “Star Wars: The Force Awakens” scribe Michael Arndt; David Simon (“The Wire”); Robert Carlock (“The Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt”); “Goodfellas” author-screenwriter Nicholas Pileggi; Sarah Treem (“The Affair”), Michael H. Weber (“The Fault in Our Stars”); “House of Cards” writer Beau Willimon and “The Bourne Identity” screenwriter Tony Gilroy.

The New York State Assembly and Senate are currently considering Assembly Bill A-3376B and Senate Bill bill S-5548A, which were introduced with bipartisan support by Senator Kemp Hannon (R) and Assemblyman Keith Wright (D). The letter notes that a recent study from UCLA found that only 29% of television writers were women in 2014; only 13% were minorities.

“The Wright-Hannon TV Diversity Credit is legislation that would enable New York to lead the nation in taking real action to address these issues,” the guild said.

The Senate bill is due to be heard in committee on Tuesday. Other signers included “Beasts of the Southern Wild” writer Lucy Alibar; “American Splendor” writer Shari Springer Berman; Andrew Bergman (“Blazing Saddles”); “Annie Hall” writer Marshall Brickman; “Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon” writer James Schamus; and “Crash” writer Paul Haggis.

“New York State has the opportunity to make diversity a reality in television,” said Lowell Peterson, Executive Director of the WGA East. “This legislation would create opportunities for women and people of color to build sustainable careers in New York.  More diverse storytelling makes more compelling shows, strengthening an industry which has created so many thousands of jobs across the state.”

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