×

Lena Waithe on Sexual Assault Scandal: ‘Stories Will Be Birthed Out of These Turbulent Times’

Lena Waithe (“Master of None”), Scott Silveri (“Speechless”), and George Lopez were among those who spoke Thursday night at the Writers Guild Theater about screenwriting. All of the speakers have made massive accomplishments in telling underrepresented stories spanning race, gender, sexuality, special needs, geopolitics, and labor justice.

“Groundbreakers: Writers Who Moved Hearts and Minds” included back-to-back panels, moderated by Turner Classic Movies host Ben Mankiewicz. The event was presented by Writers Guild of America West and WGAW’s Publicity and Marketing Committee in partnership with American Cinematheque and sponsor Final Draft.

In the wake of Harvey Weinstein’s sexual harassment scandal, the first panel addressed the blaze of empowerment that women in Hollywood have recently felt to stand up and use their voices — and the necessity of men to speak up as allies.

“We need men to not be a–holes,” said Waithe, who won an Emmy for her writing on “Master of None.” “And we need the men who aren’t a–holes to call out other men when they see them being a–holes.” She continued with a hopeful message: “Stories will be birthed out of these turbulent times in which we live. I think we’ll see some amazing movie about it. Movies move the culture, so maybe a movie about sexual harassment will help us deal with it in real life.”

Callie Khouri (“Nashville,” “Thelma and Louise”) emphasized that “storytelling depends on empathy.” Brian Yorkey (“13 Reasons Why”) echoed that sentiment during the second panel. “Empathy is the quality that is most lacking in too much public discourse,” he said. He expressed his hope for more people to “really understand and feel what other people are feeling, not in a removed way, but by living through it with them.” He added, “Drama can create and teach empathy.”

In addition to learning to understand other people’s feelings, screenwriting and viewership can help people better understand themselves. “People who are living a story [like the one they see onscreen] can look at that and say, ‘That feels like what I’m going through.’ It can let them know that they’re not alone,” Yorkey said.

Susannah Grant (“Confirmation,” “Erin Brockovich”) declared that “telling the truth is a radical act” in Trump’s America. “The key to telling any story is specificity,” she insisted. “If you tell one person’s story really well, it humanizes everything. Outrage fatigue is significant, but specific connection to people’s hearts and minds can jog that.”

Grant stressed the significance of “the collective emotional experience of watching something together” with an inspiring moviegoing experience. “I saw ‘La La Land’ soon after [Trump’s presidential election]. Everybody walked into the theater like battered shipwreck survivors. They were so isolated, not making eye contact. It was a horrible time. But we walked out of the theater like, ‘Oh, you’re another human being! That’s right! I see myself in you!’ We had such joy together. That’s a profound act,” she said. “It’s my church.”

The first panel featured Waithe, Lopez, Khouri, Silveri, Diane English (“Murphy Brown”), and Ron Nyswaner (“Homeland,” “Philadelphia”).  The second panel included Grant, Yorkey, Tom Musca (“Stand and Deliver”), David Pollock (“M*A*S*H”), and Josh Singer, who co-wrote the Oscar-winning screenplay for “Spotlight” with Tom McCarthy, and co-wrote Steven Spielberg’s highly anticipated film “The Post” with Liz Hannah.

More Scene

  • Oscars Ultimate Party Guide

    Oscar's Ultimate Party Guide 2019

    Welcome to Oscar week. It’s the time of year when Hollywood’s film industry celebrates all things movies. But it’s certainly not just the big show everyone is looking forward to. With voting closed, it’s all about the parties now. Who’s doing what and where and when are they doing it are the questions everyone is [...]

  • Yalitza AparicioTeen Vogue Young Hollywood Party,

    'Roma' Star Yalitza Aparicio, 'Central Park Five's' Jharrel Jerome Sound Off on Trump

    Yalitza Aparicio recently reunited with Alfonso Cuarón, who directed her in “Roma,” for a W magazine photo project that featured her standing at various barriers built at the border between Mexico and the United States. The message? “You can make a name for yourself despite the differences,” Aparicio told Variety on Friday at Teen Vogue’s Young [...]

  • Karl LagerfeldChanel Paris-Londres 2007/8 Show, London,

    Legendary Fashion Designer Karl Lagerfeld Dies at 85

    Karl Lagerfeld, the fashion icon – and iconoclast – who outfitted and photographed such stars as Nicole Kidman and Lady Gaga, has died. He was 85. Lagerfeld died in Paris, fashion house Chanel said. Although his health had been failing, he kept working up to his death, issuing instructions regarding Fendi’s fall ready-to-wear collection, which [...]

  • Eric Wareheim, 'The Simpsons' E.P. Matt

    Beefsteak Gathers Comedy Bigwigs for Meat and Mayhem

    The masterminds behind Beefsteak, a debauched tribute to the meaty arts that raises thousands for the Los Angeles Food Bank, switch things up each year so that guests are never bored. Organized by comedy players including Eric Wareheim, “The Simpsons” executive producer Matt Selman, and ABC Studios VP of comedy Cort Cass with Redbird chef Neal [...]

  • Alfonso Cuaron71st Annual Writers Guild Awards,

    Alfonso Cuarón on Academy's 'Inevitable' Reversal on Televised Oscar Categories

    Alfonso Cuarón isn’t exactly surprised that the Academy reversed its decision and will now air all the Oscar categories during the live show on Sunday. Feb. 24. Calling the decision “inevitable,”Cuarón tells Variety that he thinks the Academy should take things even further. “Let’s stop calling them technical categories!” he told Variety on Sunday night [...]

  • SAN FRANCISCO, CA - February 16

    San Francisco Symphony Ushers in Chinese New Year With Glitzy Gala

    As legend has it: among the Chinese Zodiac’s 12 animals, the pig comes last because it was the final one to arrive to a party thrown by the Jade Emperor — lazy sauntering being a characteristic trait of the animal. The folktale was perhaps less fitting this past Saturday evening, as the San Francisco Symphony [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content