“Vida” showrunner Tanya Saracho, “One Day at a Time” co-showrunner Mike Royce and TV writer and #PayUpHollywood co-founder Liz Hsiao Lan Alper are launching a program to support underrepresented groups in the television industry and provide them with the skill set to become writers’ assistants and script coordinators.
The initiative has partnered with the Writers Guild Foundation to offer tools and education to scribes who identify as BIPOC, LGBTQ+, disabled writers or writers over the age of 50 to step into these support staff roles that have traditionally been a gateway to the world of TV writing. Program graduates will be included on a list of trained writers’ assistants and script coordinators that will then be shared with studios, networks and showrunners in order to broaden the pool of potential eligible hires and amplify underrepresented groups.
“This idea originated when we found ourselves sharing our frustration at how writer’s assistant candidates from underrepresented groups become trapped in a mobius strip of, ‘need experience but can’t get experience without being hired,'” said Saracho, Royce and Alper in a joint statement. “In order to incorporate true inclusion in Hollywood, we must ensure every underrepresented voice has the chance to get their foot on the ladder of success. Writing support staffs are integral to the success of a TV room and have been treated more as a type of apprenticeship for aspiring writers. In that way, this program aims to be a step towards greater inclusivity at the ‘entry level,’ and in the future, on all writing staffs.”
Sony Pictures Entertainment is funding the program, and there are plans to extend that support from all studios, agencies and management firms. Members of the pilot program will participate in an eight-week semester that includes lectures from several guest showrunners, who can share what they are looking for in support staffers. The program will be offered twice or thrice a year and taught by Debbie Ezer and Clay Lapari, drawing on their extensive experience as writers’ assistants and script coordinators in TV.
A committee of TV creators, execs, showrunners and writers who have support staff experience will review applications; alongside Saracho, Royce and Alper are Steven Canals (“Pose”), Danny Chun (“The Office”), Sera Gamble (“You”), Jenniffer Gomez (“Vida”), Brigitte Muñoz-Liebowitz (“Love Life”), Prentice Penny (“Insecure”), Danielle Sanchez-Witzel (“The Carmichael Show”), Brian Tanen (“Love, Victor”), Liz Tigelaar (“Little Fires Everywhere”), Sanjay Shah (“Central Park”) and Lindsey Villarreal (“Vida”).
More information about the program can be found at this link.