NYC Mentoring Initiative Aims To Increase Diversity Of Voices On TV

New York City hopes to boost the number of TV shows made in the Big Apple by women and various minorities with the introduction of a mentoring initiative called the Made in NY Writers Room.

The program from the Mayor’s Office of Media and Entertainment (MOME), the Department of Small Business Services, and the Writers Guild of America, East plans to support what the backers call “writers of diverse backgrounds and perspectives…and amplify their voices in the entertainment industry.”

It will provide a six-month fellowship to as many as 12 writers, or teams of two, “whose unique perspectives are currently under-represented in the television writing profession.” They will be assigned to mentors who will provide professional and artistic feedback. The goal is to develop a production-ready drama or comedy pilot.

Mentors will include Sarah Treem (The Affair), Lee Daniels (Empire), Beau Willimon (House of Cards), Julie Klausner (Difficult People), Julie Martin (Law & Order: Special Victims Unit), Brian Koppelman (Billions), David Levien (Billions) and Richard LaGravenese (The Divide).

NYC-based writers can apply beginning September 15 — with the deadline of October 20, or earlier if the initiative reaches its limit of 500 applications. The fellowships should begin in June 2017, but that may vary depending on the mentors’ schedules.

“Recipients of this fellowship will receive unparalleled opportunities to learn first-hand from leaders in the entertainment world, and receive useful feedback on their works-in-progress,” says MOME Commissioner Julie Menin.

Although a record 52 scripted series were filmed in NYC in the 2015-16 season, too few included women, people of color, and those from underserved communities, the group says.

A WGA West study found that minority writers accounted for just 13% of the total in a period that ran through 2014, with women accounting for 29%.

“As a matter of social justice and industry self-interest, it is imperative that stories told on television-and its digital equivalent-reflect the diversity of audiences,” says WGA, East Executive Director Lowell Peterson.


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