The WGA East and FilmNation Entertainment will launch a new program next year to develop diverse and emerging screenwriters in the greater New York City area. The New York Screenwriters Workshop will provide writers with access to mentorship, meetings, and projects to further their careers. Founded in 2008, FilmNation Entertainment is a New York-based producer, financier and distributor of independent films and television shows.
The intensive, six-month program, which was initiated by FilmNation Diversity Committee members Alison Cohen, Elizabeth Siegal, and Lucy Licht, will provide up to eight writers with screenwriting and industry executive mentors while completing their feature-length screenplays during the program, which runs March through August 2020.
The Workshop will culminate with table reads of their works and a dinner with leaders of the New York film industry. Up to 100 applications will be accepted to the program by either a lottery for early career writers or a referral of writers by partner organizations.
“We are thrilled to collaborate with the WGA East and cannot wait to experience firsthand the development through mentorship we know this workshop will provide,” Cohen said. “New York has a longstanding history of harboring fresh and unique voices, and we’re honored to play a role in making access to the entertainment industry a much more inclusive process than ever before.”
“The Guild is thrilled to partner with FilmNation on a project that will open doors to under-represented screenwriters,” said WGA East executive director Lowell Peterson. “The strides we make in creating platforms for people to succeed after years of exclusion helps build an industry that is both fair and sustainable. This program is an important part of the WGAE’s overall efforts to make the film and television industry more inclusive and equitable for all people.”
Mentors for the Workshop include Alexander Dinelaris, the Oscar-winning co-writer of Birdman; Douglas McGrath, the Academy Award-nominated co-writer of Bullets Over Broadway; and Jim Taylor, the Oscar-winning writer of Sideways.
“I am excited to be a part of this Workshop, which brings together two organizations that have demonstrated a true commitment to making the film industry more inclusive,” Taylor said. “I look forward to mentoring an up-and-coming screenwriter as she/he/they develop new work and launch their career in this highly competitive and often exclusionary industry.”
Applications will begin to be accepted on November 1 at the FilmNation website. Accepted writers are required to commit 10 hours per week from March 2020 until August 2020, and to writing and participating in programs at the FilmNation or WGA East offices. Organizers say that writers who cannot be in New York City on a daily basis for the duration of the program, which will require participants to prioritize Workshop programs two to three evenings a week, should not apply.
Participating referring organizations include Austin Film Festival, Barry R. Feirstein Graduate School of Cinema at CUNY Brooklyn (alumni), The Black List, Blackhouse Foundation, The Dramatists Guild, Emma Bowen Foundation, The Ma-Yi Theater, NALIP, Nantucket Screenwriters Colony, The National Black Theatre, NYWIFT Writers Lab, The Public Theater, ReelWorks, Urbanworld Film Festival and the WGAE Indie Caucus.
The guild’s other diversity efforts include the Made in NY Writers Room, a TV writing fellowship designed to increase diversity in the pipeline of NYC-based television writers. That program, currently in its second cycle, is operated in partnership with the Mayor’s Office of Media and Entertainment and Small Business Services.