HBO recently launched their brand new fellowship program, in which they will be introducing “diversity” to their network via running workshops in which eight lucky people will attend masters classes and have the chance to network with industry officials. This plan, well-meaning in its intention, is a great start to a problem that will not be solved with just this program.
Opportunities to connect with people are of tantamount importance in this industry. Yet the real fear here is that attending classes may make no difference, ultimately, towards the hiring process. It feels a little like the equivalent of throwing a bone to those championing diversity in Hollywood — allowing the illusion of diversity, while really not making any drastic changes to who becomes showrunners. In order for there to be real change, the executives of these large networks have to change. HBO is already doing a great job of this — their executive team is comprised of a very diverse team of talented people. Starting this program shows that they recognize the problem in Hollywood, which is already more than what the vast majority of the industry is doing.
This year’s Oscar winners were not apologetic or meek about the fact that inequality does exist in the industry; it is astounding (in a good way) that the Best Director winners for the past three years have been men of color (Alejandro González Iñárritu, Alfonso Cuarón, Ang Lee). Whether or not it was a conscious decision on the part of The Academy, there is no denying that at the very least, more people are beginning to realize the very insidious problem of the lack of diversity in film and television.
Like with any movement for more equality, the road towards inclusivity will be long and tough. But the first step is recognizing the problem. Whether or not HBO’s initiative will prove to be successful has yet to be seen; its results could very well be the push that other networks need to start similar programs. But for the moment, it is, at the least, a tentative step towards the right direction.
The HBOAccess Writing Fellowship is open to diverse and female writers 21 and older who must be able to work in the US. Prior to the application, the writer must not have been staffed on a network or cable series in excess of 13 episodes and/or had more than one feature film or more than two plays produced.
All submissions must be made through the online portal, Without A Box, and will require a resume, a writing sample, a completed release form and a personal essay in 500 words or less explaining how his/her background has influenced his/her storytelling.
Timeline and Important Dates:
March 4, 2015 – Application process opens at https://www.withoutabox.com/. The application portal will close when 1,000 submissions have been reached. No mail or email submissions will be accepted.
May 2015 – 20 candidates advance to first round interviews with HBOAccess™ program directors via in person or Skype.
June 2015 – Final interviews with HBO development and production executives. All applicants selected to the final round must provide a second writing sample. They must also be prepared to pitch up to three ideas, one of which will be developed during the eight month long mentorship.
July 1, 2015 – Eight participants are notified.
August 17-21, 2015 – Master classes will take place over a one week period at the HBO offices in Santa Monica, CA from10am to 5pm. Any finalist not local to the Los Angeles area must be prepared to cover his/her own travel and lodging for the duration of the program, however a small stipend will be available to defray those costs.