Warner Bros. Discovery has backed out of a plan to end workshops for up-and-coming writers and directors after an industry backlash.
The company said in a statement Wednesday that it will transfer the Directors’ Workshop and Writers’ Workshop programs from its former home at Warner Bros. Television to the company’s Diversity, Equity and Inclusion department following the conclusion of the current Writers’ Workshop, which is scheduled for Oct March 2023 ends. WBD added that the DEI entity “will expand the workshop programs through its existing pipeline programs division.”
According to a Warner Bros. Mr. Discovery spokesperson, there are no plans to change the number of workshop attendees — up to eight writers and eight to 12 directors — going forward.
Sources say the current class of writers in the WBTV workshops will be supported in their current home until March 2023. The new workshops will be managed at the enterprise level and operated enterprise-wide across the entire content portfolio, carrying some practices from the WBTV workshops and transitioning to the new ones who will nonetheless make changes to the programming.
On Tuesday, The Hollywood Reporter reported on a previous plan to end these programs, which were often viewed as key avenues for diverse talent to gain important industry opportunities in directing and writing, despite not having a diversity mandate per se. At the time, the WBTV Group announcement said, “While we will no longer have these formalized programs, we remain committed to developing and mentoring emerging talent and preparing them for a career in television.”
This new announcement comes about half an hour after the Directors Guild of America announced its intention to close the Warner Bros. Television Workshop and its directorial programming, which the union says is required by its collective bargaining agreement.
“DGA today announced its commitment to fight against Warner Bros. Discovery’s decision to dismantle the TV director development program,” the union said in a statement Wednesday. “DGA will not stand by while WB/Discovery seeks to roll back decades of support for women and directors of color.”
The specific provision that the DGA alleged that the closure of the programs violated is §. 15-203 of its 2014 Basic Agreement, which states: “On or before July 1, 2014, each of the major television studios (ie, ABC, CBS, Fox, NBC, Sony Pictures Television and Warner Bros. Television) (the ‘Major Television Studios’) will establish and maintain a television director development program designed to expand opportunities for directors in episodic television with an emphasis on increasing diversity.” The basic agreement provides that these programs will include members from underrepresented Find groups, give attendees opportunities to meet creative leaders, and where possible find opportunities for attendee leadership.
Although the WBTV workshops — the directors’ output began in 2013 and the writers’ more than 40 years ago — spanned relatively different cohorts and were credited with bringing more creatives from marginalized identities into the industry, they were not “developed with a unique diversity lens,” WBD said in its announcement this afternoon. “They will now operate with a specific DEI focus.”
After news that the programs would be moving to Warner Bros. DEI Division, the Guild responded in a follow-up statement Wednesday: “DGA is pleased that Warner Bros. Discovery has responded to our concerns, but the proof will lie in how the new programming structure effectively directs diversity, equity and inclusion appeals.” The statement continued, “We will closely monitor whether they are honoring their commitment.”
Lesley Goldberg contributed coverage.
Oct 12 at 5:07 p.m Updated with the latest statement from the Directors Guild.
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