Warner Bros. Creates Directors Workshop to Address Diversity

Hussein Katz
Warner Bros.' Greg Silverman

The Warner Bros. Emerging Film Directors Workshop is intended to give aspiring directors a chance to develop their skills in a nine-month intensive fellowship program.

In the wake of the #OscarSoWhite controversy which focused a light on Holllywood's diversity problems, Warner Bros. has unveiled a program to give a boost to new and underrepresented filmmakers.

The Warner Bros. Emerging Film Directors Workshop is intended to give aspiring directors a chance to develop their skills in a nine-month intensive fellowship program, culminating in showcasing their work for the film community.

“It’s really for anybody who is looking at the system and saying, ‘The unfair part is that I can’t even get started,’” said Greg Silverman, president, creative development and worldwide production, Warner Bros. Pictures. “So get started with Warner Bros.”

Aspiring directors will be partnered with Warner Bros. Pictures executive mentors and work with them through the entire film production process, from pitch to final cut and even a premiere, which will take the form of a film festival on the Warners lot and is aimed at showing the complete work to agents and executives from a broad spectrum of the industry.

Warners' new initiative is in sync with other industry attempts that are beginning to emerge to foster more diversity. For example, Bad Robot, J.J. Abrams production company, is teaming with its agency CAA and studio partners to require that women and people of color are submitted for writing, directing and acting jobs in proportion to their representation in the U.S. population. 

While Warners has sponsored similar programs on the TV side, this is a first for its film operations. According to the studio, the program is designed to recreate the features production process on a micro level. The workshop will have participants pitch, write or work with a screenwriter, and develop a script for a short film (3-10 minutes). Once they have a final script, filmmakers will work with physical production to prep, create a budget, cast, shoot on the lot and edit with a full postproduction process. The studio will cover all production costs and salary for filmmakers for the duration of the Workshop.

The inaugural class with have five filmmakers with the goal of finding applicants outside mainstream channels. The studio is putting a solid capital commitment behind it. For example, each film will have a budget of around $100,000.

The studio began planning the program over a year ago, according to Silverman, but the process dovetailed with the diversity controversy, which bubbled to the surface during the awards season.

“We wanted to have more diverse voices; it’s a better way to connect with our diverse audience and with the world,” said Silverman, adding the program wants to address some of the structural inequality of the business. “There were logjams way down the line before we even saw people.We wanted to start at the first step and give people a leg up, to address the system holistically.”

 

 

 

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