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The company said in a statement Wednesday that it was transferring the Directors’ Workshop and Writers’ Workshop programs from its previous home at Warner Bros. Television to the corporate Diversity, Equity and Inclusion division after the conclusion of the current writers’ workshop, which ends in March 2023. WBD added that the DEI unit will “grow the Workshop programs through its existing Pipeline Programs division.”
Right now, according to a Warner Bros. Discovery spokesperson, there are no plans to change the number of workshop participants — up to eight writers and eight to 12 directors — in the future.
Sources say that 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 corporate level and will operate companywide across its content portfolio, with some practices from the WBTV workshops carrying over to the new ones, which will nevertheless make changes to the programs.
On Tuesday, The Hollywood Reporter reported on a previous plan to shut down these programs, which were often regarded as a key entryway for diverse talent to receive important industry opportunities in the directing and writing space, though they didn’t have a diversity mandate per se. At that time, the announcement from the WBTV Group said, “While we will no longer have these formalized programs in place, we remain committed to developing and mentoring emerging talent and preparing them for careers in television.”
This new announcement comes about a half-hour after the Directors Guild of America declared its intention to “fight” the shutdown of the Warner Bros. Television Workshop and its directing program, which the union says is mandated by its collective bargaining agreement.
“The DGA announced today its commitment to fight against Warner Bros. Discovery’s decision to dismantle its TV directors’ development program,” the union said in a statement Wednesday. “The DGA will not stand idly by while WB/Discovery seeks to roll back decades of advancement for women and directors of color.”
The specific provision the DGA claimed that the shuttering of the programs violated is Sec. 15-203 of its 2014 Basic Agreement, which reads, “On or before July 1, 2014, each of the major television studios (i.e., 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 calls for these programs to seek out members from underrepresented groups, give participants opportunities to meet creative executives and find directing opportunities for participants when possible, among other provisions.
Although the WBTV workshops — the directors’ edition began in 2013 and that of the writers’ more than 40 years ago — have featured relatively diverse cohorts and have been 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.”
In the wake of the news that the programs would move to Warner Bros.’ DEI division, the guild responded in a subsequent statement on Wednesday: “The DGA is pleased to see that Warner Bros. Discovery has responded to our concerns, however, the proof will be in how the new program structure effectively addresses directorial diversity, equity, and inclusion.” The statement added, “We will be watching closely to ensure they follow through with their commitment.”
Lesley Goldberg contributed reporting.
Oct. 12, 5:07 p.m. Updated with the Directors Guild’s latest statement.
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