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The Star Trek and Clarice duo, who next have The Man Who Fell to Earth, have teamed to launch 25 Stories, a multiplatform company whose goal is to amplify and develop voices of color and create sustainable career paths ranging from staff writer to showrunner.
The pod will be overseen by former NBC head of current Bruce Evans, who will serve as exec vp at 25 Stories. The banner will be housed at CBS Studios, where Kurtzman and Lumet are each based with their own respective overall deals.
Lumet, Kurtzman and Evans will develop content for linear, premium cable and streaming platforms, with any project stemming from 25 Stories existing outside of Lumet’s company and Kurtzman and Heather Kadin’s Secret Hideout. The mini-studio will have its own development execs, led by Evans, and its own set of objectives.
“25 Stories began in my kitchen in 2017 during a marathon screenwriting weekend for about 25 women of color, all extraordinary writers,” said Lumet. “I knew I wanted to bring prestige television by writers of color to the marketplace, and I began to think about how to create a space where marginalized voices are centered. A space where both seasoned and newer voices have room to breathe. I thought a lot about scale: intimate stories, family stories, positive stories. I wanted people to emerge from their experience with 25 Stories with the tools to start their own companies. Ultimately, a space that will launch creators. Those 25 writers in my kitchen led me right here.”
25 Stories is the latest move by CBS to amplify BIPOC creators. In July 2020, CBS announced that, starting with the 2021-22 television season, it would spend a quarter of its development budget on projects created or co-created by writers who are Black, indigenous and people of color. Additionally, the network is targeting all of its writers rooms to be composed of 40 percent BIPOC representation. The network expects that figure to grow to 50 percent for the 2022-23 season. Before that, CBS Studios inked a multiple-year deal with the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People to develop and produce scripted, unscripted and documentary content for linear and streaming platforms.
“It is imperative for us as a studio to support the growth of diverse storytelling, by providing a nurturing environment for creative voices to emerge and thrive. This new imprint is in line with the evolving goals of the studio to be more diverse, thoughtfully inclusive and strategically equitable in telling more kinds of stories,” said David Stapf, president at CBS Studios. “And no one is better suited to support those voices than Jenny, Alex and Bruce. Their combination of experience and creative acumen makes them the ideal trio to lead this venture. We’re honored to be the home of this new and important company.”
For his part, Evans co-founded the nonprofit Colour Entertainment, which is focused on advancing the careers of diverse professionals in the entertainment community. He most recently was exec vp current at NBC, working on scripted originals including This Is Us, Manifest, Brooklyn Nine-Nine, The Good Place and the Chicago and Law & Order franchises, among others.
Kurtzman and Lumet met years ago and have been frequent collaborators since. Together, they are working on Paramount+ series The Man Who Fell to Earth, Star Trek: Discovery and Showtime’s upcoming Blackbird, a limited series about her grandmother, Lena Horne.
“I’ve been so lucky to do work I’m proud of in collaboration with brilliant people. The best way to stand up for everything Jenny and I believe in is to stand behind the mission of 25 Stories,” Kurtzman said. “Creating a company solely dedicated to this mission felt like an important next step, to expand on the work we’ve done at Secret Hideout. We’re thrilled Bruce is joining us, and we’re grateful to CBS Studios for believing in this effort enough to make it a reality.”
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