Meryl Streep, NYWIFT Launch Program For Female Screenwriters Over 40

The only thing better than the news below would be that it wasn’t necessary. Thanks, Meryl!

by Ross A. Lincoln

imgresThe Writers Lab, a program targeting older female screenwriters, was announced at the Tribeca Film Festival today during a panel featuring Meryl Streep and the New York Women in Film & Television Tribeca. Streep, a NYWIFT Muse Award honoree, is helping finance the program with the organization in an effort to support and mentor female screenwriters over 40. Touted as the only program of its kind worldwide, the lab aims to counteract perceived gender and age bias affecting creative women in the film industry. Funding was provided in part thanks to a “sizable” contribution by Streep, who has a longstanding relationship with NYWIFT.

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19th Annual Webby Award Nominees Announced

The following info is Need-to-Know. And, yeppers, if you’re serious about a career as a creative force in TV you need to know:

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by Natalie Jarvey

Vice Media is the one to beat at the 19th annual Webby Awards.

The youth-oriented media company came out on top with 17 nominations when the International Academy of Digital Arts & Sciences revealed its nominees for the Internet culture award show on Tuesday morning. Other companies with strong showings include CollegeHumor with nine nominations, Funny or Die and HBO tied with eight nominations, The Guardian with seven nominations and Comedy Central and Mashable tied with six nominations.

Other nominees, which were determined from nearly 13,000 entries, include The Tonight Show with Jimmy Fallon, live streaming company Twitch, Vimeo’s High Maintenance and mobile game Monument Valley.

A small group of Academy members will select this year’s winner’s from the nominations. They include Conan O’Brien, Tumblr founder David Karp, Arianna Huffington, YouTube creator Freddie Wong, Internet pioneer Vint Cerf and DoSomething.org founder Nancy Lublin. The public can also cast votes for the Webby People’s Voice Awards until April 23.

“This year’s nominees are moving Internet culture — and society — forward through their sophisticated technology, sleek user design, and social influence,” said Webby Awards executive director David-Michel Davies. “Each of this year’s nominees are raising the bar in their respective categories and we are excited for the public to weigh in with their votes for this year’s Webby People’s Voice Winners.”

The Webby Awards winners will be honored in a ceremony hosted by comedian Hannibal Buress on May 18 at Cipriani Wall Street. A stream of the award show will be available the next day on the Webby Awards website.

Here is a list of highlights from the nominations:

Humor (Websites)
Funny Or Die
The Tonight Show with Jimmy Fallon
ClickHole
Cracked
Fill the Silence

Social Media (Websites)
Imgur
Ello
FutureLearn
Learnist
Mash Stories

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And don’t forget to vote HERE

 

BuzzFeed Emerging Writers Fellowship

BuzzFeed Writing Thing

Yo, new – excuse us, we mean emerging – writers, BuzzFeed wants you. In the words of the site’s literary editor, Saeed Jones:

With the mission of diversifying the broader media landscape by investing in the next generation of necessary voices, BuzzFeed’s Emerging Writers Fellowship is designed to give writers of great promise the support, mentorship, and experience necessary to take a transformative step forward in their careers….

Ideal candidates for this program will have ambitious ideas and a proven desire to publish work that creates an impact on cultural conversations. The product of the fellowship will be published by BuzzFeed. The writers selected for the fellowship will work with BuzzFeed News’ senior editorial staff and be based in New York. Fellows will receive a stipend of $12,000.

We say that if there’s some person or place out there that wants to give you money to write you have to be nuts not to swoop in and grab it. Which is why TVWriter™ encourages you to learn all you can about the new fellowship and, you know, maybe even – oh, god, the pressure! – enter.

FIND OUT MORE ABOUT THE BUZZFEED EMERGING WRITERS FELLOWSHIP NOW!

WGAW 2015 Diversity Report

The State of Diversity in Writing for Television: WGAW Releases Latest Findings in 2015 TV Staffing Brief, Announces TV Writer Access Project Honorees
by Team TVWriter™ News Service
(in other words, yeah, it’s a press release)

Research Shows Declines for Minority and Women TV Writers Across the Board

All together now: >sigh<

And now the news:

LOS ANGELES– The Writers Guild of America, West has issued the findings of its 2015 Television Staffing Brief, the WGAW’s latest analysis of the state of diversity in writing for television within the entertainment industry.

The WGAW’s 2015 report examines employment patterns for nearly 3,000 writers working on close to 300 TV shows airing on 36 broadcast and cable networks during the 2013-14 season, highlighting three specific groups who have traditionally been underemployed in industry: women, minority, and older writers.

The brief focuses on the writers’ room as the key site for data collection, taking inventory of each writer by gender, race, and age for TV shows covered, including the latest data from the most recent TV season, and providing a unique statistical breakdown by show and network to accurately determine trends for diverse TV writers.

The findings in this year’s brief reveal that not only has very little changed since the 2011-12 TV season examined in the Guild’s previous report in the series – the 2013 WGAW TV Staffing Brief, which revealed “pockets of promise for diverse television writers amidst minimal overall progress” – the situation has grown worse since then. In fact, women and minorities have actually lost ground as compared to their white male counterparts since the last brief, both in terms of overall staff positions and in higher-level executive producer ranks.

Meanwhile, although writers over 40 continued to claim a majority of all staff writer positions, data from the most recent TV season show that their employment prospects drop dramatically after age 50. Such stark statistics continue to illustrate that the entertainment industry remains a glaringly unlevel playing field.

“Over the years, the fortunes of diverse writers in the television sector have ebbed and flowed. While the general pattern consists of an upward trajectory in diverse sector employment, the rate of progress has failed to keep pace with the rapid diversification of the nation’s population. This is significant not only in terms of employment opportunity but also in terms of industry bottom-line considerations,” noted the report’s author, Dr. Darnell M. Hunt, director of the Ralph J. Bunche Center for African American Studies at UCLA and professor of sociology. “Indeed, research is beginning to confirm the common-sense notion that increasingly diverse audiences desire more diverse storytelling. When diverse voices are marginalized or missing altogether in the writers’ room, it is less likely that the stories told will hit the mark.”

Contrary to incremental gains in TV employment achieved by minority and women writers over the past decade, the 2013-14 season saw minority and women writers’ share of TV staff employment decline across the board, while overall minority TV writer staffing levels remain disproportionate to actual minority demographics of the U.S. population, as diverse writers continue to be substantially underrepresented on TV writing staffs as a whole.

Key findings in the WGAW’s 2015 TV Staffing Brief include:

Women Writers’ Share of TV Staff Employment Declines

  • Women writers accounted for 29 percent of TV staff employment during the 2013-14 season, down from 30.5 percent in 2011-12.

Minority Writers’ Share of TV Staff Employment Declines

  • Minorities accounted for 13.7 percent of TV staff employment during the 2013-14 season, down from 15.6 percent in 2011-12.

Minority Writers Continue to Staff 60-Minute Shows More Often Than 30-Minute Shows

  • During the 2013-2014 season, 61.2 percent of minority staff writers worked on 60-minute shows, while only 38.2 percent worked on 30-minute shows. Multiracial writers and Latino writers were among the most likely minority writers to staff 60-minute shows – 69.6 percent of the time (48 writers) and 65.3 percent of the time (49 writers), respectively.

Writing Staffs Remain Less Diverse for Other Programming (i.e., Late Night, Talk, Game Shows, etc.)

  • During the 2013-14 season, women occupied only 18 percent of other programming staff positions (compared to 29 percent overall) and minorities claimed only 3.5 percent of these positions (compared to 13.7 percent overall).
  • Women were underrepresented by a factor of nearly 3 to 1 in other programming staff positions and minorities by nearly 11 to 1.

Minority Share of Executive Producers Declines

  • Minorities occupied only 5.5 percent of the Executive Producer positions during the 2013-14 season, down from 7.8 percent in 2011-12.

Minority Writers Underrepresented at Major Networks

  • During the 2013-2014 season, minorities were underrepresented by a factor of more than 2 to 1 among writers staffing shows at the major broadcast networks.
  • Minorities claimed 16.1 percent of the positions at ABC, 14.2 percent of the positions at NBC, 13.9 percent of the positions at Fox, and just 11.3 percent of the positions at CBS (where minorities were underrepresented by a factor of more than 3 to 1 among writers).

Despite “periodic advances and pockets of promise,” Hunt asserts that the WGAW’s latest report offers a woefully familiar conclusion: “Much work remains to be done before diverse writers are adequately incorporated into the television industry, and we are losing ground in this effort as the nation races toward the not-too-distant day when it becomes majority minority… Findings like these highlight a glaring disconnect between the increasing diversity of audiences and business-as-usual practices in the Hollywood industry. The fact is that writers’ rooms simply do not reflect the America of today or the America that is steadily emerging.”

Hunt concludes the report by suggesting the potential financial impact of not improving true diversity within the ranks of writers and the industry at large: “Failures on the diversity front increasingly will become failures in terms of the bottom-line of ratings.”

To read the full 2015 TV Staffing Brief, click here.

The Guild’s latest TV brief will be incorporated into the WGAW’s upcoming 2015 Hollywood Writers Report to be released later this year, the tenth in a series of semi-annual reports the Guild has commissioned over the last two decades which analyze employment patterns for writers working in television and film sectors.

In related news, the WGAW has also announced its 2015 TV Writer Access Project Honorees, a group of eleven diverse writers who have competed in Comedy and Drama script categories:

2015 TV WAP Comedy Honorees

  • Chuck Hayward – I’m Not Your Gay Friend
  • Dennis Hensley – Misadventures in the (213)

2015 TV WAP Drama Honorees

  • Natalie Antoci – The Gables
  • Bill Balas – Affliction
  • Marc Bernardin – The Last Remaining Light
  • Cynthia Greenburg – Jamestown
  • Teresa Huang – The Chain
  • Diarra Kilpatrick – The Dirty Dozen
  • Jack Monaco – The Professor
  • Karen Struck – The Compound
  • Rebecca Taylor – La Reina

Created as a proactive response to the chronically low numbers of diverse writers hired in television, the WGAW Diversity Department’s TV Writer Access Project targets television writers in five underrepresented categories – minority writers, writers with disabilities, women writers, older writers (55 and up), and LGBT writers – to help open doors and increase employment opportunities for diverse writers.

The Guild’s peer-judging TV WAP program is designed to enlist its own membership to identify and recognize outstanding, yet underutilized, diverse writing talent, as well as provide viable resources for accessing their work to entertainment industry decision-makers, including showrunners, producers, network and studio executives, agents, and managers. Since its inception in 2009, TV WAP has achieved tangible results, facilitating the employment of numerous diverse television writers over the last several years.

This was the second year that TV showrunners Glen Mazzara and Eric Garcia & Leo Chu organized and led a series of seminars during February aimed at this year’s crop of TV WAP Honorees, which covered such relevant topics as: how to interview with a showrunner, crafting your own personal story, jumpstarting your career, and how to pitch.

For more information on this year’s slate of TV WAP honorees and their work, click here.

Yet more work needs to be done to achieve true parity within the industry: While the WGAW’s TV Writer Access Project is “an important first step toward the goal of diversifying the contingent of storytellers whose work fuels the Hollywood industry,” Hunt notes in the 2015 TV Staffing Brief that “subsequent steps forward, as previous reports have concluded, also will require a renewed commitment on the part of other industry players – the networks, studios, and agents – to go beyond what has been done in the past to address the status quo on the industry diversity front.”

Nickelodeon Wants Your Script

This is gold:

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Nickelodeon Animation Studios is proud to present a new path in series development calledScript First! Here’s how it works: you submit a spec 3-5 page script that showcases an original show premise and characters in a self-contained story. If your submission is selected by our selection committee, you will get an offer to be paid to write an expanded script. You can choose to either build upon your submitted spec script or choose a different story using your same original characters and world.

FIND OUT MORE

From Dallas to Spoiler Alerts, the Rise and Fall of the Cliffhanger

The world didn’t start in 2010, gang, no matter how much it may seem like it did.

Especially the TV world:

JRby David Sims

35 years ago, the Texas oil baron J.R. Ewing was working late at his office when he was shot twice by a mysterious assailant. J.R. crumpled to the ground with his fate unknown, and every member of the cast a plausible suspect in the shooting. With that, the third season of CBS’s Dallas concluded, but at the same time, it also graduated from hit network show to nationwide phenomenon.

The end-of-season cliffhanger, deployed so effectively in 1980 that “Who Shot J.R.?” became a national catchphrase, is a brilliant and oft-used television device. But in a fractured TV landscape that no longer takes the summer off, it’s a ploy that struggles to punch with the weight it once did. Dallas aired during the golden era of the “big three” TV networks, when there was no way to binge-watch and catch up with the hit of the moment. So its third season finale was an innovative gambit—the cliffhanger was the stuff of serialized soaps and Charles Dickens, not the world of episodic television, where mysteries were tidily solved every week.

“Who Shot J.R.?” was hokey and not particularly compelling from a writing standpoint—almost every character on the show had a reason to shoot the manipulative and unscrupulous patriarch, so it was almost beside the point when Dallas revealed who actually did it eight months later. But it was the kind of water-cooler moment that could drive conversation about the show during the quiet summer months of the network TV schedule. Dallaswas serialized television, but not so much that viewers couldn’t jump right into any given episode and figure it out, and after a few months of hearing co-workers or family members debate their theories about potential suspects, it was hard not to. The show ended its third season as the sixth-most watched show on television, with 19.1 million viewers; its fourth season jumped to number one, with 27.6 million people watching. The reason for that kind of meteoric leap in ratings is indisputable.

The storyline’s success wasn’t thanks to Dallas‘s quality, or America’s fondness for star Larry Hagman, who’d turned a secondary character into the archetypal man-you-love-to-hate, and the breakout star of the show. The third season finale “A House Divided” aired on March 21, 1980, and Dallas didn’t return to screens until November. Over that summer, Ted Turner’s fledging Cable News Network launched, and embarked on the then-daunting concept of reporting the news 24 hours a day—with feverish speculation over J.R.’s assailant becoming a popular and frequent topic.

As with many classic TV cliffhangers, the show’s writers went into things with no particular idea of how to resolve the mystery, arriving at the conclusion just by a logical process of elimination. Another example of that loose approach is “The Best of Both Worlds,” the third-season finale of Star Trek: The Next Generation,which ended with Captain Picard captured by the alien Borg and transformed into a cyborg zombie. The writer and showrunner Michael Piller later admitted he had no concept of how the next episode, which led off the fourth season, would resolve the cliffhanger—he just knew the show needed something to keep audiences on the hook over the summer. The Next Generation was a steady cult hit before the episode, but its ratings jumped by 25 percent between seasons, and the show graduated to mainstream success.

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