Warner Bros. Discovery revamps diversity programs


Warner Bros. Television’s decision to shut down its television workshop for emerging writers and directors sparked outrage from those worried about a major setback for women and people of color trying to make their careers in Hollywood.

But on Wednesday, parent company Warner Bros. Discovery said it’s not giving up on programs to develop writers and directors of color after all. The company said in a statement that its pipeline programs will exist under its larger diversity, equity and inclusion umbrella, where they will focus specifically on working with writers and directors from underrepresented groups.

The company did not give many specifics on how the revamped programs would work, but said they would “build on the successful program initiated by” Warner Bros. Television and expand them beyond to the larger Warner Bros. Discovery firm.

This does not change the fact that the Warner Bros. Television programs, as they currently exist, are going away. Warner Bros. Television Chairman Channing Dungey said in a Tuesday email to staff that the company would end the programs after the current writers class of 2022-2023 completes its work in April.

The program selects writers and directors from thousands of applications, exposes them to Warner Bros. executives and puts them through workshops on the Burbank studio lot — including lectures, a simulated writers room and director shadowing — to prepare them for careers in entertainment. The goal of the writers program is to get participants staffed on Warner Bros. shows.

“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,” Dungey said in the memo.

The program’s demise coincides with the decision to cut 82 staffers and eliminate 43 unfilled positions from Warner Bros. Television’s headcount as Warner Bros. Discovery Chief Executive David Zaslav enacts cost-cutting measures to satisfy Wall Street. Zaslav has promised $3 billion in saving from the combination of Discovery and the former WarnerMedia entertainment assets, which include Warner Bros., CNN, HBO and Cartoon Network.

Announcing the new program is a clear attempt by the company to calm nerves in the creative community, which saw the cost-cutting moves as a significant blow. The existing workshops were not billed solely as diversity initiatives, though a clear goal of the programs was to address the entertainment industry’s issues with inclusion. Another initiative getting the ax is Stage 13, a unit focused on shortform video that also boosted early-career voices.

The Directors Guild of America blasted the closures in a Wednesday statement.

“The DGA will not stand idly by while WB/Discovery seeks to roll back decades of advancement for women and directors of color,” the guild said. “This important program, mandated by the DGA collective bargaining agreement, seeks to promote inclusive hiring practices for diversified talent and concludes with program participants provided an opportunity to direct an episode of TV. The program, and others like it, is essential to establish an inclusive directorial workforce in the entertainment industry.”

The union said it had reached out to the studio following news of the shutdown and had secured a commitment from the company. Warner Bros.’ announcement came minutes after the DGA statement.

Rep. Joaquin Castro (D-Texas), in response to the programs’ shutdown, criticized Warner Bros. Discovery for its track record on diversity.

“So far the new @wbd [Warner Bros. Discovery] has been outright hostile to content creators, creators of color, new voices trying to break into the industry, etc.,” the lawmaker tweeted Tuesday. “The new WBD seems to go out of it’s way to make the company less inclusive while getting rich off the communities they’re sidelining.”

The new Warner Bros. Discovery program will be explicitly geared toward promoting diversity and inclusion behind the camera, according to the company.

According to bargaining agreements dating to 2014, the major television studios that are members of the Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers, including ABC, NBC, Sony as well as Warner Bros, agreed to establish and maintain a TV director development program designed to increase opportunities in episodic television with a focus on increasing diversity.

A spokesman for the DGA had no comment on Warner Bros. statement Wednesday that it was moving its TV directors program out of its TV business to its diversity department.


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