June 01, 2008

CBS Writers Mentoring Program

Breaking into the business

Writers Mentoring Program provides opportunitiesEver wanted to be a writer for a hit television show? Had dreams of working with some of the best creative minds in the business? Well, look no further. The CBS Diversity Institute Writers Mentoring Program is just the ticket.

Its goal is to positively impact the presence of diverse writers throughout the entertainment industry and prepare hopeful writers for employment opportunities in television.

The focus is to provide networking opportunities for diverse writers. In its first four years, a total of 28 emerging writers of diverse backgrounds have graduated and 15 careers have been launched.
How it got started:"I was part of a coalition, frustrated with the fact that we didn't see an American Indian on television," said well-known film and television actor, writer and producer Sonny Skyhawk, Sicangu Lakota and chairman of the Screen Actors Guild Taskforce on American Indians. "Out of that frustration, we joined with other minorities. ... We joined hands with them and challenged the networks to be more minority-associative. ... Discrimination is a big word. It's a catch-all. And it's not a word they [television networks] want to hear. They don't want to be in the limelight."

Members of this coalition sat down with representatives of several major television networks and cleared the air.

"In realizing this important goal [representing all races], CBS has forged important partnerships with many organizations throughout the industry. Diversity is best achieved through a collaborative spirit," Thomas said.

"We came to a memorandum of understanding," Skyhawk added. "One of the agreements was to have access to address our concerns. We said, 'We want you to hire a senior VP person to address these issues.' Each network hired a director of diversity."
How it's helped Natives:"It's opened the doors for our Native people to be a part of this industry. Our people have the same aspirations and career goals as anybody else. It's a positive to give young Indian people opportunities they may not have had," Skyhawk said.

The program has successfully advanced the careers of some of the writers--helping them land jobs as staff writers and writers assistants. Only one American Indian has graduated from the program. Currently a staff writer on a leading legal drama, she also teaches at a major university in Los Angeles and recently conducted a class for the current class at the writing program.

"Once graduated, our program participants remain in community with all our prior graduates. In fact, the first seminar meeting is with program graduates who talk about their experiences and give advice on how to get the most out of the program. Creative collaborations between our graduates are also happening," Thomas added, noting that she would like to reach out to other Natives, making them aware of this opportunity.
Comment:  So of the 28 graduates so far, only one was an Indian. The program isn't exactly setting the industry on fire. It would be more impressive if, say, there were 280 graduates and 10 of them were Indians.

For more on the subject, see Diversity Lacking in Television.

1 comment:

writerfella said...

Writerfella here --
So, "Sonny (Roubideaux) Skyhawk" strikes again! Of course the article almost totally was about him and how he brought the situation to be. The unnamed woman writer at the unidentified location for "The CBS Diversity Institute" then weren't the foci of the article, therefore. Can you spell 'self-aggrandizement?'
All Best
Russ Bates