EXCLUSIVE: The nonprofit Inevitable Foundation, which aims to mentor and support the next generation of disabled screenwriters, has launched a new initiative to help close the diversity gap in film and television.
The Pipeline Program features a broad coalition of prominent industry individuals and organizations working to identify promising disabled screenwriters and fast-track them for consideration by showrunners, creative executives and the foundation’s Screenwriting Fellowship program.
Inevitable, which is supported by WarnerMedia/AT&T Foundation and a number of other foundations, has lined up more than 25 creative and development executives from studios, streamers and networks and more than a dozen showrunners who will be working with the foundation’s Screenwriting Fellows and other finalists to mentor them and prepare them to sell their work.
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Founding members of the coalition include the Sundance Institute, The Black List, Easterseals, Deaf Talent Collective, Words Uncaged, Pillars Fund and the Writers Guild Foundation, including the WGA’s Veterans Writing Project and Writer’s Access Support Program, with more Pipeline Program partners to be announced soon.
Disabled screenwriters who have gone through programs from Inevitable Foundation’s Pipeline Partners are encouraged to reach out to their contact at their respective organization who will then refer them to the Screenwriting Fellowship with a priority application.
“Partnering with organizations that are on the front lines of developing up-and-coming writing talent allows the industry to quickly discover more incredible disabled screenwriters,” said Richie Siegel, co-founder of Inevitable Foundation. “The Pipeline Program empowers our partner organizations to pass the baton so we can continue advancing the careers of talent they have already invested in and get their work on screen, further driving the impact of their efforts as well.”
Currently, people with disabilities make up 20% of the general population, but represent only 2% of characters on screen, and less than 1% of those writing in the industry, according to the foundation.
“For too long, the stories we’ve seen on screen have failed to reflect the diversity of human experience, particularly for people with disabilities who are often tokenized, infantilized, or villainized,” said Katie Buckland, executive director of the Writers Guild Foundation. “As a Pipeline Partner with the Inevitable Foundation, we are striving to close the gap in representation for disabled writers in the writers room and beyond by supporting access to financial and creative freedom to share authentic stories via their Screenwriting Fellowship.”
The foundation’s Screenwriting Fellowship program invests $25,000 in talented, professional screenwriters who happen to be disabled, and offers them mentorship and workshops to help them build the relationships and skills they need to thrive in the industry. This year the foundation will name four Screenwriting Fellows and provide professional development for more than a dozen more disabled screenwriters with plans to scale up the program even further in 2022.
“The mission of the Easterseals Disability Film Challenge is to create opportunities for people with disabilities in front of and behind the camera and, in turn, to change the way the world sees disability,” said Nic Noviki, director of the Easterseals Disability Film Challenge. “Now our film challenge participants have a direct line to the Inevitable Foundation and their programs, which gives them access to additional resources and exposure to new opportunities. We are excited for this collaboration.”
Founded by Siegel and Marisa Torelli-Pedevska, both with personal connections to physical and developmental disabilities, the Inevitable Foundation provides funding and mentorship for disabled writers to prepare them to develop their own projects and rise up the staffing ranks.
“The Pipeline Program and the partnerships within strengthen our long-term commitment to empowering a new generation of disabled writers who are set up to succeed in the industry,” said Torelli-Pedevska. “Our Fellows are writers that you can buy projects from and staff today, not a decade from now. These writers will help you tell more authentic and compelling stories as a result and diversify your writers rooms at the same time.”