TV writer and producer Javier Grillo-Marxuach (Lost, The 100, The Dark Crystal: Age of Resistance) was a perfect fit as a mentor for the #Startwith8Hollywood initiative. In 2019,  Grillo-Marxuach spearheaded an initiative called the WGA Solidarity Challenge to amplify those hit by the Writers Guild labor action against agencies in Hollywood.

 
"That wound up putting me on the radar of a lot of organizations working to help both WGA and Pre-WGA writers," he says. "And frankly, I was already taking meetings with new writers on my own, so the opportunity to have someone like #Startwith8Hollywood curate and organize those meetings was a godsend!"
 
#Startwith8Hollywood began as a social media campaign that has since turned into a diversity, equity and inclusion program that matches eight women of color working in the entertainment industry with mentors in order to help them further their filmmaking careers.
 
Grillo-Marxuach says a mentorship like #Startwith8Hollywood is so important for the industry for two reasons.
 
"One, it's the decent thing to be. This is a difficult business that enables gatekeepers far more than it does creatives, and has a lot of pitfalls, roadblocks and dangers — and that's just in breaking in."
 
Grillo-Marxuach, who also teaches and mentors at the Writers Guild among other outlets where he shares his expertise, believes that if you have knowledge, "you should give it away for free." 
 
"You can't give away your talent, anyway, only your craft, so why not make sure everyone has a good baseline to start with?" he says. Which leads to the second reason of why an initiative like #Startwith8Hollywood is needed: inside knowledge of how the the industry really works. 
 
"I cannot begin to describe how many writers rooms I have been in that have ground to a halt because writers — even at the producer level - just don't know what their jobs entail," he says. "One of the benefits of classic network TV was that orders were long and the writing took place alongside the filming. Everyone got a lot of chances to write, and to rewrite for production. That system doesn't exist anymore. A lot of writers don't get to set until much later in their careers, and a great deal of the learning curve has been lost. Mentorship is a way to even the de-stabilization of what was once a pretty organized rise up the ranks."
 
Grillo-Marxuach's experience with the program included answering questions and handing out real and actionable action; "not sugarcoating anything."
 
"You inspire trust by telling truths in a sensitive way that doesn't discourage, but rather informs," he says. "The highlights? Anytime someone I helped gets work, sells a pilot, gets a show on the air — all of these have happened — there is no better feeling than knowing you made a positive difference in someone's rise."
 
He adds,  "I get to meet and talk to great, talented people and listen to their stories and insights. Honestly, I benefit as much as they do."
 
Grillo-Marxuach was fortunate to have mentors at the beginning of his career; "More than I can count." He says he is where he is today "because a lot of really good people shared their knowledge with me."
 
"This is a difficult business under the best of circumstances," he says. "Knowing that someone who knows the ropes better than you has your back is priceless. It's a game changer to know someone sees your worth and is willing to stand with you."
 
When it comes to what makes a great mentee, Grillo-Marxuach says it's "someone who wants to listen, and comes prepared. That means with questions and knowledge of the mentor's background, and a clear set of goals for what they want to get from the interaction. And also one who doesn't lead with wanting the mentor to read their entire body of work right off the bat."
 
As for how important it is for him to include BIPOC and WOC voices on his shows, Grillo-Marxuach says it's "the only frontier left that matters."
 
"No one should grow up being made to feel less-than by a popular culture that infuses their every action and interaction. As a Latinx person, I know that feeling intimately, and I don't want it for anyone else."
 
Photo credit: Scott Pitts