New Workshops Provide Tools + Experience for Female and Diverse Screenwriters
September 26, 2019
There’s a new organization in Hollywood offering workshops for writers with diverse backgrounds looking to break into the television industry. The Writers Room 5050 was created by award-winning writer-director-producer Evette Vargas, and actress-producer Kate Rees Davies, in order to provide a clearer path for minority and female writers in the industry.
“The workshops are for women, writers of color, LGBTQAI+ writers, and anyone who considers themselves diverse. Woke men are welcome too,” Vargas chuckles.
The idea was born in early 2019 after a workshop Vargas produced for five diverse screenwriting MFA students she was mentoring. “I created this curriculum for them, and in that curriculum, we created a season arc for a television series and every single writer ended up writing an episode for that series,” Vargas says.
Following the writing portion of the lesson, Vargas set up a table read and invited 20 actors to attend. The next day, there was an overwhelming response of positive feedback from the participants. One of the participants who reached out to Vargas was actress Rees Davies.
“The way Evette ran that evening, I was just like, ‘Oh my God, this woman is a master of the craft,” Rees Davies recalls. She tried to convince Vargas to create more workshops for up-and-coming female creatives.
“When she called me, Kate basically said, ‘Evette, you have to do this for women,’” Vargas says. “For four months Kate hounded me to do this; she was relentless.”
In late June 2019, the women decided to team up to create the classes and within three weeks, their inaugural workshops were up and running. The three workshops included Pitching the TV Series, Running the Room, and Writing the TV Pilot.
Pitching the TV Series is a six-week workshop where participants write a script for their pitch, practice it weekly, and design a pitch deck.
“That workshop ends with the writer pitching to a development executive or a producer,” Vargas says.
According to Vargas, the second workshop, Writing the Television Pilot, is run like a writers’ room. The students write their own pilot, break their story in the room, and are treated like staff writers. The workshop ends with a table read of the writers’ scripts.
The third workshop Vargas teaches is titled Running the Room, and is also structured like a writers’ room experience where the participants break a season arc of an original show, and then each writer writes an episode of that arc.
According to Vargas and Rees Davies, some of the 24 writers who participated in the sold-out inaugural workshops have received interest on their scripts from the development executives whom they pitched their work to.
“We just really want to get some of these things greenlit next year, and then hopefully showing up on your TV,” Rees Davies says.
The founders want to make a statement while uplifting diverse writers and shepherding them into rooms where the individuals can make a difference in Hollywood with their writing and storytelling.
According to the study “Behind-the-Scenes: The State of Inclusion and Equity in TV Writers Rooms” by The Think Tank for Inclusion & Equity, there is a lack of diverse writers in writers’ rooms. The study states that diverse writers who manage to get hired in writers’ rooms are often isolated and dismissed to lower levels where they have little power to make any type of change or contributions. The study also states that 64% of diverse writers experienced some type of bias, discrimination or harassment in their respective writers’ rooms.
“There is the politics of the industry to consider, and if you're not necessarily a straight white man, how do you navigate those waters?” Vargas says. “We’re providing the tools, experience and giving the writers the confidence they need to go anywhere, and know that they've done all the work.”
“Many of the projects the storytellers are creating are literally to create shifts in the world,” Vargas says proudly.
Fall classes begin with Pitching the TV Series on September 26th. Running the Room begins October 1st, and Writing the TV Pilot will start on October 2nd. Each class costs $750 and is between six and 10 weeks long. For more information, you can email firstname.lastname@example.org or visit The Writers Room 5050 website at writersroom5050.com.
Written by: Allison NorlianAllison Norlian is a three-time, Emmy-nominated journalist who has worked as a television reporter and anchor in markets around the country. She has covered a variety of stories from the riots in Charlottesville, Virginia to President Trump’s travel ban in the fourth circuit court of appeals. Allison has also won AP awards for her work and a Catalyst For Change award from the Arc of Virginia for her reporting on the disabled community. Allison just moved to Los Angeles with her screen writer husband and two cats and is excited for all LA has to offer!