The facts don’t lie but it’s only been a recent shift that Hollywood brass has started to really listen. Insiders know the drill. Black has been on trend many times and then it fizzled out as if it never existed at all. Halle Berry spoke her truth; so to speak when former Teen Vogue editor-in-chief Elaine Welteroth interviewed her about her Oscar win (2002 win for “Monster’s Ball”).
“That moment really meant nothing,” Berry lamented. “It meant nothing. I thought it meant something, but I think it meant nothing.”
Fast forward to 2019 and the struggle continues even with the record-shattering success of films like “Black Panther” and the consistent box-office track record of producer Will Packer, to name a few. So it’s to Creative Artists Agency’s (CAA) credit that they are constantly looking for ways to make sure that those that are not represented or grossly underrepresented get their opportunity to leave their mark and make some serious money in the process, and the television and new streaming business is serious money.
Keeping the good news flowing in the right direction CAA recently launched the Showrunner Mentorship Program. It was announced in an exclusive article that appeared in Vanity Fair.
To make their case and really understand the market, in 2018, the agency launched Amplify Database, a searchable directory of more than 800 TV writers of color, in concert with the multicultural Amplifynetworking conference. CAA knew exactly how to change the game and in creating the Showrunner Mentorship Program, they are poised to disrupt the white-male boy’s club.
The talent Showrunner Mentorship Program is described as an initiative that pairs veteran showrunners with mid-level writers of color and that’s good news because CAA clients and showrunners Misha Green (“Underground”) and Courtney Kemp (“Power”) will be part of the team guiding the emerging writers from the agency, including Janet Mock (“Pose”) and Marquita Robinson (“GLOW”), through “the often problematic path to power.”
It’s understood that the transition from staff writer to showrunner can be more the just difficult. Showrunners are at the top of the TV pyramid, traditionally responsible for everything from a show’s creative vision to the hiring of writers, directors, and actors.
It’s big money on the line to the tune of $80 to $100 million dollars with many people working for you. Again, I lean into the facts. A recent report by U.C.L.A. sociology professor Darnell Hunt found that over 91 percent of showrunners of network, cable, and streaming programs during the 2016–2017 TV season were white—so finding a way to get more writers of color prepped for that top job seemed like a smart move.
In the vanity.com article, “Luke Cage” writer Matt Owens and Green’s mentee praises the program saying: “I don’t know how to run a writers room and be in the position of power. So hearing how she deals with it is incredibly valuable, even if it doesn’t end up being my exact experience.”
For Misha Green, the creator of WGN’s historical drama “Underground” and who co-created the forthcoming HBO series “Lovecraft Country” for HBO the CAA’s Showrunner Mentorship Program is a welcome and positive alternative to other initiatives that want to make diversity hires without actually listening to diverse voices. In many interviews, Green has expressed her frustration about the lack of diversity in the writers room and has underscored the importance of hiring multiple writers of color. Now with the Showrunner Mentorship Program, it’s making the impossible, possible.
CAA head of multicultural business development Christy Haubegger has been vocal and on point for years. In the Vanity Fair article, she placed a proverbial highlight over the problem. “We still have people in the industry saying, “Oh, I couldn’t find [a diverse writer],” or “I didn’t know where to go,” CAA head of multicultural business development Christy Haubegger said. “I always joke that we have to kind of cut their meat for them. If you want people to do the right thing, you have to make it really, really easy.”