Warner Bros. Discovery Says It Will Keep Writers and Directors Workshops Alive, But Evolve to Conglom-Wide DEI Oversight

Warner Bros. Discovery’s decision to end its long-running writers and directors training program, which the conglom announced Tuesday as part of a series of layoffs and budget cuts at Warner Bros. TV Group, drew a strong rebuke from different parts of the industry, including a stinging statement on Wednesday by the Directors Guild of America.

But what Warner Bros. Discovery hadn’t followed up to explain — and quickly revealed on Wednesday — is that its Writers Workshop and Directors Workshop will live on (albeit it, in a somewhat different form, details TBD) but now move from Warner Bros. Television and be housed inside the conglom’s Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion unit.

The shift will happen in April, after the current 2022–23 WBTV Writers Workshop class winds down. New chief diversity, equity and inclusion officer Asif Sadiq will take over the workshop programs, which will join existing pipeline programs division led by Warner Bros. Discovery DEI vice president Grace Moss and overseen by Warner Bros. Discovery DEI US lead Karen Horne, who recently took that job.

According to Warner Bros. Discovery, the new Writers and Directors Workshop “will build on the successful program initiated by WBTV and expand it across the entire WBD content portfolio.” The original workshops did not have a specific DEI focus, but the new program will.

“By continuing this successful WBTV initiative through the DEI division, we ensure that Warner Bros. Discovery’s continued commitment to training and development continues,” Sadiq said in a statement. “Additionally, this is a strong example of how DEI plans to leverage our recently announced Creative Council to best align with our internal partners in maintaining our commitment to infuse our pipeline with diverse storytellers. As we solidify the agenda and scope of the Council, we are excited to be able to expand this important initiative alongside our other efforts providing opportunities for underrepresented creatives.”

Added Horne: “Including the Writers and Directors Workshop within the scope of our current DEI pipeline programs, which include development opportunities for music supervisors, comedic voices and showrunners among others, will allow for a broader and more intense DEI focus and yield an even larger pool of cohorts to benefit from the experience and exposure we provide. We are encouraged by this chance to house this long-standing WBTV effort to impact the industry with emerging talent within the DEI team.”

How much the new programs look like the current programs will be revealed at a later date. Currently, the Writers’ Workshop selects “up to eight participants out of more than 2,500 submissions and exposes them to Warner Bros. Television’s top writers and executives, all with the ultimate goal of earning them a staff position on a Warner Bros.-produced television show.” The Warner Bros. Television Directors’ Workshop is taught by Bethany Rooney and Mary Lou Belli, co-authors of ‘Directors Tell the Story,’ with participants taught “the full process of episodic directing, from what is expected during prep, to working collaboratively with actors and key crew during production, through post-production.”

The news came soon after the DGA had put out its own statement that it has committed to “fight against Warner Bros. Discovery’s decision to dismantle its TV directors’ development program” and that it would “not stand idly by while WB/Discovery seeks to roll back decades of advancement for women and directors of color.”

The Warner Bros. Television Workshop, which had aimed to train new creative talent in both writing and directing, has been active for four decades. The conglom announced on Tuesday that the Warner Bros. Writers’ Workshop’s current 2022–23 edition will mark the end of the program, including both the writers’ workshop and the directors’ workshop — but hadn’t anticipated the immediate questions about what might come next.

Here was the DGA’s full statement:

The DGA announced today its commitment to fight against Warner Bros. Discovery’s decision to dismantle its TV directors’ development program. The DGA will not stand idly by while WB/Discovery seeks to roll back decades of advancement for women and directors of color. This important program, mandated by the DGA collective bargaining agreement, seeks to promote inclusive hiring practices for diversified talent and concludes with program participants provided an opportunity to direct an episode of TV.  The program, and others like it, is essential to establish an inclusive directorial workforce in the entertainment industry.

This program was established as the result of the Guild’s decades of work to pressure the Studios to diversify their hiring practices. The WB directing program, run in collaboration with veteran directors Bethany Rooney and Mary Lou Belli, has been exceptionally successful in mobilizing inclusive talent with new stories to tell. The industry has greatly benefited from the successful alumni of these workshops including directors Regina King, Jude Weng, Laura Belsey, Rashaad Ernesto Green, Stacey Black, and Nina Lopez-Corrado, among many others. It is unconscionable that proven efforts to diversify our industry are so quickly and cavalierly sacrificed. 

We have been in contact with WB and have received their commitment to work with us to remedy this important matter.  We will do everything in our power to make sure they do so.