Elevating the Next Wave of Canadian Storytellers
How do you define “making it” in the entertainment industry? Money, fame, and status are the easy answers. Year after year, showbusiness, with all its glitz and glamour, attracts throngs of screenwriters with dreams of making it big. But for too many writers from underrepresented communities, “making it” in the industry carries no such delusions of grandeur. For these creatives, “making it” means having the financial security to quit their side-job or meeting with studio execs who actually return their calls.
For storytellers to “make it” requires skill, perseverance, and most importantly, opportunity – a well-written screenplay has no value until it winds up in the right person’s hands. Making the right professional contacts can be a daunting challenge for people in any industry. But this path to success is even more arduous for storytellers from communities where those who identify as Black, Indigenous or people of colour, as the screen-based production industry hasn’t always valued telling diverse stories or prioritized inclusive casting.
Decades of mostly white, heteronormative narratives meant fewer opportunities to showcase alternative perspectives. Culturally homogenous storytelling deprived the industry of generations of on-screen talent, and we’re still reeling from the negative effects. The lack of diversity in front of and behind the camera meant fewer role models, fewer mentors for emerging talent, and fewer racially diverse executives in positions to greenlight stories speaking to their own lived experiences.
Turning things around requires those in positions of power and influence to showcase underrepresented voices and provide them with the resources to flourish. This past September, the Academy of Canadian Cinema & Television (the Canadian Academy) announced a series of new initiatives designed to “bring equity to the organization and the Canadian screen-based industry as a whole.”
One of these initiatives brings the Canadian Academy together with WarnerMedia to create the WarnerMedia x Canadian Academy Global Access Writers Program, a talent activation initiative designed to provide new career opportunities for experienced Canadian writers from underrepresented communities. This new program works with seasoned Canadian storytellers who identify as Indigenous, Black, people of colour, people with disabilities, members of the LGBTQ2+ community, Francophone and/or women, and wants to rectify the industry’s glaring representation imbalance by “nurturing a sustainable pipeline of Canadian talent as the global demand for unique voices and authentic content grows.”
“We recognize that underrepresented writers in Canada have a broad spectrum of industry experience,” said Deanna Cadette, Executive Director of WarnerMedia’s Global Access Programs-Canada. “With these initiatives we look forward to bringing together a variety of backgrounds and, along with our incredible partners at the Academy, aim to create space and opportunity for these individuals to step into their excellence.”
Beginning in June 2021, eight to twelve applicants will receive an opportunity to level-up their careers. The program’s participants will meet with WarnerMedia executives, creators, and established industry professionals, who will provide guidance and first-hand industry insights. Additionally, participants can workshop their unfinished screenplays into viable drafts.
What separates the WarnerMedia x Canadian Academy Global Access Writers Program from most other mentorship initiatives is that it’s designed to assist seasoned writers; skilled and experienced storytellers will receive the tools necessary to take their careers to the next level.
“Talent development programs focused on inclusivity often prioritize emerging talent, however this program will spotlight working writers who have not yet been given the resources to develop their own ideas,” said Beth Janson, CEO of the Canadian Academy. “We are excited to work with homegrown writers whose ideas have so often been undervalued in our industry, and are thrilled to be collaborating with WarnerMedia on this program; we look forward to bringing it to life together.”
The legendary American novelist and activist James Baldwin once stated, “Not everything that is faced can be changed, but nothing can be changed until it is faced.” The WarnerMedia x Canadian Academy Global Access Writers Program will face the industry’s representation disparity head-on. For too long, the entertainment industry refused to face its representation disparity, which choked off the pipeline of rising talent who identify as Black, Indigenous or a person of colour. WarnerMedia and the Canadian Academy’s upcoming initiative offers a necessary course correction.
Written for the Academy by Victor Stiff.