On the heels of the whitest Oscars since 1998, Patricia Arquette's semi-accidental rebel call for "gay people and people of color" to fight for women's rights, and a generally rising tide of consciousness about how minorities are treated in Hollywood, HBO announced that it will launch a new fellowship geared specifically towards diversity.
On Wednesday, the network that currently has hit shows "Game of Thrones," "Girls," "True Detective" and "Last Week Tonight with John Oliver," declared that they will seek "emerging writers from diverse backgrounds" and that those selected will participate in a week of master classes, focusing on things like story development and how to pitch their work, before embarking upon an eight-month writing journey paired with an HBO development executive.
In the past, HBO has come under fire for the general whiteness of its programming -- particularly "Girls" -- and while many may feel that its unfair to pin all diversity requirements on one half-hour program, critics like The New York Times' Jon Caramanica proclaimed: "Television is nowhere near diverse enough -- not in its actors, its writers or its show runners. The problems identified by critics of 'Girls' are systemic, traceable to network executives who greenlight shows and shoot down plenty of others. It’s at that level that diversity stands or falls."
Bustle wrote an article titled "Why HBO and Other Networks Need to Pay Attention to Diversity," and used HuffPost infographics to make their point.
For example, between 1975 and 2014, 38 individuals created hour-long dramas at HBO. Of the 38, 33 of these people were white men. Three were women and only one was a non-white man. But it looks like HBO is passionate about addressing the issue.
"It all starts with the page”, Kelly Edwards wrote to The Huffington Post via email on Thursday. Edwards is the vice president of HBO Talent Development and Programming and is directly responsible for developing the HBOAccess program. "We are on the lookout for new voices with an authentic and original point of view," she continued.
The HBO writing program seeks people over 21 years of age and is clear about wanting to find undiscovered or un-nurtured talent. Those applying may not have been staffed on a television show with more than 13 episodes, cannot have made more than one feature film or had more than two plays produced.
"The fellowship program is [an] avenue we use to access emerging talent while providing a unique opportunity to writers who are just getting started," Edwards said.
Last year, HBO tried a similar format focusing on directors. The HBOAccess Directing Fellowship produced four short films that will be aired on HBO Go and HBO On Demand this March.