As TV Seeks Diverse Writing Ranks, Rising Demand Meets Short Supply

Life is just one damn thing after another. Take diversity and the problems that it – and its solutions – can cause:

by Cara Buckley

Dailyn Rodriguez, a veteran writer and producer, said she wasn’t necessarily looking to work on a new show for the coming season. But she suddenly found herself in high demand, her agents constantly fielding calls about her availability.

She was what one Hollywood executive called a “unicorn” — not just a Latina, but one who had risen through the television ranks.

“They told me, ‘We’re scrambling, because there’s like five of you, and they’re all working,’” said Ms. Rodriguez, who turned down other offers to remain a producer of “Queen of the South.”

With dozens of shows now in production, television executives are hustling to diversify their writers’ rooms, the hidden nuclei of Hollywood where stories, dialogue and characters are born, and where the showrunners of tomorrow are created.

In more than three dozen interviews, writers, producers, and studio and network executives said heightened scrutiny in the wake of #OscarsSoWhite and other controversies has led to the concerted push, particularly for women of color in senior positions.

A deluge of shows in this age of peak TV, with Netflix, Amazon, HBO and other services greenlighting new offerings almost daily, has also stoked demand. Many of these new series have people of color and women as lead characters, in turn pushing minorities and women to the center of the writing staff, a major step forward for writers who say they have long felt like window dressing.

There is also a hunger to replicate the success of shows like “Empire,” “Jane the Virgin” and “Power”; to discover the next Lee DanielsAva DuVernay or Shonda Rhimes; or to cultivate critical darlings like Issa Rae and Donald Glover.

“Everyone is eager to find that person,” said Christy Haubegger, an agent at Creative Artists Agency who focuses on diversity. Ms. Haubegger has fielded so many requests for experienced writers of color that she recently created an online database, so networks and producers could look for themselves. “The demand has been that high,” she said. “I can’t service everybody in town.”

But a major reason these seasoned writers are suddenly batting away job offers is that relatively few are in the supply chain. It is a problem of Hollywood’s own making.

Plenty of minority and female writers are looking for jobs, but may be unknown to or overlooked by showrunners, unrepresented by agencies, or seen as lacking in experience. “The pool is wide but not deep” is a common refrain….

Read it all at The New York Times

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