That isn’t exactly the question the following article is asking. But it’s definitely the 500 pound elephant in the (writers?) room:
Diversifying television with tax credits for the writer’s room
by Jenna Flanagan
Anyone watching television has certainly noticed an increase in the diversity of the casts of most scripted television shows. But what about behind the scenes? The Innovation Trail’s Jenna Flanagan finds out how new legislation in Albany aims to incentivize diversity at the very genesis of most television shows. The writer’s room.
Saturday Night Live made national headlines when Sasheer Zamata joined the cast making her the only African-American woman hired by the show in six years. What wasn’t as widely reported were the additions of LaKendra Tookes and Leslie Jones to the shows writing staff.
“It’s very hard for women and people of color to get their first or second or third jobs writing for TV and film.”
That’s Lowell Peterson, Executive Director of the Writers Guild of America East, a union 4-thousand strong and fully supportive of Assembly bill 7373 and State Senate bill 5370.
These two pieces of legislation aim to increase the diversity amongst productions’ writing staff by modifying the state’s existing production tax credit. Production companies that hired women or people of color would be able to write off a portion of their salaries up to 3-point-5-million dollars a year or 50-thousand dollars per writer.
Peterson says if the legislation went through, it would really set New York apart in television and film production.
“There are no other states that currently provide an incentive to hire women or people of color to write and we think that’s a mistake. We think New York has a historic opportunity to do the right thing here.”
He says getting work as a staff writer is rare, and studio heads tend to hire people they know. Historically, that’s meant white and male, but if more writers had the opportunity to ‘get a shot’, Peterson believes more writers could develop careers in a highly competitive field.