Warner Bros. Discovery is reversing a significant decision made earlier this week to scuttle its Stage 13 pipeline program for upcoming directors and writers.
Initially, the massively debt-riddled company was going to fold it as another cost-cutting measure, and when news of this move broke there was immediate backlash.
When he covered the story at first, ex-Hollywood Reporter Editor and Puck News founder Matthew Belloni called it a “Big setback for Hollywood’s diversity movement.”
BIG news: Warner Bros. is shutting down its Writers/Directors Workshop and Stage 13 unit. Both are major paths for underrepresented voices in television. Big setback for Hollywood's diversity movement.
— Matthew Belloni (@MattBelloni) October 11, 2022
After only a day, the worm turned and WBD issued a statement explaining that the Stage 13 program will end but they are not doing away with the writer and director workshops.
Belloni noted this in a follow-up tweet sharing a screenshot of the company’s official announcement.
New: Warner Bros Discovery now says its TV writer/director workshops will continue and move over to its DEI unit. Stage 13 still gone… pic.twitter.com/7dQ7Emqgwc
— Matthew Belloni (@MattBelloni) October 12, 2022
The workshops, once directly supervised by WB Television, will be an initiative housed at the Warner Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion division going forward.
Expanded across the content portfolio over time, the hope is the pipeline program will build on the “success” of the prior incarnation.
While it seems that the company simply changed its mind, that’s not the whole story. WBD is actually acting in response to pressure from the Director’s Guild of America which favored the Stage 13 program.
Invoking a collective bargaining agreement, the DGA said in a statement via THR that they would fight Warner on shutting the pipeline down.
“The DGA announced today its commitment to fight against Warner Bros. Discovery’s decision to dismantle its TV directors’ development program,” the union said.
“The DGA will not stand idly by while WB/Discovery seeks to roll back decades of advancement for women and directors of color,” their statement added.
They claimed WBD’s original plan to end the system violated Section 15-203 of the DGA’s 2014 Basic Agreement.
“On or before July 1, 2014, each of the major television studios (i.e., ABC, CBS, Fox, NBC, Sony Pictures Television, and Warner Bros. Television) (the ‘Major Television Studios’) will establish and maintain a Television Director Development Program designed to expand opportunities for Directors in episodic television with an emphasis on increasing diversity,” the Agreement says.
WBTV workshops for writers began 40 years ago while the director version of the program goes back to 2013. They weren’t specifically geared toward diversity and equity but from now on “They will now operate with a specific DEI focus.”
After Warner announced they were keeping and moving the program to its DEI division, the DGA issued a new statement that said how pleased they were with Warner’s decision but added the union will be “watching closely” for the results.
“The DGA is pleased to see that Warner Bros. Discovery has responded to our concerns, however, the proof will be in how the new program structure effectively addresses directorial diversity, equity, and inclusion,” the new statement reads. “We will be watching closely to ensure they follow through with their commitment.”