Warner Bros. Discovery will now keep its Writers and Directors Workshops and fold them into its Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Unit after industry backlash, including from the Director’s Guild of America on Wednesday, that the program championing diverse voices would be shuttered as part of cost-cutting moves.
WBD’s chief DEI officer Asif Sadiq will partner with Warner Bros. Television upon the completion of the current workshop class and will work to grow the program. The announcement from Warner Bros. Discovery came shortly after a statement on Wednesday from the DGA that the guild would “fight” against the decision to dismantle the program and said that including it is mandated as part of the guild’s collective bargaining agreement.
“This program was established as the result of the Guild’s decades of work to pressure the Studios to diversify their hiring practices,” the DGA said in part in a statement. “It is unconscionable that proven efforts to diversify our industry are so quickly and cavalierly sacrificed. We have been in contact with WB and have received their commitment to work with us to remedy this important matter. We will do everything in our power to make sure they do so.”
Warner Bros. Discovery says in its announcement that the workshop programs are being rebranded and now expanded across its entire content portfolio rather than just TV, though it added that WBTV will continue to be an important partner for the workshop. It added that while the original workshops were not developed with a unique diversity lens, these programs will now operate with a focus specifically on diversity, equity and inclusion.
Despite the reports on Tuesday that the program would close, an individual with knowledge of the situation told TheWrap the company always planned to shutter the WBTV workshops and fold them into the DEI corporate unit but intended to hold the announcement of the rebranded program until near the end of the current workshop class. However, they “didn’t anticipate” the backlash that they appeared to be stifling diversity and inclusion, so the launch of the rebranded program was accelerated. The individual further stressed that the new program will now have the express mission of supporting DEI efforts rather than just supporting emerging writers and directors broadly.
“By continuing this successful WBTV initiative through the DEI division, we ensure that Warner Bros. Discovery’s continued commitment to training and development continues. Additionally, this is a strong example of how DEI plans to leverage our recently announced Creative Council to best align with our internal partners in maintaining our commitment to infuse our pipeline with diverse storytellers,” Asif Sadiq, Warner Bros. Discovery CDEIO, said in a statement. “As we solidify the agenda and scope of the Council, we are excited to be able to expand this important initiative alongside our other efforts providing opportunities for underrepresented creatives.”
“Including the Writers and Directors Workshop within the scope of our current DEI pipeline programs, which include development opportunities for music supervisors, comedic voices and showrunners among others, will allow for a broader and more intense DEI focus and yield an even larger pool of cohorts to benefit from the experience and exposure we provide,” senior VP for diversity, equity and inclusion Karen Horne added. “We are encouraged by this chance to house this long-standing WBTV effort to impact the industry with emerging talent within the DEI team.”
Katie Campione contributed to this report.