Managers and agents are signing writers from underrepresented backgrounds in record numbers as the industry is finally taking strides to become more inclusive and diverse.
Diverse Voices is a screenplay competition and lab that strives to encourage stories that are told from perspectives that are often underrepresented in Hollywood today. This includes writers of color, women writers, writers with disabilities, writers over 40, writers in the LGBTQ+ community, and any other voices that have historically been ignored by Hollywood.
A couple of cool things about this program: since it started in 2015, Diverse Voices has raised over $40,000 for various nonprofit organizations and over a dozen past winners have been signed, staffed, and optioned. All readers for this competition come from diverse backgrounds, and all entrants will receive a page of written feedback on their script from their first round’s judge.
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Talitha Watkins is President and Head of ColorCreative Management – a management and production company. ColorCreative was founded by Issa Rae and Deniese Davis with the mission of delivering women and people-of-color creators best-in-class representation to build career-defining brands through ownership, commercial success, artistic fulfillment, and visibility amongst the multicultural community and industry at large. Previously, Talitha Watkins served as a Motion Picture Agent and Cultural Executive at CAA, where she represented many of the world’s leading producers, directors and actors. Additionally, Watkins helped build out the agency’s multicultural business and capabilities including the multicultural leadership community and event, CAAAmplify.
Rhys Ernst was a Producer and Director on Amazon’s TRANSPARENT and created the title sequence for the series. He was nominated for a 2015 Emmy Award for directing and producing the webseries TRANSPARENT: THIS IS ME. In 2016 he teamed up with Focus Features to create the online series, WE'VE BEEN AROUND. Rhys' debut feature film, ADAM, premiered at the Sundance 2019 Film Festival, won awards at Outfest, Oslo Fusion, and the Mezipatra Film Festival, and was nominated for a 2020 GLAAD award. Ernst has shown work at the Whitney Biennial, the Sundance Film Festival, Oberhausen, the Ann Arbor Film Festival, The Walker and The Hammer Museums; he has won two Special Recognition GLAAD Awards as well as awards at Outfest, Chicago International Film Festival, the L.A. and the Seattle Transgender Film Festivals. He has been awarded fellowships from the Point Foundation, Film Independent’s Project Involve, Sundance FilmTwo, and the Universal Director’s Initiative. He was awarded the 2015 Point Foundation Horizon Award and the ACLU Liberty Award for his work on transgender representation in the media.
Charlie is a screenwriter and journalist who is deaf and grew up in a deaf family. He's recently written for BBC programmes such as CASUALTY, EASTENDERS, and on new series for CBBC and CBeebies. He was a member of The BBC Writers Room's first Writer Access Group. His work as a writer/director includes the BSL comedy sketch show DEAF FUNNY, the Found documentaries, the FOUR DEAF YORKSHIREMEN comedies, and hit short film THE KISS. He's also penned the award-winning TV dramas MY SONG and DEPARTURE LOUNGE, rude mockumentary HANDS SOLO, the mini-series THE FINGERSPELLERS and YouTube smash COMING OUT. He makes ground-breaking dramas, comedies and documentaries, often with Deaf people and sign language at their heart.
Michael is a DGA Director and Creative Producer heading up the diversity initiatives at Jax Media. He made his feature film debut with the Lionsgate distributed film YOU'RE NOBODY TIL SOMEBODY KILLS YOU, and he has directed the digital episodic series SOLE KINGS for BRIC TV and BLACK ACTRESS for Issa Rae Productions. He wrote and directed THE TRADE, the Award-Winning film about sex trafficking, now on Amazon Prime. His recent directorial assignments were the pilot for BLUE FLAME, a new series about an all-female undercover police unit and GOD BLESS YOU, an urban drama that has gotten over 2 Million views on Youtube. Michael got his start as an assistant director on films such as INSIDE MAN and PRECIOUS as well as TV shows like BROAD CITY and LAW & ORDER CI before transitioning to writing and directing.
Jen Ray is a manager at Heroes and Villians Entertainment who provides equal parts career management and editorial/development services to screenwriting clients, with an emphasis on helping young writers break into Hollywood and advocating for unique female voices. Her clients are known for projects such as SAUSAGE PARTY, HACKSAW RIDGE, POWER RANGERS (2017), INTO THE DARK, and more. Jen also produced the independent feature film FOR A GOOD TIME, CALL which premiered at the Sundance Film Festival and sold to Focus Features.
The Diverse Voices Lab is a one-of-a-kind lab experience. Writers chosen for the lab will have a long weekend PACKED with workshops to hone their craft, mentorship calls with working writers, and general meetings with studio execs, literary reps, and more. It’s truly a once-in-a-lifetime experience for any emerging screenwriter.
This lab has directly led to writers getting staffed, signing with their dream reps, and more!
Additionally, the winners get access to ongoing mentorship from WeScreenplay including an initial phone call, guidance for drafting query letters, research methods for finding the right representation, prep before big meetings, and strategic planning for next steps in their careers — all based on the writer’s specific goals.
A portion of every single Diverse Voices submission is donated to charity. Since the program was launched in 2015, Diverse Voices has raised over $40,000 for various nonprofit organizations including those listed below. THANK YOU to all the amazing writers who’ve helped us get there.
Founded by Ava DuVernay, Array is an independent film distribution and resource collective comprised of artist advocacy organizations, maverick volunteers, and rebel member donors worldwide. Their work is dedicated to the amplification of independent films by people of color and women filmmakers globally.
Hollywood HEART is a nonprofit organization that empowers young people through the arts, building supportive communities and safe environments that cultivate confidence, creativity, and self-esteem. Hollywood HEART serves an expanding list of LGBTQ+ youth, underhoused youth, and youth affected by HIV/AIDS. They bring the arts to life through online programming, in-person workshops, and their annual summer camp, creating opportunities for collaboration, exploration and expression.
Check out more of our Writers’ Successes.
After winning the Fall 2020 Diverse Voices Competition, Phylicia worked with the WeScreenplay team to target reps and prep for specific meetings, landing literary rep with Issa Rae's new company ColorCreative!
“Being a part of this community has opened my eyes to the magic that can come from collaboration and how powerful you can become when other people are supporting you. I am so grateful everything Sarah and WeScreenplay have done for me and it was a true bright spot of 2020!”
Congratulations to Diverse Voices Fall 2020 Finalist, Brianna Adams, for signing with Literary Managers at Echo Lake Entertainment. She placed with her one hour pilot THE BLACK WALL STREET.
“There is not one way to break into this industry. So try everything. Apply to festivals and fellowships, reach out to alumni, friends, friends of friends. Your third cousins’ sister-in-law. There are multiple paths to this industry, which can be a blessing and curse.”
Jai Jamison won the Spring 2020 WeScreenplay Diverse Voices Competition with his race-bending Superman pilot THE AMERICAN WAY before getting staffed on the new CW show SUPERMAN & LOIS.
“Submitting to contests is a great way to make sure your writing is sharp and clear before you send it out to the industry. Winning the Diverse Voices Lab was great because it put me on the radar for a lot of folks and introduced me to the great team at WeScreenplay who have been fantastic (and very patient) resources for me. I’m now staffed on SUPERMAN & LOIS and signed with great managers at Kaplan / Perrone!”
Nevil Jackson was a Spring 2018 Diverse Voices finalist with his comedy pilot THE HILL. After placing as a finalist, he signed with Zero Gravity Management after WeScreenplay introduced them.
“I think one of the things standing between many writers and their goals is access. There’s plenty of talented writers who’ve yet to get their shot because they can’t get their work in front of the people making the decisions. Entering WeScreenplay got me my management.”
After winning the Spring 2019 Diverse Voices contest, WeScreenplay worked with Dallas Rico to set up meetings with execs and managers before he was staffed on an HBO series.
“Make your writing as polished as possible. I see so many aspiring writers out here, desperate to get read by an exec, yet their work is not even ready to share. You want your script to be so remarkable that when an exec finally reads it they have no choice but to meet this undeniably talented writer.”
Fall 2020 Diverse Voices Finalist, Sam Josephs, has signed with a Literary Manager at Stride Management. They placed as a finalist with their one hour pilot PANSY CRAZE.
“I know my work isn’t for everyone, so I wanted a contest that was looking for fresh bold voices. I was looking to put my work out there to get some feedback and hoped for the best for anything else. That’s why I submitted to WeScreenplay!”
A FREE, 1-page mini-version of our phenomenal coverage from the entry’s first round judge, including their scores!
*Note: You can upgrade your free Judges Notes to the full, 4-page Classic Notes for an additional $55!
A new reader and another full read for every script that makes it to this round.
*Note: You can upgrade to include Judges Notes for $49.99!
Another new reader and another full read for every script that makes it to this round … and you are welcome to submit an updated version of your script for only $5.
All scripts that make it to this round will be read internally by the WeScreenplay team as well as by our industry jury. Scores will not be provided for this round, as judging will be discussed privately.
The top scripts as selected by the industry jury and WeScreenplay team! We’ll be reaching out to the winners for inclusion in our Diverse Voices Lab, which has resulted in numerous signings, collaborations, and staffings.