Warner Bros. Walks Back Cutbacks After Workshop Blowback

Following outrage over the belt-tightening’s impact on communities of color, the studio claims it’s revamping instead

When Warner Bros. Discovery layoffs hit the Warner Bros.Television Workshop program on Tuesday—an initiative supporting diversity and up-and-coming directors and writers—outrage was swift in the entertainment stratosphere.

The Director’s Guild of America was just one of the many voices denouncing WBD’s decision, saying in an official statement on Wednesday, “The DGA will not stand idly by while WB/Discovery seeks to roll back decades of advancement for women and Directors of color.”

Now, apparently in response to blowback it took following the decision, Warner Bros. is announcing a renewed commitment to diversity. As reported by the Los Angeles Times, Warner Bros. Television Chairman Channing Dungey said in a Tuesday email to staff, “While we will no longer have these formalized programs in place, we remain committed to developing and mentoring emerging talent.”

In an official statement released on Wednesday, meanwhile, WBD insisted the Workshop would be rebranded and housed within the company’s Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion unit, not lost altogether. 

Still, the initial dissolution of the workshop, along with Stage 13—another program emphasizing diverse voices—is a grim addition to roughly 100 layoffs affecting workers at WBD earlier in September. The decision is also an unsettling echo of the ongoing diversity situation in Hollywood, given the fact that both dissolved initiatives are thought to be a major force of support for emerging writers to break into the predominantly white business.

According to UCLA’s Hollywood Diversity report, people of color remain underrepresented among white counterparts in director and writer roles. Citing the work that still needs to be done, particularly for women of color in Hollywood, UCLA’s director of research and civic engagement Ana-Christina Ramon noted, “They again lag behind in getting those major jobs as directors of top films.”

It’s a disparity that has fueled the #OscarsSoWhite movement that first began in 2015, as well as ongoing criticism of the gender pay gap that permeates Hollywood film culture and discourse. 

WBD’s announcement of the decision to revamp the workshops as part of their broader DEI unit offered few specifics on what this might mean for the program’s future. 

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