Less than 24 hours after the formwork long-running workshops of writers and directors from Warner Bros. Television Group sparked outcry and lamentations from industry creatives – and a challenge from the Directors Guild of America – Discovery of Warner Bros. announced that the workshops were not dead after all: they were simply moved from the TV division to the company’s DEI team.
Karen Horne, Senior Vice President of WBD, now US Head of DEI under team leadership recent restructuringsays she had made it clear to management that her goal was still to unify the company’s pipeline programs under the DEI division (the WBD Access portfolio already includes development programs in categories such as animation, comedy, games, news and sports, post-production and unscripted) and that she would ensure there was a home for all entry-level television writing and directing workshops .
Horne joined WarnerMedia in 2020 to oversee pipeline programs, having done the same during a lengthy stint at NBCUniversal and before that Nickelodeon and Disney. At the NBCU, she started programs such as Emerging women strikers and directors, which set new standards for pipeline programs in the industry by guaranteeing participants episodic employment. She spoke with The Hollywood Reporter what the old WBTV workshops will look like under new management.
When can we expect workshops to resume?
We’ll try to stick as closely as possible to the current workshop schedule, but I’m not going to commit to saying that it’s exactly the same schedule. Productions now run year-round, and while the current schedule has benefited broadcast, we don’t have to make sure that’s the case on the writing or directing side. In addition, the program will develop under our supervision. It will be just as robust but arguably much broader as we will also be working with our partners TNet, HBO Max – for which much of the Warner Bros. produces programs anyway. I want to make sure we’re not fighting against a schedule just to do this, but really building a bigger, more robust platform.
Will workshop changes potentially include expansion beyond episodic storylines?
For the directing program, absolutely. My team was already looking to develop an unscripted directing program. We had also discussed with the Discovery teams for a scripted side showrunner program [Editor’s note: WBD Access launched a showrunner program for mid- to senior-level writers in April] and we would also like to create something like that unscripted. We really want to work with Discovery to grow even better.
Do you retain workshop staff?
The WBTV crew was two people and they won’t be joining my crew, I don’t have the manpower to have them, but in addition to me, Grace Moss now runs the Pipeline programs – she worked with me at NBC on Female Forward. We now have a bigger team at Pipeline. We have more programs, but as part of the restructuring, we will make sure we have more staff.
Does the new “DEI specific focus” mean that workshops will now be open only to candidates from historically excluded backgrounds?
We review submissions blindly. When we read a script, no one knows what material we are reading – same thing when we watch material. We always open submissions to everyone. We’re widening our nets enough to make sure we’re really targeting these historically underrepresented groups. We also like to partner with various organizations such as NALIP and NAACP to help champion their talents. We will send them specific notices, but they are open to everyone.
Now that the company’s DEI team instead of WBTV is bearing the costs of the workshops, will there be a change in their budget?
I don’t know what their costs were. I don’t know if they will be the same. As we redevelop these programs to be bigger and broader, the costs may be higher – but as I have a great knowledge of running these programs, they may be less expensive.
I think WBTV had the budget to pay the writers to be on the show staff. [Editor’s note: Traditionally, networks or studios pay the staff writer salary for writers staffed from their diversity or pipeline programs, which often led to writers not being re-hired once they were no longer affiliated with the program.] I do not have this budget and I do not believe in this practice. When someone has an episode [on Female Forward or the Emerging Directors programs], the show paid for it, not NBC. We will pay for directors to follow, but not for [their episodic directing fee]and no company should pay for a writer to be recruited.
Were there plans to move the workshops to WBD Access before we saw the outcry over their cancellation yesterday – or the DGA statement to fight the move?
I’ve been advocating for writers and directors for over 20 years, so you can imagine how crazy my calls got yesterday. It was hard for me to see that. And I have a great relationship with the DGA through the Female Forward and Emerging Directors programs – I’ve been on those collective bargaining calls and diversity meetings, been on the diversity council . They were really happy to hear that it was going to be under our watch.
People say it’s a U-turn. When I arrived, the goal was to unify our disparate diversity or pipeline programs. This has always been our plan: to bring these efforts together in one pipeline team. It’s not really as much of a U-turn as it looks.