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[Updated] Applying to HBO’s Diversity Writing Fellowship Was A Total Disaster For Everyone


Last week we were encouraged to see HBO seeking out diverse screenwriters as part of their new writing fellowship, but noted that it wasn’t without its faults. Now that the opening submission day has come and very quickly gone due to massive site blackouts and crashes, it’s abundantly clear that HBO did not think this program through pretty much at all.

Of course, it was always clear that HBO didn’t exactly know what it was doing here—the guidelines for what constituted an “emerging” writer in HBO’s eyes were odd and allowed a lot of already established writers access (“applicants may have previously served as staff writer for up to 13 episodes,” and “should not have more than 1 feature film released by a studio, independently or shown in major film festivals, or had 2 plays produced on or off Broadway”); accepted students were expected to basically pay their way to Los Angeles for eight months, which excludes a huge majority of people.

But the biggest concern was that HBO would close its submissions after it had received 1,000 applications, which is basically a drop in the bucket even when you consider how underrepresented people of color and women are as content creators in the TV industry. Not to mention that it’s basically unheard of—most fellowships accept many more than that.

It’s that last stipulation that got HBOAccess in trouble, as interested writers flocked to the Without a Box application portal so quickly and fervently today that the site completely collapsed. Basically, imagine the online wait trying to get a ticket to San Diego Comic Con, but a thousand times worse because you’re definitely a member of a marginalized group who already has a hard time catching a break in the industry and it probably feels like your career depends on you applying successfully.

But now that the site is up and running again, things should be okay, right?

So no, then.

Obviously everyone wishes the best to those who were able to apply (although, was there anyone?), but this shouldn’t have been as complicated and tedious a process as it actually was for so many eager, talented writers. If HBO learns anything from this, it should be that there are so many people of color and women who are ready to work if given the opportunity, and it’s probably easier to actually hire them rather than to make them all jump through hoops for the possibility of a job at the end of the tunnel.

Oh well. Better luck next year.

[Update] Some better news! Apparently now that’s a new cap for applicants. according to HBO:

“The site was unable to handle the volume of activity at the time of launch,” HBO said in a statement to Deadline. “Without A Box worked quickly to resolve the issue, but due to the overwhelming number of applicants the site is moving slowly. In response to the demand for the program, HBO will expand the number of applicants it will review and grant waivers to some who were unable to access the site at the time of launch. Applicants may request a waiver by sending an email to [email protected] with REQUEST FOR WAIVER in the subject line. Waivers will be granted on a first-come basis until the new cap is reached.”

Of course, we don’t know what the new cap is, but if you were planning on applying then it can’t hurt, right?

(via Indiewire, H/T Tina Nguyen of Mediaite)

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