‘Hire Disabled Writers, Not Just a Disability Consultant,’ Demands Letter From Dozens of Creators
The Inevitable Foundation, an organization which helps disabled screenwriters reach their full commercial and creative potential, has released an open letter to the entertainment industry asking producers to hire disabled creatives for their film and television projects.
Written by the organization’s co-founders Richie Siegel and Marisa Torelli-Pedevska, the letter is signed by creatives including Marlee Matlin, “CODA” director Sian Heder, “A Quiet Place” star Millicent Simonds and “Grey’s Anatomy” showrunner Krista Vernoff.
In the letter, the foundation is offering several solutions to the issue of disabled screenwriters often not getting jobs writing about disabled characters but rather being hired as low-paid diversity consultants.
The letter reads as follows:
The growing number of disability-inclusive film and television projects in the past few years might lead one to think that the largest minority group in America is finally seeing itself represented on-screen.
But these on-screen gains have unfortunately not increased disability representation off-screen: The vast majority of films and television shows with disabled characters are still created, written, directed, and produced by people who do not identify as disabled. Authentic casting, a well-intended focus of the industry in recent years, is still not a replacement for having disabled talent in positions of power on a project.
Despite making up more than 20% of the U.S. population, disabled writers represent only 0.15% of first-look and overall deals, 3% of upper-level television writers, and less than 1% of the Writers Guild of America. There are so few disabled directors in the Directors Guild of America that they don’t track the data.
One of the biggest reasons for the imbalance between on-screen and off-screen disability representation is that the industry has turned to disability consultants to advise on a range of disability related issues, characters and themes on projects. The goal of this solution is often well-intentioned: To bring people with expertise and lived experience to the table.
But the hiring of disability consultants is often done instead of — not in addition to — hiring disabled writers, directors and producers to lead these projects, which has significantly impeded the career advancement and earnings of disabled creatives. For example, a disability consultant who is offered $500 on a project to provide notes on multiple drafts of a script and to advise on various representation issues — an above-average rate for a disability consultant — would earn just 1% of the salary of a staff writer who is working in a 16-week writers room, according to the rates in the soon-to-expire WGA minimum basic agreement.
This situation has created a paradox: Disabled writers, directors, and actors are rarely hired to work on projects that feature disabled characters because studios and production companies have prioritized hiring disability consultants. At the same time, the industry often sees disabled creatives as only worth considering for projects that have disabled characters, and they’re rarely considered for projects that leverage their unique perspectives and life experience beyond their disability. This perpetual employment limbo leaves disabled creatives without agency over their own stories or careers.
But we can all be part of the solution by working together to unlock the vast creative potential of disabled writers, directors, actors and producers.
Today Inevitable Foundation is launching the Hire Disabled Writers, Not Just A Disability Consultant initiative, which offers disabled creatives and the industry at large equitable and innovative solutions to work together towards building creative power for disabled artists.
Solution: Hire Disabled Writers
To support the hiring of disabled writers and directors, Inevitable’s Concierge service is a free, widely-used resource for creative executives, showrunners, and producers, which connects them with wonderful mid- and upper-level disabled writers for development and staffing.
In the last year, the Concierge has fielded close to 500 requests from more than 140 different executives and showrunners, helped writers staff on top-notch shows and set up projects at major studios, generated hundreds of thousands of dollars in earnings for disabled writers, and set up over 125 general meetings at leading studios, networks, streamers and production companies.
Solution: Transform Disability Consulting
In order to advance the careers and artistic visions of disabled creatives, Inevitable Foundation’s Disabled Consultant Futures Fund radically increases the leverage of disabled creatives who are asked to consult by providing them a back-up offer to confidently negotiate to be hired as writers, directors and actors — their actual desired roles. If they aren’t able to achieve their desired role, the Fund will buy back their time by paying them 150% of the first offer to fund their own creative pursuits.
Resources for disabled consultants include a Schedule of Minimums, Bill of Rights, Contract Template, and Negotiating Points to give these creatives more leverage over the type and quality of work they take on. For creative executives, showrunners, producers and inclusive content teams, additional resources include the Disability Consulting Factsheet, Disability Consulting Briefings and Concierge Briefings to support this much-needed reform while balancing business and creative demands.
As an organization and a group of leading disabled and allied writers, actors, showrunners and producers in Hollywood, we are committed to putting disabled creatives in positions of power by hiring disabled writers, directors and producers, not just disability consultants.
Will you join us?
– Richie Siegel, Marisa Torelli-Pedevska
Co-Founders, Inevitable Foundation
With the support of:
Chris Cooper & Marianne Leone
Debra J. Fisher
Edward Kitsis & Adam Horowitz
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