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OPEN DOORS - Don't Leave Money On The Table: Today's Bets On Diverse Content Are Paying Off

Posted By Sasheen R. Artis, Friday, February 9, 2018

I recently had a lovely conversation with a young PGA member who hadn’t heard about the Producers Guild’s Power of Diversity Master Workshop. He made it clear to me that he didn’t think the program was necessary, given “the success of so many ‘diverse’ films and television shows.” However, when I challenged him on whether he had produced a project that was either “woman-led” (i.e., female director or lead character) or represented an underserved voice (i.e., a story from the disabled community or different ethnicity, religion or veteran), he said no. “Why not?” I replied. “With the success of movies like Wonder Woman, Get Out, Girls Trip and Coco, and TV shows like black-ish or The Good Doctor, not producing an inclusive story is like leaving money on the table.” Needless to say, the conversation ended soon after, but it got me thinking.

Even with success, diverse storytellers still face tremendous barriers to get their projects made. So why does the industry often leave money on the table?

It starts with access. In a relationship-driven business where executives and producers hire people they know or who remind them of themselves, opportunities for those who appear different are few and far between. The Power of Diversity Master Workshop tackles this major hurdle with a simple introduction.

PGA National Executive Director/COO Vance Van Petten with
Workshop Co-Chairs Sasheen Artis and Julie Janata and
Class of 2017 mentors and participants.

The Workshop is a free, eight-week summer program that offers Master Classes headlined by some of today’s top producers and provides one-on-one mentoring with PGA members. Past speakers have included Lori McCreary, Gary Lucchesi, Bruce Cohen, Mark Gordon, Bruna Papandrea, Marshall Herskovitz, Shonda Rhimes, Damon Lindelof, Paris Barclay, Caryn Mandabach, Lindsay Doran, Luis Barreto, Ali LeRoi and Bonnie Arnold. Open to PGA members and nonmembers alike, only 10 projects are selected each year. This ensures an intimate environment where high-level producers are introduced to emerging and mid-career producers seeking to tell authentically diverse stories with commercial appeal. Speakers listen to participants’ pitches, give constructive feedback and decide if they want to read the scripts. Fostering new relationships is an important step in getting more diverse stories produced.

With new relationships formed in the workshop, our 2017 alumni have already started moving their projects forward. For example, Paula Wood partnered with PGA member Bhavani Rao and organized a table read for her film, Blind Courage, hosted by casting director and PGA member David Kang. PGA member and army veteran Brian McLaughlin drafted his industry friends and organized a table read for his film, Scylla Dilemma. Lavetta Cannon’s TV show, Mahogany, is currently in development with PGA producer Eleonore Dailly. These projects as well as the numerous documentaries, web series and immersive experiences from more than 100 workshop alumni will come soon to a theater, TV or VR headset near you.

For more information on how you can get involved with the Power of Diversity Master Workshop, visit The final deadline to apply is March 5.  


Writer/Producer Sasheen R. Artis serves as Co-Chair of the PGA’s Power of Diversity Master Workshop.

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