Catastrophic Fail: The Day HBO and Withoutabox Underestimated Armies Of Diverse And Female Writers

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By Angela Dee – Look. We live in a time where everyone knows that there needs to be a change in the entertainment industry. We need to see more women and minorities on TV and in our movies. We need their voices. There is a huge gap in the market that must be – needs to be – filled. We all seem to finally agree on this point, right? Good. And yesterday, HBO attempted to make a difference by launching the HBO Access Emerging Writers Fellowship geared solely towards diverse and female writers.

If you are a woman or a person of color and you are a writer you already knew this and you probably spent the better part of your day trying to apply… BUT, LIKE ME AND ALMOST EVERY WOMAN I KNOW, YOU COULDN’T APPLY BECAUSE THE SITE WENT DOWN!

At first I thought it was just me and my stupid internet connection. So, while waiting for the page to load yet again I skipped over to Facebook to bide my time. There I saw a post by a friend of mine:

“Is anyone else trying to submit to this HBO thing and having a nervous breakdown because Withoutabox isn’t working????”

So! It wasn’t just idiot-me. I tried a few more times to get the page to load to no avail. Then I headed over to Twitter, made a snarky comment, and was instantly retweeted. I checked out the main page and noticed that my feed was flooded with panicked rants from all of the talented people I know trying, like me, to apply to the fellowship but meeting blank pages, never-ending page-loads, and in some cases getting all the way to the final, excruciating process of application… only to lose the connection and start all over again.

Why is this a big deal? Well, I’ll tell you!

There are some people (a LOT) in the industry who say that there would be more diversity in TV and film if there weren’t such a dearth of diverse writers. Especially when it comes to women. There’s all this nonsense being spouted about how women need to “Lean In” and hold their ground in this man’s world; that when it comes to women writers “at the end of the day there just aren’t that many, really”; “women just don’t put themselves out there”; and then, just to make a good point even better they’ll say some nonsense about child-rearing, self-confidence, blahblahblah.


I don’t understand where these people are looking for their talent because I can tell you right now that there is an absolute army of women writers ready to go – they’ve got pilots, they’ve got sketches, spec-scripts, movies, younameit. They’re probably triple/quadruple/quintuple-threats and can act, sing, direct, edit, shoot, write, produce, spin-plates, stand on their heads… and yesterday we proved it by crashing HBO/withoutabox’s application site.

And on one level, that’s great, right?! Oh wow! So many people tried to apply that we just couldn’t handle the volume!

But, for the record, I do not know a single person who succeeded in applying for this bleedin’ fellowship. And as far as I’m concerned that’s simply not good enough. It’s insulting to think that a huge company (HBO) working with a worldwide application site (withoutabox) that deals with submissions to Sundance, Cannes, Berlin and other HUGE festivals just simply could not handle the volume of writers inspired to apply. If the site can handle applications to Sundance, guys, it can handle this, OK?!

So, the cynic in me thinks that this is all just a publicity stunt to generate attention to HBO Access so that when they announce the winners (who have probably already been chosen… see? Cynical!) that they will have generated a nice amount of buzz without spending a penny.

I really hope that’s not the case.

But, what I really want to say – and it’s something you can hear me saying on a daily basis if you know me – is that there is absolutely no reason there isn’t a wealth of shows with women and people of color writing them, directing them, starring in them, shooting them, and producing them. And hopefully yesterday – unless of course it was a blood-boiling marketing strategy – we proved once and for all that we are out here, we have content, and we want to make our shows.

So. Attention all networks! Are you looking for something new? Something fresh? Want a hot new, undiscovered writer to create an incredible show for you? You should copy HBO and set up a fellowship where you can bring on female/diverse writers and have them develop their amazing shows. It’s a great idea! And apparently there are so MANY of us out here that you’ll have a wealth of material to investigate. Help US help YOU! But, if you do set up a fellowship make sure your stupid website can handle the application traffic. It’s not the Affordable Healthcare Act. There can’t be 8 million people clamoring for this opportunity (can there?).

Also, love you HBO!

About The Contributor

AngelaDee_headshotBritish born actor and writer Angela Dee is the accomplished, creative force behind Rack & Ruin, a binge-worthy web comedy series that made its streaming debut this summer on WYSKTV.

Angela was recently declared an Agent of Change, one of “5 Inspiring Women Worthy Of Your Attention Right Now,” by the Huffington Post.

Her other impressive titles include: WYSK, Funny Lady, Badass-Brit-Turned-Brooklynite, Smart Girl At The Party, Puppet Master To Saffron Lamb.

  • gargouille

    This is a great commentary on a sad, ridiculous, and despicable state of affairs. Yet, sometimes I love when things fail this spectacularly and publicly. It makes it harder for people to say it is not true. So, if there was any doubt, now we know. The giant entertainment industries *think* there is not enough diverse talent because they *ignore* the diverse talent and then snap at the hand that extends when they finally, far too late in human history, invite her to show up and, with the grace the non-privileged always have to have, she accepts the too-late invitation and tries to upload an application. Sigh…but for goodness sake, I hope they get the site up and running!!!