HBO Access Writing Fellowship: Why it Wasn’t a Total Disaster

While working through the deluge of ideas floating around in my head this afternoon, and trying to ignore my overwhelming urge to eat a cookie, I did what any good writer would: I googled things to distract myself and came up with this article —

Diverse Writers Break the Internet: Ask HBO How Many

It’s short. Go ahead and read it if you want. I plan to quote from it if not.

So you understand more fully why an article about the HBO Access Diversity Writing Fellowship is of interest to me, some backstory. On March 4th — the day in question — I logged into Without A Box at 11am central time and then spent the next two hours fighting a crashing website for a sliver of a chance that I might qualify for this fellowship.

After a lot of prayers and bargains and refreshing the (multiple) windows I had open, I finally got a confirmation page that my application had gone through.

When I went to Twitter, riding the high of actually making it under the wire, and searched the hashtag #hboaccess, I noticed something pretty unsurprising, but a little disappointing. There were 1000 applicants accepted, and for every one of them there were ten people flipping off HBO and cursing the entire program because they didn’t make it.

There were a lot of questions about how this could have been avoided. Why this happened. What it meant. But there were also a lot of (understandably) angry writers who felt like they had lost out on a major opportunity.

I am not the most diverse woman. I am white. I am straight. I am middle class. Some might say I should have left this for the more diverse, and those people have a right to that opinion. But that opinion is based on prejudice. Because whether I should get to or not, I qualified.

And I would do it again in a heartbeat, because of statements like this one:

…the limited bandwidth of Without A Box serves as a metaphor for the career trajectory of many diverse writers in America: There is only so much room for people like you here. I don’t think it’s hyperbole to say diverse writers are explicitly told this again and again. By fellowships like these, yes, but also by literary magazines and publishing houses and art galleries and academia and so on and so forth. It’s real.

Even white, straight woman like me are discriminated against in the film industry and publishing world. We are taken less seriously or made to feel shitty about our writing. And what’s worse, the window is narrowing, and soon, there may not be enough room for us to fight for the right to Write. The playing field is a swarm of talented people banging on the door until their knuckles are bloody. Banging, and being ignored.

Hollywood continues to finance reboots because they are a sure thing.

Publishers continue to buy shit because it sells.

Original content rarely makes it through the door.

Readers and viewers complain about the crap they are given. Readers and viewers, nevertheless, consume it.

I am diverse because I am still the minority in the Film Industry. I am deserving of a chance to place my name at the top of the stack. I’ve been working a long time to get published. I’ve been writing screenplays since I was a child. I am dedicated and I am sick of the bullshit.

More and more creatives are turning to self-publishing, to YouTube, to indie pub or indie films, to teaching, or to crying into a bowl of ice cream and lamenting the life and death of their dreams.

Fighting back starts with believing you deserve to win.

I believe it for myself, whether I am an abysmal failure or a soaring success. Maybe even more when I look around and realize none of these fuckers is buying what I’m selling. I don’t stop pushing it. I push harder.

What the HBO application process taught me was simple: I want it bad enough to act a fool to get it. I better keep acting a fool.  I better bloody up my knuckles pounding on that door, and then I better go back to the drawing board and up my game because if I don’t someone else will. And then who can I blame but myself?

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