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Hollywood's Inevitable Foundation Launches to Mentor and Fund Disabled Screenwriters

The foundation opened this round of Fellowships in early April and received hundreds of applications. 

Hollywood's Inevitable Foundation Launches to Mentor and Fund Disabled Screenwriters

Hollywood has a new entry into the entertainment industry's efforts to embrace diversity and inclusion with the launch of the Inevitable Foundation, whose mission is to fund and mentor the next generation of disabled screenwriters.

Founded by Richie Siegel and Marisa Torelli-Pedevska, both with personal connections to physical and developmental disabilities, the duo looks to provide funding for and facilitate meaningful mentoring of disabled writers in order to close the disability representation gap in film and television. Currently, people with disabilities make up 20% of the general population, but represent only 2% of characters on screen, and less than 1% of those writing in the industry.

"If we are able to empower disabled screenwriters and increase the number of them working in the industry, they will naturally create a bounty of opportunities for disabled actors to portray disabled characters, which will unleash authentic disability narratives across film and television.

The Inevitable Foundation has also announced its first two Screenwriting Fellows, providing disabled screenwriters with $25,000 grants and assistance in building relationships they need to succeed in the industry. Inaugural Inevitable Foundation fellows include Shani Am. Moore and Kalen Feeney.

Moore, the daughter of Jamaican immigrants, lives with Multiple Sclerosis, which she considers one of her greatest strengths. She grew up in the Bronx, and earned cum laude degrees from Princeton University, UC Berkeley, Stanford Law School, and UCLA Extension. In 2020, she quit a successful job as the first Black lead executive at Dolby to become a fulltime screenwriter, and has written for Hulu's "The Bold Type," and the Netflix series "Sweet Magnolias."

"I'm humbled, honored, and grateful that the Inevitable Foundation has chosen Kalen and me to represent our powerful community," said Moore. "Being disabled can be costly, and this generous grant, along with personalized mentoring, allows us to create in a way that serves us best: with an unstressed eye towards progress."

Feeney is a Deaf screenwriter who is fluent in English and American Sign Language. She earned a master's degree in screenwriting from Leeds Beckett University in the UK, and a certificate in television writing from UCLA Extension. Feeney has developed and taught screenwriting and playwriting workshops to Deaf participants in the USA, Canada, and England, and was a creative consultant on CBS' "CSI:NY" and ASL consultant on Freeform's "Switched At Birth."

"I am honored and excited to receive this special Inevitable Foundation Fellowship, which will enable me to pursue my vision of improving representation of deaf and disabled characters on-screen through writing," said Feeney. "I am also committed to diversity and inclusion, and want to help create opportunities for deaf and disabled people behind the scenes in positions such as writers, directors and crew members."

The foundation opened this round of Fellowships in early April and received hundreds of applications. More than 55% of applicants were non-male and 45% were non-white, which fits with the foundation's ongoing commitment to diversity, and their belief that "disability is diversity."

"There are significant financial, access and relationship barriers that keep disabled screenwriters from unlocking their full potential," said Torelli-Pedevska. "Disabled people are vastly under-resourced compared to their non-disabled peers, yet they require more resources to live comparable lives, and have just as much talent as those without disabilities."

Additional barriers include lack of accessible entry level jobs such as PAs, writers' assistants and executive assistants, which are typical industry entry points for non-disabled aspiring writers. These jobs can be challenging, if not impossible, for disabled writers to get, let alone use as a stepping-stone to higher-level positions. Disabled writers also are hindered by a lack of accessibility that consistently forces them to carry the burden of providing accommodations, such as access to interpreters and transportation resources. A recent report from the Think Tank for Inclusion and Equity on the television writing landscape stated that 93% of disabled writers surveyed were the only disabled person on staff, and 97% of writing rooms had no upper-level disabled writers, proof of the magnitude of the pipeline problem that Inevitable Foundation is focused on solving.

The idea for the Inevitable Foundation came about as a result of a number of conversations Torelli-Pedevska and Siegel had last fall. Informed by Torelli-Pedevska's work as screenwriter with a focus on stories with disabled characters, and Siegel's family connections to disability, they spent the fall researching the disability representation gap within film and television.

"To us, it all starts with the writing and the story," said Torelli-Pedevska. "Without disabled screenwriters telling stories that include authentic disabled characters, our lack of representation in film and television will never be resolved."

"Our goal is to drive impact now," added Siegel. "Our Fellows are writers that you can staff and buy projects from today, not five to 10 years from now. We're investing significant financial resources in and leveraging relationships for writers who will help diversify your writers rooms immediately and tell more compelling stories as a result."

Applications for the next round of Inevitable Foundation Fellows are now being accepted.

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