BIPOC Voices, Entertainment

WBD’s most recent changes sparks controversy

This is a huge blow for representation in media.

words by: Kayla Carmicheal
Oct 16, 2022

Last week, Warner Bros. Discovery carried out layoffs as expected, cutting over 80 jobs. Including open positions, now nixed, 26% of its workforce is gone (125 staffers). Largely, this was a cost-cutting measure to aide in sourcing the $3 billion-with-a-B needed to stay afloat as WBD figures out its merger and incoming combo of HBO Max and Discovery+. (Heading to a smart device near you next fall/winter). Warner Bros. Television Group’s creative, production, and business teams were impacted the most. This group includes scripted, unscripted, and alternative studios.


WBD’s previous cuts

To bring you up-to-date with how this fits into the grand scheme of things, about two months ago, 70 staff members across HBO Max originals drama and comedy teams were let go. Production will continue on shows such as Peacemaker, Green Lantern, and Rap Sh!t on the scripted side, but new reality/documentary programming is being cut. The entire in-house casting department for HBO Max was shuttered, as well as a large number of content acquisition.


It’s worth noting that because Discovery+ has so much unscripted TV and documentaries (Chip + Jo from Magnolia are already on your HBO Max home screen), execs probably came to the conclusion that the purple app didn’t really need that too, so Discovery+ execs will oversee production moving forward.


Along with layoffs, WBD announced the closure of two major programs.


The pipeline programming situation

Last month, WBD began to restructure its DEI group. As a result, the company is shuttering Stage 13. In essence, the digital content studio was devoted to amplifying intersectional stories and championing creators from underrepresented communities.


The studio focused on innovative, captivating stories from storytellers of unique and marginalized backgrounds. It’s responsible for producing Netflix’s Special, about a gay man with cerebral palsy, and Two Sentence Horror Stories, also on Netflix, showcased directors from diverse backgrounds.


In addition to Stage 13, WBTV’s Workshop, a pipeline for creatives from diverse communities to get their start in the industry seemed up in the air. For instance, LaToya Morgan (The Walking Dead, Duster) was hired to work on Shameless after her time in the writer’s workshop. During its 40-year history, WBTV’s Workshop produced an array of talented alumni: Akela Cooper (Luke Cage, M3GAN), Jude Weng (Only Murders in the Building), Regina King (The Harder They Fall), Jaffar Mahmood (Reboot, Young Sheldon), and Zak Schwartz, (Wu-Tang: An American Saga, Snowpiercer).


When WBD announced (very vaguely) that these workshops were coming to an end, the company was met with major pushback from the industry and fans.


“We call each other for advice, we help promote each other’s shows, we’re a family. That’s an opportunity that some future amazing storyteller won’t get now, to come up with your crew of folks who are going to have your back because you came up together,” Morgan says.


Showrunner Michelle Paradise added how the distinct, important voices that get their break from this program could now be missed out on. Justin Doble, EP of Rings of Power, noted how hundreds of careers started because of the program.


Though the program only accepted 8 writers and directors a class, those voices were almost always diverse, important, and filled a gap in the industry. Plus, they had access to resources like successful, thoughtful mentors and growing valuable connections. Programs like these are needed now more than ever, and if anything, could use even more funding to open even more doors.


Thankfully, WB saw a need to clarify: Apparently, the workshops aren’t ending, but will be restructured and have a more direct DEI focus. Of course, this was after the Director’s Guild of America released a statement that essentially said “Over our dead bodies.” (Thank you, unions!)


Catch how this saga began with our recap of the WBD merger.


Photo via Deadline