Thursday, April 26, 2012

Reader questions: Diversity programs and waiting periods

Matt writes:

I love your site and I was hoping to get your opinion on something.

I've been debating entering the CBS Writer's Mentoring Program

I think my specs and my pilots are pretty solid but the problem is I'm white. More specifically, a straight white middle-class twenty-something male. And it seems that every program for TV writers is looking for diversity. Basically the opposite of me. 

So should I even bother applying to CBS, WB, Nickelodeon or the NBC program? Or should I save my time and money? 

I'd welcome anyone with more direct experience with these programs to weigh in, but my assumption is that any program that states in its objectives that it's looking for"diverse" applicants, you can probably count on white males being given the lowest priority.  If entry is free, I'd say you've got nothing to lose - but if there's a submission charge, your money is probably better spent elsewhere.

Amanda asks:

I've been lucky enough to have some agents and agencies respond to my queries with a request to read my work. Now I'm wondering how long this usually takes? I know it can take a while depending on the agent/agency, how much stuff they get, etc. (Someone told me that at a big agency, it's a good sign if they don't say no right away . . .) 

Anyway, I want to be polite and give them the space they need. What's fair? At what point, if ever, should I send a follow-up?

I'd say give them at least a month. Opinions vary on what's the best way to approach them after that, or if you even should.  Most of the time if you don't get a reply, you can safely assume they passed on you. 

When I've gotten reads, the responses have usually come within three or four weeks.  Usually it's either, "This doesn't suit our needs at this time" or "This isn't for me, but please send me your next screenplay."

If I don't hear back, I usually don't push it.  I just make note of it in my files so I know not to submit to that agent again.

Does anyone else have an opinion on these two questions?


  1. A month is good. Go ahead and follow up politely, especially if you have an actual contact person with a name.

    Out last script got decent coverage and I had to follow up to get an actual response. Our next script is over with the same management company and I just followed up -- again, after a month, and I'm waiting for a response.

  2. Re: Matt -

    Each program is totally different. The only one that's specifically non-white (though I'm not sure it's described as such) is the CBS mentor program which is only for people of ethnic diversity.

    Every other program gives a wide range definition of diversity. And btw, the WB program isn't about diversity at all. Of the 10 fellows in a given year, usually only 2 or so are ethnic minorities.

    Nickelodeon is insanely small - max 4 applicants and sometimes even less and will only accept comedy scripts. The others will accept any of your specs.

    ABC/Disney asks for another 2 writing samples once you get past the first round so I wouldn't even take the time to apply unless you've got those other scripts ready to go.

    Excluding WB, they're all free to apply to. So really, it's no harm, no foul. Go for it!

  3. Question: When we're talking diversity, does this mean gender equality as well? E.g., as a white female, would I be qualify for these programs? Or is it by race only? I support diversity initiatives 100%, whether they would involve me or not. I'm just curious.