WWFC Opens Applications for Pilot Accelerator to Launch Careers of Women and Non-Binary Writers
Selected fellows will pitch their projects to HBO, Netflix and more
This spring, six to eight emerging TV writers — selected out of hundreds of expected applicants — will have the opportunity to pitch to studios and production companies including HBO, Netflix and more as part of Women’s Weekend Film Challenge’s (WWFC) second annual pilot accelerator program.
Applications for the accelerator opened on Oct. 17, and the organization expects more than 1,000 submissions.
WWFC was founded by Katrina Medoff and Tracy Sayre in 2017 to address the lack of representation of women and non-binary people behind the camera and on screen. The organization is best known for its signature film challenge that has produced 36 short films with more than 900 professional filmmakers.
The pilot accelerator, launched in 2021, is designed both to help emerging writers advance their careers and to increase the representation of women and non-binary people in television. This program is geared toward writers with strong, completed pilot scripts who lack the industry connections to sell their series or break into the writers room.
“We have found that everyone involved benefits from this program: Studios and production companies are looking for untapped talent, and our fellows get an incredible opportunity to hone their pitches and meet people who can catapult their careers to the next level,” WWFC co-founder Tracy Sayre said. “Ultimately, it’s viewers who benefit the most from more diverse storytelling on screen.”
WWFC will be accepting applications from Oct. 17 through Jan. 4, 2023. The six to eight fellows will be vetted by a panel of industry judges including Anita Kapila (executive producer, “Strays”), Leigh Davenport (creator, “Queenie”), Tracey Deer (executive producer, “Mohawk Girls”), Felischa Marye (creator, “Bigger”), Valentina Garza (co-executive producer, “True Lies”), Chelsea Devantez (co-executive producer, “Not Dead Yet”), Nicole Mirante-Matthews (co-executive producer, “The Walking Dead”), Vivian Lee (producer, “Cowboy Bebop”), Pam Davis (co-executive producer, “On Becoming a God in Central Florida”) and Nikita T. Hamilton (executive story editor, “A Million Little Things”).
The selected fellows will attend intensive virtual training sessions on pitching and working in a writers room, where they’ll learn directly from industry insiders, including Elle Johnson, co-showrunner of Netflix’s “Self Made”; Jasmine Russ, VP of production and development at Fabel Entertainment; Matthew J. Lieberman, supervising producer of “Queen of the South”; Samara Bay, speech coach and the author of “Permission to Speak”; and entertainment lawyer Anuj Gupta.
The program will culminate in April with a week of pitching to studios, production companies and producers who are looking for new material and/or new writers.
Last year, the organization selected 8 fellows out of 723 submissions. A total of 63 pitch meetings were held with studios, production companies and producers including HBO, HBO Max, Netflix, Comedy Central, Warner Bros. TV and many more. Seventy-five percent of fellows’ pitch meetings ended in a request to read the script.
Past participants have seen great success since the first pilot accelerator — two of the 2021 fellows have gotten staffed; two have become mentees to executive producers; one has become a writers assistant; and several have gotten representation.
“Our inaugural accelerator demonstrated how many talented women and non-binary writers are ready to take their careers to the next level — they just need the support and connections to get there,” WWFC co-founder Katrina Medoff said. “We can’t wait to discover the next group of fellows and see where the pilot accelerator takes them.”
Vivian Kerr, a 2021 fellow whose feature film “Scrap” just had its world premiere, had applied to similar programs but found the feedback from industry insiders in WWFC’s accelerator was particularly helpful in moving her career forward.
“The speakers were amazing — from all different areas of the entertainment industry,” she said. “We got a lot of one-on-one feedback from them, which was so helpful in refining our pitches.The program really was a game changer.”
Russ, VP of production and development at Fabel Entertainment, who heard pitches from the 2021 fellows, is getting involved again.
“It was a real pleasure not only to meet these talented women, but also to hear their exceptionally polished pitches,” she said. “The level of detail, passion and intention these fellows were able to deliver in a 10-minute pitch is usually reserved for meetings double or triple the length. It’s a testament to the mentorship and feedback they’ve received through WWFC and a delight to experience the spoils of.”
The program will take place entirely online. Sponsors include SanDisk Professional and Western Digital. Interested writers can apply on FilmFreeway. Applications open on Oct. 17. The final deadline is January 4, 2023 with varying deadlines in between. For more information, visit womensweekendfilmchallenge.com/pilotaccelerator.
Women’s Weekend Film Challenge (WWFC) works for gender equity by creating opportunities for women to bring their leadership, talents and stories to the forefront of the film industry.
In its signature film challenge, WWFC places professional filmmakers on crews to write, shoot and edit a short film in one weekend and provides top-of-the-line equipment, insurance and workshops. This career-building opportunity is free for participants. Since its first challenge in January 2018, WWFC has worked with more than 900 women to produce 36 short films, which have been accepted to more than 90 festivals. This grassroots, bi-coastal movement combats the gender imbalance of the film industry by providing an intensive networking experience and telling women’s stories on screen.
WWFC’s popular virtual workshop series features Hollywood powerhouses in every role of production, such as Kasi Lemmons (writer/director, “Harriet”), Catherine Hardwicke (director, “Twilight”), Alma Har’el (director, “Honey Boy”), DeMane Davis (director, “Queen Sugar”), Leslye Headland (co-creator, “Russian Doll”), Terilyn Shropshire (editor, “The Old Guard”), Alice Wu (director, “The Half of It”), Jennie Snyder Urman (creator, “Jane the Virgin”) and many more. WWFC has hosted more than 60 workshops and sold over 19,000 donation-based tickets.
WWFC’s episodic accelerator helps emerging writers advance their careers and increase the representation of women and non-binary people in television. This program is geared toward writers with strong, completed pilot scripts who lack the industry connections to sell their series or break into the writers room.