How the Inevitable Foundation Is Bringing Disabled Voices Into Writers Rooms
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The Inevitable Foundation went from an idea to a fully running nonprofit in just six months. Their mission? To increase representation for disabled people in entertainment — starting in the writers room.
Co-founders Marisa Torelli-Pedevska and Richie Siegel met through a summer camp in upstate New York for young adults with developmental disabilities — Torelli-Pedevska was a longtime counselor, while Siegel’s younger sister was a camper. As a USC graduate student and screenwriter herself, Torelli-Pedevska is a member of the disabled community, having been diagnosed with chronic illnesses since high school.
“At the end of 2020, I was looking for a change,” Siegel tells THR of the organization’s start. “[Marisa and I] started talking about the disability representation gap.” From there, the idea only grew — and fast.
“Disability is so often left out of the conversation,” he continues. “We wanted to have a quicker impact on the work. That led us to writers.” As it stands, disabled people make up only 0.7 percent of writers rooms, despite being 20 percent of the U.S. population.
Thanks to funding from studios and streamers like Amazon, Netflix and Warner Bros., Inevitable hosts a seasonal screenwriting fellowship — a $40,000 grant for midcareer writers that comes with mentorship programs and workshops. However, Siegel noted that 80 percent of donations last year came from outside the entertainment industry. Since launching the program, the fellowship has received over 550 applications.
When it comes to the selection process, Inevitable leaves that in the hands of the community itself. “We’ve built a committee of all disabled storytellers and writers that choose the projects and have a good sense of what the disability community needs right now, in terms of representation,” Torelli-Pedevska says.
“We’ve been really committed to the intersectionality of our work from day one,” Siegel adds. Fifty-seven percent of applicants identify as female and nonbinary, over 50 percent identify as a person of color, and over 45 percent identify as LGBTQ+. “We’re trying to both raise the profile of disability as a pillar of diversity, but also highlight the incredible diversity within the disability community.”
Last year, Inevitable selected its first five fellows: Shaina Ghuraya, Aoife Baker and Greg Machlin, Kalen Feeney and Shani Am. Moore.
“Each of them just has a very specific perspective on the stories they want to tell,” Siegel says of the fellows. “We’re there to help them connect the dots to make all that a reality.”
Baker and Machlin are a neurodivergent writing duo who previously wrote on the PBS children’s show Pandemic Playhouse. They aim to create sci-fi and fantasy shows that tell authentic, imaginative and intersectional stories centered on marginalized characters.
As a graduate of the USC Film and TV Production program, Ghuraya is a writer on Netflix’s Boons and Curses, and plans to have a first-look deal in the next three years. She aims to become a showrunner and create a production company to help disabled people bring their stories to life.
Moore is a Stanford Law School graduate, but began her career as a writer on Sweet Magnolias, and has since worked on Hulu’s The Bold Type and upcoming BET+ series Kingdom Business. Currently, she’s a co-producer on a highly-anticipated Netflix series. Prior to becoming a full-time screenwriter, Moore was the first Black female head executive in Dolby’s history.
Feeney is a member of the deaf community, who aims to create, write, and act in an original 1-hour series that shares insight not only about the deaf experience—but also shines a light on what it is like to live in two worlds and two cultures simultaneously. Having previously worked on shows like CSI: NY and Switched at Birth, she wants to focus on telling authentic stories and creating opportunities for deaf and underrepresented minorities on screen and behind the scenes.
“There’s this assumption that disabled people only want to write about disability, and that’s just not true,” adds Torelli-Pedevska. “It was important for us that our writers write about whatever they wanted, whether that included their disability identity or not.”
Last summer, Inevitable launched its Pipeline Program — its latest initiative to provide more support avenues for disabled screenwriters. It’s lined up over 70 creative execs from studios, streamers and networks, along with several showrunners, to mentor program participants and prepare them to sell their work. The program also opens up the opportunity for priority fellowship consideration.
CODA director Sian Heder got involved with Inevitable as a fellowship mentor after the release of her film, which centers on the Deaf community. “I jumped at the chance to help,” Heder says. “Hollywood has historically been a very closed space to people with disabilities. Until now, there haven’t been pathways for disabled writers into writers rooms, on to sets, or to make the kinds of connections that typically further careers.”
A version of this story first appeared in the Feb. 23 issue of The Hollywood Reporter magazine. Click here to subscribe.
source : https://www.hollywoodreporter.com/lifestyle/lifestyle-news/inevitable-foundation-disabled-voices-writers-rooms-1235092309/