In an industry that hides behind the myth of “meritocracy” but in reality functions on personal connections, the #Startwith8Hollywood initiative connects well-established industry mentors to eight Women of Color working in the entertainment industry each. Together, they formulate a plan of action based on what each mentee desires and what is achievable by the mentor to create tangible progress in the mentee’s career.
The Bitch Pack’s Thuc Nguyen, screenwriter, activist, and curator of the annual Bitch List, started the #Startwith8Hollywood program on Twitter in early June 2020. Thuc had been a participant in the #Startwith8 initiative in the tech industry, and thought it would be great to involve entertainment executives and producers in the program as well.
Soon, Cheryl L. Bedford, Founder of Women of Color Unite and creator of The JTC List, joined forces with Thuc. WOCU is a social action organization focusing on fair access, fair treatment and fair pay for Women of Color in all aspects of the entertainment and media industries. The JTC List is a database of 1800+ Women of Color working in entertainment and is used by countless Hollywood entities to hire from; the list was named after Joan Theresa Curtis, Bedford’s mother, a statistician and activist, who passed away in February 2016.
Bedford put together a #Startwith8Hollywood committee of volunteers (Manon de Reeper, Marisilda Garcia, Sunny Tsai, Naomi Ko and Shelby Kovant) to join Thuc, and shaped the program into what it is today.
We recognize that we stand on the shoulders of our ancestors; we recognize that this movement would not have happened without the COVID-19 Pandemic, or the deaths of Ahmaud Arbery, Breonna Taylor and George Floyd, and the rebellion that followed.
a movement, sparked
The program's first cycle wrapped up by the end of July 2020. It was driven by the sheer organizational force of the six volunteers involved, on no money. We connected nearly 300 Women of Color working in the entertainment industry, at different stages of their careers, to established industry mentors. New friendships have been forged, referrals have been made, advice has been freely shared... We know we are on to something special. We are looking forward to repeating the program many times in the future.
women of color
read about us in the press
now open for mentors: cycle 2 of #startwith8hollywood
Intake of mentors and mentees will happen over the course of December 2020 - matching & scheduling of meetings in January 2021; meetings will commence February 2021.
Join our esteemed alumni mentors of cycle 1:
Cate Adams (VP of Development, Warner Bros.), Bisha K. Ali (Screenwriter), Sheryl J. Anderson (Showrunner), Nicole Arbusto (Casting Director), Hanna Armour (Creative Exec, Skybound Film & TV), Adrienne Becker (CEO of Level Forward), Iram Parveen Bilal (Director), Eric Brodeur (Producer, Exit 44 Entertainment), Allard Cantor (Literary Manager/Managing Partner, Epicenter), C. Robert Cargill (Screenwriter), Milan Chakraborty (Producer), Tamara Chestna (Screenwriter), Tracy Chitupatham (Producer, Line Producer), Aron Eli Coleite (Showrunner), Fanshen Cox (Head of Strategic Outreach / Producer, Pearl Street), Sam Crawley (Director of Development, Skybound Film & TV), Maisie Culver (TV Producer), Alexandra Cunningham (Executive Producer, TV), Rebecca Cutter (TV Producer), Audrey Diehl (SVP, Series, Warner Bros. Animation), Cassian Elwes (Producer), Matthew Federman (Showrunner), Megan Fleming (Director of Development, The Safran Company), Jordanna Fraiberg (TV Producer), Eric Garfinkel (Agent, Gersh Agency), Brian J. Goldberg (Agent, WPA), Sara Gran (Showrunner), Jeff Greenberg (Agent, Gersh Agency), Javier Grillo-Marxuach (Showrunner), Paula Haifley (Line Producer, Stoopid Buddy Studios), Daisy Hamilton (CEO of Rock Salt Releasing), Jessica Hargrave (Producer, Tripod Media), Joe Henderson (Showrunner), Rick Jacobs (CEO of Skybound Galactic), Medha Jaishankar (Producer), Holly Jeter (Agent, WME), Julie Kirkwood (Director of Photography), Munika Lay (VP of Development, Miramax), Kathy Le Backes (Producer, Wise Entertainment), Ty Leisher (Producer, Exit 44 Entertainment), Kathey Leverton (VP Scripted Production Finance, Fremantle Media), Sandra Leviton (TV Producer, Under The Stairs Entertainment), Jeffrey Lieber (Showrunner), Sean Mackiewicz (SVP, Editor-in-Chief of Skybound Comics) Jane Maggs (Producer, Screenwriter), Will Matthews (Showrunner), Craig Mazin (Showrunner), Naomi McDougall Jones (Director, Writer, Producer), Josh McGuire (Literary Manager, Underground Management) Casey Minella (Manager, Circle of Confusion), Aaron Moorhead (Writer, Director, Producer), Katie Mullins (Animation Producer), Gabrielle Neimand (VP of Development, Fremantle Media), Stephanie Northen (Publicity Prinicpal, Amazon Studios), Adam Pachter (Screenwriter), Jessica Rhoades (Producer, First Look HBO), Pamela Ribon (Screenwriter), Courtney Rieger (Agent, WPA), Matt Rosen (Producer, Manager, MAZO Partners), Lauren Rosenberg (VP of Unscripted TV/Development, Trooper Entertainment), Win Rosenfeld (President, Monkeypaw Productions), Jenni Sherwood (EVP Scripted Development, Fremantle Media), Amanda Smith (Agent, Gersh Agency), DaVida Smith (Talent Manager, Etcetera & Company), Josh Spector (SVP, Acquisitions & Distribution, Vertical Entertainment), Teale Spearling (Manager of Creative Content, Mattel Television), Samantha Starr (Literary Manager, Circle of Confusion), Katie Stone (Screenwriter, Actor), Cori Uchida (TV Writer, Executive Producer), Mike Vanderhei (Literary Manager, Rain Management Group), Adam Van Dusen (Agent, Gersh Agency), Dea Vazquez (Project Involve Manager, Film Independent) Hailey Wierengo (Head of Production & Development, Field Trip Productions), Roy Wol (Producer, Autonomous Pictures), Frank Wuliger (Agent/Partner, Gersh Agency), Alexandra Zimbler (VP Creative Affairs, Gaumont Studios)
To stay in the loop, join Women of Color Unite, and enjoy our community and exclusive opportunities. WOCU members get first access to future cycles. Membership is free, and participation in the #Startwith8Hollywood program is completely free as well.
My meetings with #StartWith8Hollywood mentors, Sheryl J. Anderson (Sweet Magnolias) and Megan Fleming (The Safran Company) have truly been bright spots in my life. They’re not only solid human beings who were legitimately curious about my life and work (as I was about theirs), but they’re both laser-focused on making a difference in the industry… and holy cow do we ever need that.
I can’t say enough about the #Startwith8 initiative. Through them, I was able to meet with Monkeypaw Productions, something I’ve only dreamed about until now. This program is a real game changer that establishes authentic relationships and networking opportunities for women of color. Thank you from the bottom of my heart!
Pamela Ribon wanted to learn about me, so she could support my work. She then gave me insight & advice I could apply to my unique life experience & goals. Pamela actually wants to lift others up. She’s an A+ mentor. I’m so grateful to WOCU for #Startwith8Hollywood.
My mentor (a co-showrunner) and I went through my pilot scene by scene. He suggested what to do with each storyline. Not only did I gain wisdom from his suggestions, I also learned valuable screenwriting lessons from the experience itself.
#Startwith8Hollywood is a truly remarkable initiative. These mentor meetings are empowering hundreds of women of color to produce our stories as we share our voices, goals and dreams with Hollywood’s gatekeepers who are truly interested in expanding the narratives produced by the industry. This movement to produce and distribute new stories by and for people of color can ignite positive changes in Hollywood, which will ultimately improve the way people of color are perceived and accepted around the world.