Hollywood’s continuing efforts to embrace diversity and inclusion has received a significant boost with the launch of the Inevitable Foundation, whose mission is to fund and mentor the next generation of disabled screenwriters.
The outfit is founded by Richie Siegel and Marisa Torelli-Pedevska, both with personal connections to physical and developmental disabilities. With their support of disabled writers, the duo are looking to close the disability representation gap in film and television.
A recent report on the television writing landscape from the Think Tank for Inclusion and Equity stated that 93% of disabled writers surveyed said they were the only disabled person on staff, and 97% of writing rooms had no upper-level disabled writers. Currently, people with disabilities make up 20% of the general population, but represent only 2% of characters on screen, and less than 1% of those writing in the industry.
The foundation announced screenwriting fellowships in April and received hundreds of applications, with some 55% non-male and 45% non-white. The first two screenwriting fellows are Shani Am. Moore and Kalen Feeney, who receive $25,000 grants and assistance in building relationships they need to succeed in the industry.
Moore lives with Multiple Sclerosis and has earned cum laude degrees from Princeton University, UC Berkeley, Stanford Law School, and UCLA Extension. In 2020, she quit a successful job as the first Black lead executive at Dolby to become a full-time screenwriter. She has written for Hulu’s “The Bold Type” and Netflix series “Sweet Magnolias.”
“Being disabled can be costly, and this generous grant, along with personalized mentoring, allows us to create in a way that serves us best: with an unstressed eye towards progress,” said Moore.
Feeney is a Deaf screenwriter who is fluent in English and American Sign Language. She earned a master’s degree in screenwriting from Leeds Beckett University in the U.K. and a certificate in television writing from UCLA Extension. Feeney was a creative consultant on CBS’ “CSI:NY” and ASL consultant on Freeform’s “Switched At Birth.”
“I am honored and excited to receive this special Inevitable Foundation Fellowship, which will enable me to pursue my vision of improving representation of deaf and disabled characters on-screen through writing,” said Feeney.
The Inevitable Foundation is informed by Torelli-Pedevska’s work as screenwriter with a focus on stories with disabled characters, and Siegel’s family connections to disability.
“To us, it all starts with the writing and the story,” said Torelli-Pedevska. “Without disabled screenwriters telling stories that include authentic disabled characters, our lack of representation in film and television will never be resolved.”
“Our goal is to drive impact now,” added Siegel. “Our Fellows are writers that you can staff and buy projects from today, not five to 10 years from now. We’re investing significant financial resources in and leveraging relationships for writers who will help diversify your writers rooms immediately and tell more compelling stories as a result.”
Pictured (L-R): Shani Am. Moore, Richie Siegel and Marisa Torelli-Pedevska, Kalen Feeney.