'Robbie Hood'.

SBS has launched a three-year incubator program to support the development of emerging screenwriters from underrepresented backgrounds.

Each year, six successful candidates will be employed for 12 months in production companies around Australia. During their placement, they will develop ideas into treatments, work across a narrative slate of programming, participate in writers’ rooms, and work closely with development producers and others to increase their knowledge and further develop their skills.

While the participating production companies are yet to be named, the initiative will run in partnership with Screen Australia, Film Victoria, Screen Canberra, Screen NSW, Screen Queensland, Screenwest and the South Australian Film Corporation (SAFC), and with the assistance of the Australian Writers’ Guild (AWG).

The program stems from conversations between SBS and TAP Productions’ Tony Ayres.

SBS director of TV and online content Marshall Heald said: “SBS is proud to be working with our partners across the industry, who share our commitment to diversity, to make an important contribution to the future of Australian storytelling through the Emerging Screenwriters’ Incubator. Not only is this initiative an important investment in the next generation of screenwriting talent, it will help to ensure the unique perspectives and experiences of those who reflect contemporary Australia, are explored on our screens.

“I want to acknowledge those in our sector like director, screenwriter and showrunner, Tony Ayres, who have long demonstrated their passion for the benefits a more inclusive industry and have inspired so many. It’s through conversations with Tony that this initiative came to be, and it’s now incredibly exciting to see the momentum we have across the industry to come together to do more. Our storytelling will be all the better for it.”

Ayres added: “Marshall and I have been having a great and ongoing discussion about the best ways to make long lasting and meaningful change to our industry, and to genuinely shift the needle towards a wider, truer representation of Australia. This initiative is a brilliant start and will broaden the talent pool of writers from underrepresented parts of our society. Writing is where it all starts.” 

For the purposes of this initiative, underrepresented backgrounds include: Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples; people who are from culturally and linguistically diverse backgrounds; those who are living with a disability; are female or trans/gender diverse; identify as LGBTQIA+; and people located in regional and remote areas.

Details on applying for the Emerging Screenwriter’s Incubator will be released in the coming weeks. Each participating state and territory screen agency will reach out to local networks and from June, the selection process will begin, with placements at production companies from July 2021.

An SBS spokesperson told IF it is in active discussions to have Screen Tasmania and Screen Territory also be a part of this initiative, in order to facilitate opportunities for emerging screenwriters from Tasmania and the Northern Territory.

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