Never underestimate the power of "diversity" and social media.
This morning was not a good one for many writers attempting to submit their applications to the HBO Access Writing Fellowship, which opened its online submissions today on the website Withoutabox, only to see the website crash and freeze under the amount of submissions coming in. The rush of submissions was intensified by the program's statement that the entry period would close after the first 1,000 were received. This may seem like a lot, but when you consider how widely-shared this fellowship has been- many people have received emails and text messages from various people suggesting that they apply - that number is actually quite small.
Many writers have taken to Twitter, where #hboaccess is trending, to share their frustrations at staring at white screens, reading Withoutabox error messages, and hitting the "Refresh" button every ten seconds. Some have likened the website crash to the obstacles that writers of color and women experience every day. Once in a while, a success story pops up and someone tweets that they've submitted to the fellowship after several tries. Maybe there's hope.
@Withoutabox https://twitter.com/HBO">@HBO https://twitter.com/hashtag/hboaccess?src=hash">#hboaccess This problem with even trying to APPLY is indicative of the bigger problem. Women and minorities can't get.
— Rachel Ewing (@RewingtheDay) March 4, 2015
Oh the irony of that url... #hboaccess @hbo https://twitter.com/Withoutabox">@Withoutabox https://twitter.com/hashtag/withoutasite?src=hash">#withoutasite http://t.co/y0kvBFMY3R">pic.twitter.com/y0kvBFMY3R
— Jonathan Archer (@jonarcher) https://twitter.com/jonarcher/status/573179312519561218">March 4, 2015
#HBOaccess program fails due to overwhelming demand on #withoutabox. this white screen is such an apt metaphor.
— Anonymous Date (@AnonymousDate) March 4, 2015
Who else is trying to count tweets to see if there is 1k writers applying yet? https://twitter.com/hashtag/HBOAccess?src=hash">#HBOAccess
— AYINDE (@AYINDE) https://twitter.com/AYINDE/status/573180092785938435">March 4, 2015
There's just some wicked irony to being an ethnic writer unable to access @HBO's Access Writing Fellowship for diverse writers. #hboaccess
— Christopher De Paola (@soflochris) March 4, 2015
So, what does all this mean? Is the need for diversity in mainstream TV and film so massive that one of the most popular film and entertainment websites in the world, cannot handle it? Or, was Withoutabox unprepared for what was clearly the hottest opportunity going for "diverse" writers? The website crash also makes one ponder why this particular fellowship program has gained this type of traction, especially since there have been similar programs like this for years. Social media definitely has something to do with it. The call for entries was posted everywhere and by what seemed everyone. And, coming off the heels of the Oscars, the http://deadline.com/2015/03/women-minority-older-tv-writing-jobs-fewer-wga-report-2014-1201385425/">WGA study on diversity, and daunting statistics of the exclusion that people of color and women face in the TV and film industry, one couldn't expect anything different.