ViacomCBS pledges to develop 50 TV movies by first-time BIPOC, women directors

Nina L. Diaz, Priyanka Chopra Jonas, Eva Longoria, Idris Elba, John Leguizamo, Salma Hayek, Courtney B. Vance, Angela Bassett
ViacomCBS’s Nina L. Diaz, clockwise from top left, will work with producers Priyanka Chopra Jonas, Eva Longoria, Idris Elba, John Leguizamo, Salma Hayek, Courtney B. Vance and Angela Bassett in a new program for first-time directors.

ViacomCBS is launching a new program that will pair filmmakers from underrepresented backgrounds with high-profile executive producers.

Announced Wednesday by ViacomCBS Entertainment & Youth Group, the First Time Directors program will match women directors and filmmakers of color with A-listers and their production companies for 50 films. These TV movies will “tell diverse stories through the lens of diverse storytellers” and will span across ViacomCBS E&Y’s portfolio, including Paramount Network, MTV and Comedy Central.

“We are thrilled to partner with these icons of entertainment to cultivate first-time BIPOC and first-time women directors,” said Nina L. Diaz, president of content and chief creative officer of ViacomCBS E&Y Group in a statement. “Together, we will give rise to multicultural narratives and voices that resonate with audiences around the world.”

Angela Bassett, Idris Elba, Salma Hayek, Priyanka Chopra Jonas, John Leguizamo, Eva Longoria and Courtney B. Vance are among the producers who will work with Diaz to identify the filmmakers to pair with projects. They will also mentor them throughout the process.


“Orange Is the New Black,” “Madam Secretary” and “Superstore” are among the TV shows whose immigrant storylines and characters are making a difference.

In a statement, UnbelieEVAble Entertainment’s Longoria said she was “excited … to introduce a new generation of viewers to stories worth amplifying.”

“When I set up Green Door [Pictures] one of my core philosophies was to promote and encourage a diversity of ideas from new voices who might otherwise be shut out of the industry establishment,” said Elba in a statement.

Bassett and Vance of Bassett Vance Productions said in a statement that this program “means opening doors for new and fresh voices, both in front of and behind the camera, something that has always been a top priority for us. We look forward to being a part of a growing coalition of directors, producers, actors and writers who will be the change agents at the forefront of a new, multicultural and more dynamic workforce in this industry.”

“It is uplifting that after more than two decades of relentless battles, the entertainment industry is finally entering a new era … towards a promising future where everyone gets an opportunity, and every culture gets to tell their stories,” said Ventanarosa Productions’ Hayek in a statement.

Rebel Productions’ Leguizamo specifically pointed out in his statement that Latinos are vastly underrepresented both in front of and behind the camera in Hollywood and that their stories are just not being told.

“I believe that my collaboration with ViacomCBS E&Y will assure more Latinx talent, writers, directors, directors of photography, and crew will get their opportunities to create and exercise their gifts when they would otherwise be unseen and ignored,” he said.

“Not just the U.S., but the world, is a melting pot of different races, ethnicities and religions, and the entertainment we consume should reflect the world we actually live in,” added Chopra Jonas of Purple Pebble Pictures in a statement.