Film studio Warner Bros. is preparing to launch a new film workshop for aspiring directors, billing the initiative as a way to boost undiscovered and underrepresented talent amid the outcry over a lack of diversity in Hollywood.
The nine-month program, starting this year, will pair five successful applicants with a Warner Bros. executive mentor and take them through the process of making a short film with the Burbank studio.
Their films, which will carry a production budget of about $100,000 each, will be screened at a festival on the studio lot at the end of the program, the company said.
Greg Silverman, president of creative development and worldwide production for Warner Bros. Pictures, said the program is meant to help solve a problem that new directors encounter when they try to find jobs -- a lack of previous professional work to show.
"The notion was, we can start at the beginning to help these filmmakers get their first film made so that they have a calling card for who they are," Silverman said in an interview.
Hollywood's studio system has been assailed in recent months for failing to include filmmakers and actors who are nonwhite, female, gay, lesbian or transgender.
A recent USC report, which studied studio films released in 2014, called the situation an "epidemic of invisibility."
Warner Bros., owned by media giant Time Warner Inc., was hit particularly hard in that report for a paucity of female directors. In the study, the studio scored lowest among the major film companies.
Silverman said the new program, which has been in the works for two years, could help "increase the talent pool" of filmmakers for the industry to choose from.
"We were working on this long before it became a national talking point," he said.
Warner Bros. said applications will begin in the second quarter of this year, and the first participants will be announced before the end of the third quarter. The studio promises to cover the production costs and the filmmakers' salaries during the workshop.
The studio already sponsors workshops for budding television writers and directors.