Nina Simone once said, “It’s an artist’s duty to reflect the times,” and Will Smith and Jada Pinkett Smith want to help new artists engage with the world in creative ways. Sunday, at the 2017 Sundance Film Festival, the Sundance Institute announced a new partnership between its prestigious Screenwriters Intensive and the Will and Jada Smith Family Foundation.
“You do not have to travel farther than your kitchen tables to know that our world is as divided as it is diverse. Where some are fearful and angered by that diversity, we find beauty and power,” Keisha Senter, of the Will and Jada Smith Foundation, said at a brunch announcing the partnership.
“Our mission is to ensure that it our beautiful and diverse world is also inclusive. That means embracing the views and experiences of people who don’t look like us, speak like us, think like us, love like us, or pray like us,” Senter said. “We encourage the people we meet, not to hide their differences…but to share with the world who they are, where they come from, and where their hearts and minds will carry them into the future.”
Through the two-year partnership, the Screenwriters Institute will select 10 writers from underrepresented communities to work on their craft in an intense two-day workshop while supporting their efforts year-round. The program is part of Sundance’s ongoing diversity initiative, which ensures that all of the Institute’s programs are inclusive.
Ava DuVernay, Ryan Coogler, and Lee Daniels are just some of the writers/directors the Sundance Institute has supported over the years, and Pinket Smith is excited to help event more filmmakers.
“We are honored and energized to collaborate with the Sundance Institute to cultivate stories and storytellers reflective of the world at large, and we view today as the beginning of a productive, purposeful and powerful alignment with an enduring institution,” Pinket Smith said in a statement.
Keri Putnam, Executive Director of Sundance Institute, echoed Pinket Smith’s enthusiasm about the new partnership.
“Sundance is proud to work with storytellers from a wide range of backgrounds and experiences, both at the Festival and in our artist development programs,” Putnam said. “We are so grateful for the generous support of The Will & Jada Smith Family Foundation. Together, we will build momentum and awareness about the need to create a film and media landscape that reflects the full richness and diversity of our culture.”