(LOS ANGELES)— PEN America announces today a new emergency grant program to help early career screenwriters during the Writers Guild strike. As it has done during COVID-19, natural disasters, and other emergencies, the new Screenwriters Emergency Assistance Fund will offer short-term grants ranging from $500 to $1,000 to eligible screenwriters on a first come-first served basis.

As part of its U.S. Writers Aid Initiative, these one-time, rapid-response grants are intended to help early career U.S.-based screenwriters who are struggling to meet essential financial needs such as housing, food, utilities, and health care during the current work stoppage. Eligible applicants must have fewer than 7 years of membership with the WGA, or fewer than 7 years of demonstrated income as an employed screenwriter. All applicants are encouraged to review the full eligibility criteria.                

Only one application may be submitted in the initial six-month period of the fund. Questions may be addressed to [email protected].

Ayad Akhtar, PEN America’s president and a novelist, playwright and screenwriter, said: “During these difficult days, we are honored as a writers organization to do as much as we can to relieve the financial stress members of the WGA, East and West, are facing. PEN America has a long history of coming together to assist writers in need, as well as those at risk round the world, and we are honored to be able to do so again during this emergency. We hope our effort will send a powerful message of hope at this time.”

Allison Lee, managing director of the PEN America Los Angeles office, said: “PEN America recognizes the financial hardship that many screenwriters are experiencing due to the work stoppage in the industry. We know that early career writers are especially hard hit by financial need and we want to do whatever we are able to relieve the acute stress they face. We hope even a small grant in the amount of $500 or $1,000 will help screenwriters who are having to make difficult decisions about how to cover their rent, or pay for an unexpected health care bill, or buy school supplies for their children.”

Screenwriter and author Howard Rodman, a former WGA president and longtime PEN America member, said: “The studios, networks and streamers have broken the ability to earn a decent living as a writer for features or series. When we put forth proposals that would begin to fix what they’d broken, they had no response for a hundred days. Waiting for us to become desperate. This we did not do. But so many of us found ourselves having to triage among essentials: rent, healthcare, school supplies. Which is why a small grant in the amount of $500 or $1,000 will make such an outsized difference.” Rodman said: “I am grateful that PEN America recognizes the particular vulnerability of early career screenwriters. As a whole, they are the writers who found themselves in the most precarity before the strike began in May, and they will likely be the last ones made whole when it ends. Focusing on their financial needs sends a message of hope and solidarity, and reinforces the deeply seated commitment among the community of writers: that we take care of each other in small and large and extraordinary ways. This is precisely why I am a proud member of PEN America.”

Read more about PEN America’s effort to support writers during the strike.

About PEN America

PEN America stands at the intersection of literature and human rights to protect open expression in the United States and worldwide. We champion the freedom to write, recognizing the power of the word to transform the world. Our mission is to unite writers and their allies to celebrate creative expression and defend the liberties that make it possible. To learn more visit PEN.org

Contact: Suzanne Trimel, [email protected], 201-247-5057