The Black Boy Writes/Black Girl Writes Mentorship is a year-long initiative dedicated to the development of emerging screenwriters, launched by writer and producer Mike Gauyo.
Now in its second year, we caught up with Mike to find out more about the mentoring program and his own career journey – from writing on Insecure and Ginny & Georgia, to creating his upcoming dark comedy series, Send Help.
The idea for the mentorship first came to Mike a few years ago, after he kept getting approached by younger writers searching for advice about the industry. Seeing such disparity when it came to diversity in entertainment and diversity in the writers’ room, Mike took the initiative to put together a structured program.
After a strong first year, the Black Boy Writes/Black Girl Writes mentorship is only getting bigger – partnering with Stage 32, they received more than 800 applications for this year’s initiative. “We were really encouraged by that,” Mike told us, “But it just goes to show that for such a new programme, there's a lot of need out there for writers of colour to create a path for themselves and to wedge their foot into the industry.”
"There's a lot of need out there for writers of colour to create a path for themselves and to wedge their foot into the industry.”
It’s a year-long initiative, but Mike’s goals span far beyond that – he wants the programme to be a permanent foothold in the industry, one that continues to help Black writers on their journey to the writers’ room. And while it’s still in the early years, it’s clear to see that Mike’s already building a strong creative network. The alumni from the mentorship’s first year were involved in this year’s application process, tasked with reading a portion of the submitted scripts. Why? ”I always felt like the mentees coming in should be read by a jury of their peers.” Mike told us. “Having them be a part of the process was really important for me, in terms of creating a tribe and creating a community of people supporting each other.” Mike and his team settled on 14 talented mentees, kicking things off by flying them out to LA for a roundtable with Morgan Cooper, the creator of Bel-Air.
A career in TV – as a writer or mentor – wasn’t always on the cards for Mike though, and his journey is one that many of us can relate to. Growing up in a Haitian American household, writing was always a hobby, but he didn’t see a pathway towards making it a career. Mike went to college to study to become a doctor, but when he figured out it wasn’t for him, he realised he needed to pivot.
“I think there were a series of moments in my life where I had to stop and ask myself, ‘okay, what direction do I go next, and am I strong enough to make that decision to pivot into a whole other industry, and what will my family think if I were to do that?’” he told us. “At each point in my life when I asked myself that question, as time progressed, the answer became clearer. And I became more courageous in terms of what the answer was.”
"There were a series of moments in my life that where I had to stop and ask myself, 'okay, what direction do I go next, and am I strong enough to make that decision to pivot into a whole other industry, and what will my family think if I were to do that?'"
After moving to LA, Mike started off in reality TV, where he worked his way up from production assistant to supervising producer level. It was when he got his first writing opportunity on Issa Rae’s podcast, Fruit, that he became enmeshed in the scripted world, going on to work on Claws, Ginny & Georgia, and of course, Insecure.
Taking the plunge definitely paid off, and his family are right behind him. "They may not know the mechanics of how the industry works, but they're like, ‘okay, HBO, Netflix, I know those things.’ I think for immigrant parents, they light up when they hear brands that they can recognise. They’re really thrilled now.”
And it’s not hard to see why. As well as birthing the mentorship, Mike’s currently co-showrunning and co-executive producing Send Help, a dark comedy he created with his fellow Insecure alumni Jean Elie.
The coming-of-age series, which is set to air later this year, is loosely based on Jean’s life, Mike told us. “It’s about a Haitian American Actor – Fritz – pursuing the entertainment industry in LA, while also taking care of his family who are back in Boston, and dealing with a family tragedy. It's really about examining the Black male mental space, and what happens when it encounters tragedy. It explores how that family tragedy kind of seeps into every aspect of his life, his job, his relationships, his friendships, and things like that. And what links all of us is dealing with loss, so we hope everyone will be able to see a little bit of themselves in Fritz.”
"What links all of us is dealing with loss, so we hope everyone will be able to see a little bit of themselves in Fritz."
While Mike’s writing career goes from strength to strength, through running the mentorship, he’s found a true passion in uplifting talented writers. “I found that to be my purpose,” he explained. “This is what I feel like I'm in the industry for – to amplify and uplift other writers; specifically writers of colour, marginalised writers, handicapped writers, writers that are a part of the diaspora. Writing will always be my joy, but for me, my purpose has always been having access and the platform in order to help other people. I think that my career is to supplement what I'm able to do for others. We're all here telling unique stories, and there’s space for all of us.”