By Ray Pride

Paul Feig’s Powderkeg launches Break the Room, company based on a development process to empower underrepresented voices

[PR] Paul Feig’s production company, Powderkeg has launched an innovative development company called Break the Room (BTR) with writer/producer Sameer Gardezi.  BTR is a writers room development process originally piloted by Gardezi in partnership with MuslimArc, and with support from the Pop Culture Collaborative, that approaches the creation of diverse content by bringing writers of color together with community thought leaders for a week long writers room.  Each writers room will be 100% diverse putting marginalized voices in control of representing each projects’ community and ideas.  The first show to come out of this recently launched initiative was the previously announced digital short form series East of La Brea, produced in association with Lyft Entertainment and Pillars Fund.

The project follows two twenty-something working class Muslim women Aisha Hassan and Farha Munshi as they struggle to navigate the changing landscape of their native Los Angeles home. East of La Brea has been selected for World Premiere at SXSW and will compete in the Episodic Pilot Competition.

Since the company’s launch, BTR has completed two rooms in Los Angeles and Albuquerque respectively with another one to commence later this month in Portland.

The first project under the banner is The Untitled D’Lo Project, which is based on the life of Tamil-Sri Lankan trans comic D’Lo, who was supported by an all queer writers room to tell the story of coming back to his small desert hometown of Lancaster, CA.

Out of the Albuquerque room, The Great Manygoats was developed, which is a comedy about a Navajo family that struggles to cut through the red tape of government grant funding by changing their trading post business into a vegan sex shop. This project was written by an all Native American room.

The next room opening later this month will be writing a comedy centered around the refugee experience of Portland comedian and Libyan native, Mohanad Elshieky; aiming to highlight the experience of living in a “welcoming” ultra- liberal bubble yet still feeling like a fish out of water.

BTR is also looking to scale internationally with partnerships lining up in Canada, India, and the Middle East, with plans to develop stories that have a unique connection to each region.

The first BTR partners are international production company Hyde Park Entertainment, and Shivhans Pictures who have joined together to fund development of a South Asian-American comedy through a BTR writers room.

“Real change requires breaking norms and paradigms. What makes Break the Room impactful is that it’s not a diversity initiative, a shadowing program or a workshop,” says Sameer Gardezi.  “We are empowering writers by actually letting them do the work and be part of the process in a meaningful way. It’s less about backing a cause than it is investing in underrepresented voices.”

“We started Powderkeg to tell the stories of talented, emerging and underrepresented voices in comedy.  Break the Room invites these writers across the country and globe to develop, control and craft them, with our support, in a way that will resonate with viewers,” adds Paul Feig and Laura Fischer.

Launched in 2018 by Paul Feig and Laura Fischer Powderkeg is a digital studio that aims to champion new comedic voices with a special commitment to female, LGBTQ creators and filmmakers of color. Powderkeg develops scripted and unscripted series, low budget features, as well as incubator programs. Most recently, Powderkeg launched a feature film contest with Issa Rae’s Color Creative looking for the next great teen movie. Their inaugural female directors program Powderkeg: Fuse will be premiering later this spring.  The company is also in development on a variety of formats, including a half hour scripted comedy at YouTube Premium, a series at Snapchat, two movies for Freeform and a multi-script deal at the interactive platform EKO. The Powderkeg venture is being funded by Superbrands Capital, the private entertainment industry investment company run by Adam Bold.

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