Stung by fierce criticism about a lack of diversity on both sides of the screen, movie studios have scrambled to create fellowship programs for underrepresented directors and writers. A few stars and entertainment companies have publicly supported “inclusion riders” requiring a diverse cast and crew.
But little coordinated action has been taken to increase the number of entertainment executives of color.
So The Hollywood Reporter, a trade publication, decided to address the problem by creating a two-year job-training program called the Young Executives Fellowship. Starting in April and continuing annually, 25 underrepresented and low-income high school juniors in Los Angeles will be selected to participate. Amazon Studios and the WME talent agency are sponsors, and Mayor Eric Garcetti of Los Angeles and Martin Luther King III will sit on the advisory board.
“This is not a mentorship — it’s regimented job training designed to get results,” said Matthew Belloni, The Reporter’s editorial director, adding that Hollywood had to stop talking about the need for more diversity and start doing something about it.
“So many panel discussions, so little action,” he said.
In the first year of the program, students will be taught about production, marketing and finance in workshops based at Loyola Marymount University and featuring speakers from the upper ranks of major studios. Participants will also visit film and television companies. In Year 2, students will spend most of their time inside entertainment companies. Each student will be guaranteed a paid internship, with the expectation that they will be considered for a position after graduation.
Graduating students will also visit China for 10 days, spending time with film students at Shandong University in a venture with Shandong Radio and TV, said Stephen Galloway, an executive editor at The Reporter whose prodding started the initiative.
Also on the advisory board are Thelma Meléndez de Santa Ana, a longtime Southern California school administrator; Aja Brown, the mayor of Compton; Jennifer Salke, the head of Amazon Studios; Jon Jashni, a media investor; Casey Wasserman, chairman of the Los Angeles Olympic Organizing Committee; and Olivia Diaz-Lapham, chief executive of Big Brothers Big Sisters of Greater Los Angeles.
“It’s so necessary and important to have a pipeline for diverse talent,” Ms. Salke said. “Having a more diverse work force is the only way we are going to succeed.”
The Reporter has stepped into these waters before. For 10 years, the publication has run the well-regarded Women in Entertainment Mentorship Program, which has paired 150 high school girls with female Hollywood executives, including Donna Langley, chairman of Universal Pictures, and Megan Colligan, the president of Imax Entertainment.
The women’s mentorship program is focused on supporting girls as they head to college — The Reporter will present $1.7 million in scholarships on Wednesday — and does not seek to place women in the entertainment industry. Some participants, however, have gone on to work at companies like Warner Bros., Netflix and ICM Partners.