Proving that “inclusivity” is a mission statement and not just a trendy buzzword, The Hollywood Reporter is launching a new diversity initiative, the Young Executives Fellowship Program, that will offer tomorrow’s entertainment industry leaders a leg up in Hollywood through an immersive two-year program that combines education with mentorship.
Black Panther stars Lupita Nyong'o, Danai Gurira and Chadwick Boseman announced the Fellowship at THR's Women in Entertainment event on Wednesday.
“A few years ago, when I was first approached to play Nakia in Black Panther, if anyone had told me this would mark a turning point for women and actors of color, I would have told them: ‘You’re damn right,’” an admittedly emotional Nyong'o told the crowd. “Black Panther has shown the world what you can achieve when you make stories not just for one group of people, but for everyone.”
“But to make more films like this, we need leaders of all classes, all races and all genders in pivotal positions,” Boseman added. “The question is, how to find them? We are delighted to announce a new program designed to create a pipeline for future leaders in entertainment, all geared to attract brilliant young men and women ― it should be brilliant young women and men ― from some of the most underserved communities in Los Angeles.”
Working jointly with Endeavor and Amazon Studios, the Fellowship ― which will recruit 25 promising high-school juniors and seniors from schools in Compton, Inglewood and Los Angeles ― will immerse the teenagers in an intensive one-year program that will give them a ground-up experience learning everything from film financing and business skills to marketing and production. The group will be whittled down to just 12 students in the second year, who will have the opportunity to gain priceless, hands-on experience working at Hollywood’s top studios, networks and agencies.
As part of the program’s unique partnership with China’s Shandong University and Shandong Productions, fellows will have the opportunity to spend 10 days in China, where they’ll live and study with the university’s own film school students.
"By offering opportunities via a mentorship program, as well as enrichment through immersive learning, we can help forge a pathway for talented and diverse voices for the next generation of entertainment professionals," Jennifer Salke, head of Amazon Studios and a member of the fellowship’s advisory board, said in a statement. “We see this as a critical investment in the future of our business and the entertainment community.”
Salke will be joined on the advisory board by some other industry heavy-hitters, including former Paramount Pictures chairman Sherry Lansing, NBCUniversal Cable chairman Bonnie Hammer, Imax Entertainment president Megan Colligan, pastor and best-selling author T.D. Jakes, Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti, Compton Mayor Aja Brown and Endeavor CEO Ari Emanuel.
For his part, Emanuel sees the fellowship as a way to level the playing field for up-and-coming filmmakers and would-be industry players who might not be able to get their foot in the door otherwise, which he sees as an essential first step toward creating a more inclusive Hollywood.
“A person's ability to enter and succeed in our industry shouldn't be determined by their ZIP code, but unfortunately that's the reality,” Emanuel said. “Our objective with this program is to break down barriers to entry.”
As a sister initiative to THR’s Women in Entertainment Mentorship Program, which is now in its 10th year, the Young Executives Fellowship will follow in the earlier initiative’s footsteps when it officially kicks off in April with both a dedicated annual print issue of THR that will shine a light on those individuals who are helping to empower the industry’s lesser-heard voices and effect a positive change toward greater inclusivity. The issue will be celebrated with an Empowerment in Entertainment gala event to honor women, the LGBTQ community, people of color and other marginalized voices.
“There's a lot of talk in the industry about the diversity problem,” says THR editorial director Matthew Belloni. “This program is action.”