L.A. Mayor Pledges Grants to Boost Entertainment Industry Diversity

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Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti

Eric Garcetti was joined by filmmaker Ava DuVernay and producer Dan Lin for the launch of the Evolve Entertainment Fund.

Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti joined filmmaker Ava DuVernay and producer Dan Lin on Monday to launch the Evolve Entertainment Fund (EEF), a public-private partnership aimed at creating new opportunities for communities that have been historically excluded from the entertainment industry. The fund plans to raise $5 million by 2020 to award grants to various entertainment industry organizations. 

The Evolve Entertainment Fund is an alliance between the City of Los Angeles, industry leaders in entertainment and digital media, non-profit organizations and educational institutions which is dedicated to building career pathways into film, television and music for women, people of color and low-income Angelenos through paid internships, focused mentoring and an ongoing series of workshops and panels.

The fund was created to help “tell the stories of all the beautiful complexity of this city, which is the most diverse city in the world today, a place where 39 countries find their largest population outside their home country,” Garcetti said in a Monday morning press conference at the soon-to-be-opened Rideback Ranch, a creative campus that will serve as the home to Lin’s rebranded production company in the Filipinotown District west of downtown Los Angeles.

EEF will also promote the work of underrepresented filmmakers, storytellers and creatives by providing mini-grants to existing non-profits that pair underserved young people with top-level mentors and internships, pledging, among other grants, $172,000 to create scholarships and cover operational costs for the WIE Mentorship Program, launched by The Hollywood Reporter in December 2009 in conjunction with its annual Women in Entertainment gala and Big Brothers Big Sisters of Greater Los Angeles.

“Hollywood is taking a very hard look at itself right now, as is much of this nation,” said Garcetti. “At this moment, the women of Time’s Up and #MeToo are looking and saying, ‘Why don’t we have more stories, and why is it that if we see these perversions at the end of the line, why aren’t we fixing it at the beginning of the line?’”

Through this new initiative, Garcetti aims to increase the number of paid summer internships in entertainment from 150 — for students participating in the Hire LA’s Youth program, which partners with leading entertainment and digital media organizations that include DreamWorks Animation, Ryan Murphy Television, Film Independent, Creative Artists Agency, WME and Anonymous Content — to 250 by the end of 2018, with a goal of 500 placements by 2020.

“We need to bring [young people] into the fold early, so they have the advantage of knowing how film and TV and new media work and how to get ahead. It’s not just important for this industry, it’s important for Los Angeles,” said Garcetti.

Lin, producer of the Lego movies and It, knows first-hand the difference an internship can make. “Lorenzo di Bonaventura gave me an internship that completely changed my life and my career,” Lin told THR. “That’s what EEF is all about. They’re creating hundreds of new internships and we’re going to create an internship, as well, through EEF. I really think it starts from the ground up.”

DuVernay braved the flu to come support the fund. “I feel very passionately about the Mayor's great efforts to really move out of the point of conversation. We always say, ‘Let’s move the conversation forward.’ You know, I’m done talking. I got it. Let’s start doing. And that is what this fund really means to me,” said the filmmaker , who also announced at the event that she’s opening a new headquarters for her Array Entertainment in the same area on Glendale Boulevard.

After the press conference, DuVernay said she feels optimistic about the initiative. “I’m always optimistic every time I go in the room. I think that if you don’t have hope that this moment is going to be different, then there is really no way forward. Hope is intrinsic to any of these efforts,” she said. “I am hopeful that this will really blossom into something dynamic for this city. There’s a lot of incredible people involved, so the hope is that we can all just stay committed to it so that it becomes ... I don’t really like the word 'movement' — I just want it to be a fact, a new reality.”