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Helping advance diversity in film and television

Kudos to the Massachusetts Film Office for reaching out to us with a unique approach to bring two local film industry unions — International Alliance of Theatrical Stage Employees (IASTE Local 481) and Screen Actors Guild – American Federation of Television and Radio Artists (SAG-AFTRA New England) — to those interested in starting or developing a career in the industry.

The response was overwhelmingly positive, with more than 175 individuals registering for the free event at the Bruce C. Bolling Building in the heart of Dudley center in Roxbury. The event transitioned from an introductory welcome and overview from the sponsoring organizations to participants’ choice of either a behind-the-scenes workshop with the stage union or a Q&A with actors. The place was buzzing with enthusiasm and excitement.

The respondents’ demographic breakdown included:

  • 52 percent men
  • 71 percent black
  • 14 percent white, and
  • 14 percent from zip code 02124 (Dorchester)

Of those sampled for the event:

  • 76 percent were highly satisfied overall with the event
  • 66 percent found the information presented very useful, and
  • logistics — across the board — were highly rated.

This event is intended to be one of a series of events. However, just from the initial launch, a connection was made between YouthBuild, an organization that prepares underserved young people for a career in the trades, and set builders to upcycle set leftovers for student projects. Students from Madison Park High School were also present and eager to learn about the options the industry can provide them. Twenty-three people were identified as ready for the next steps to become a set builder and start working within the next three to six months!

The follow-up event occurred on March 2 at Roxbury Community College. Participants who were interested in becoming a Production Assistant (PA) were invited back to learn hands-on about working on a movie or TV set, including learning the lingo and walkie-talkie etiquette.  From this event, we found out that a person was hired as a location PA, and another person was hired on a FOX feature helping the visual effects team.

The Commonwealth of Massachusetts is attracting more and more film and TV shows, and the demand for people from different ethnic and religious backgrounds is steadily increasing. We look forward to strengthening our approach  and impact in this area.

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