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February 14, 2018

Hollywood Aims For Inclusion With New Initiative

The Evolve Entertainment Fund looks to pull marginalized groups into the spotlight.

Filmmaker Ava DuVernay, producer Dan Lin, and Los Angeles mayor Eric Garcetti have created a new inclusion initiative focused on marginalized groups working within the film and television industry, according to Deadline.

The Evolve Entertainment Fund looks to increase opportunities within film, television, and digital mediums for women, persons of color, and low-income residents within Los Angeles. Its first goal is to raise over $5 million by 2020 and has found support across the industry at large. The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, Lionsgate, Netflix, Oprah Winfrey Network, the Sundance Institute, and Warner Bros. are among the list of supporters of the initiative.

Duvernay, who became the first black woman to direct a movie costing above $100m with her gig helming A Wrinkle in Time, called the push to include young marginalized people in the future of film and television “critically important” at the unveiling of the EEF, which happened at Lin’s production agency, the recently-renamed Rideback Ranch.

“Real change happens when we take tangible action, and that means giving young women and people of color opportunities in the industry early on so they have the chance to shape its future,” she added.

Eric Garcetti also tweeted in support of the initiative:

The incentive offers grants and has already provided 150 paid student internships. The EEF is looking to increase that number to 250 by the end of the year and to 500 by 2020.

This is not Duvernay’s first foray into diversity-focused advocacy. She is also the founder of ARRAY, a film festival “dedicated to the amplification of independent filmmakers by people of color and women filmmakers globally.”

With the rise of movements like #OscarsSoWhite, this has been a time of unease in Hollywood. And for good reason, too — the reality of the industry’s deep-rooted sexism, racism, and general bigotry becomes more and more apparent as diverse films continue to do well at the box office while whitewashed films continue to flop.

Jordan Peele’s horror hit Get Out was a critical success and an audience favorite, and the movie is now becoming an awards darling, too. And, tellingly, it’s made a lot of money — $253 million on a $4.5 million production budget is nothing to scoff at. In fact, a vast number of 2017’s box office successes (Wonder WomanThor: Ragnarok, and Hidden Figures, which debuted at the end of 2016) starred people within marginalized groups that the EEF looks to support.

One must wonder why, seeing as the numbers don’t lie, films like a Ghost in the Shell remake starring Scarlett Johansson continue to get made. Why do diverse casts, both behind and in front of the camera, continue to be an anomaly rather than the norm?

The EEF, ARRAY, and other initiatives like them need to exist. It’s not enough to get diverse casts on screen. The EEF looks to bring marginalized groups into all aspects of film and television production. When white voices are the loudest voices in the room, you get films like Ghost in the Shell. The future of the industry must be shaped by an inclusion of other voices.

“I came to the US as an immigrant from Taiwan,” Lin said at the unveiling of the initiative. “I’ve seen firsthand how difficult the industry is, how hard it is for writers, filmmakers, and other artists to get their films and television series made. It’s even harder for someone with no connections to get a career started. It takes the generosity of others to lend a hand and get you through the door.”

The first EEF grant is the Women in Entertainment Mentorship Program, which looks to provide opportunities for women from low-income neighborhoods to work with a mentor in the entertainment industry.

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