Magazine article Variety

Minority Report: Hope in Hollywood

Magazine article Variety

Minority Report: Hope in Hollywood

Article excerpt

When Oscar nominations were announced Jan. 14, protests about Hollywood's lack of diversity centered on actors and, occasionally, writers and directors. But Dorothy Thompson, founder of the nonprofit Streetlights, knows that true diversity should involve every level of filmmaking - including behind-the-camera work. And her Hollywood-based organization proves that progress is possible.

The group trains 45-50 young adults every year as production assistants and helps them find jobs and move up the ladder. Its motto: creating ethnic diversity in the entertainment industry since 1992.

Thompson started the organization following LA.'s Rodney King uprisings that year. She realized a big part of the unrest came from frustration. "It all rests on jobs; it all rests on hiring," she tells Variety.

Streetlights holds three sets of classes each year, with 15 trainees in each group. Individuals each receive 240 hours of training, with half that time spent working on paid productions.

"We take four weeks to teach absolutely anything and everything a PA. would ever need to know," says Thompson, "so our RA.'s don't feel like strangers when they arrive on their first job." The training covers all aspects of crew jobs, from use of walkie-talkies to handling purchase orders and return slips.

After finishing the program, the trainees are available to work in whatever department needs assistance: camera, art, grip or props, etc.

One of the program's success stories is Randy Huggins, now supervising producer on the Starz original series "Power." "Streetlights," he says, "gives an opportunity to people who wouldn't otherwise have a chance. They instill an ethic of 'Do the job; don't disrespect the work.' "

Huggins started as a P.A. and eventually became writers' assistant on FX^s "The Shield," where his boss was Glen Mazzara (now exec producer on A&E's "Damien").

Mazzara notes that a diverse staff brings distinct creative advantages. …

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