Educational Grants Support Outreach to Minorities

In May, the Academy’s Educational Grants Committee reviewed a hefty stack of proposals and applications and selected 64 organizations to receive grants ranging from $5,000 to $25,000. Among those receiving money for 2009–2010 are Streetlights and the Institute of American Indian Arts, both of which have benefitted from Academy grants in the past as well, and both of which focus their efforts on improving skills and opportunities for minority populations.


Providing free job training and placement, plus career counseling and ongoing mentoring

Following the 1992 Los Angeles riots, commercial and documentary producer Dorothy Thompson was struck by the lack of job opportunities for young minority residents of disadvantaged neighborhoods. She decided to do something about it and began by training five young people as production assistants on her own projects.

“The difference in their lives was profound, and I knew I had to do it on a larger scale,” said Thompson.

That larger scale was Streetlights. The program requires participants to complete 240 hours of training, half of which is spent working on actual commercial, music video, television or movie productions. Several broadcast and cable networks and movie studios provide the work opportunities and on the film side alone, Streetlights has placed young men and women on over 420 productions, including “Hancock,” “Moulin Rouge,” “The 40 Year-Old Virgin,” “The Polar Express” and many, many others.

Many of those who are accepted into the program are like Julia (not her real name), who was raised in poverty with her six siblings. Julia had also lived through the trauma of witnessing, at age 16, her best friend being gunned down in a drive-by shooting. By 19, Julia found herself the sole provider for her family.

But through Streetlights, Julia became a production assistant and just recently she was accepted into the International Cinematographers Guild.

“Our mission is to create careers for economically and socially disadvantaged young minorities from underserved areas of Los Angeles County,” according to Thompson. “At the same time, we’re hoping to promote ethnic diversity in the entertainment industry.”

Since Thompson’s initial outreach, 700 individuals have completed the program.

For its 2009–2010 job training program, Streetlights received $15,000 from the Academy, which was the same amount it received in 2007.

Streetlights results:

  • Class of 2008: average monthly salary at enrollment – $767; average monthly salary post-graduation – $3,166.
  • Within two years of graduation, 75% or more of Streetlights participants will have advanced into mid-level management positions or union apprenticeships.

The Institute of American Indian Arts

Empowering creativity and leadership in Native arts and cultures through higher education, lifelong learning and outreach

Another entity selected to receive an Academy grant for support of its efforts to serve a minority population is the Institute of American Indian Arts (IAIA), an accredited, federally chartered fine arts college devoted to the study and practice of the artistic and cultural traditions of American Indian and Alaska Native peoples.

This is the second year the Santa Fe, New Mexico college received a $7,500 grant from the Academy for its Summer Television and Film Workshop. The grant helps to fund scholarships for the six-week intensive program in which students participate in screenwriting workshops; produce, direct and present their film projects; and meet industry professionals.

“It’s a hands-on experience for students,” says Barbara King, the IAIA’s foundation and corporate relations officer. “They meet, interact and learn from professionals who’ve already made a mark in the industry.”

Approximately 100 students have completed the program since its establishment in 2004. Many have gone on to pursue graduate studies or have entered the entertainment workforce.

Three graduates of the 2008 Summer Workshop who are now “making their mark” on the industry are Eve-Lauren La Fountain, who was selected for the NBC Universal page training program; Stephanie Painter, whose film “The Hand Drum” was selected for both the American Indian Film Festival and the Smithsonian Native American Film and Video Festival; and Roy Stewart, who is currently teaching new media at Little Big Horn College in Montana.

Also among this year’s grant recipients are FilmAid International, which was profiled in the Academy Report in 2007, and several more organizations that seek to benefit underserved or minority populations, including Inner-City Filmmakers, the Center for Asian American Media and the National Association of Latino Independent Producers. A “Muslim Voices” screening series and an Aboriginal artist-in-residence program are among those receiving support as well. In addition, internship programs at 21 colleges and universities will receive money.

Since its establishment in 1968, the Academy has distributed more than 637 institutional grants totaling more than $5.8 million in funding. Click here for a complete list of the 2011–2012 Educational Grant recipients.

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