Talk of diversity in Hollywood is inescapable. You’ve heard the discussions over #OscarSoWhite and our own gripes with the lack of Latinx film critics; you’ve read about the #MeToo movement and seen many a panel on the need for more female showrunners. But what does all that talk look like in action? The Hollywood Reporter wasn’t going to let that question hang in the air. At their annual Women in Entertainment event, Black Panther stars Chadwick Boseman, Lupita Nyong’o and Danai Gurira announced a new diversity initiative, the Young Executives Fellowship, which is “designed to create an inclusive pipeline for future leaders in entertainment.”
A joint venture with WME and Amazon Studios, the fellowship will draw high school students from underserved schools in Compton, Inglewood and Los Angeles and immerse them in a two-year program that combines curriculum with mentoring. The idea is to actively nurture a new generation of Hollywood executives that come from under-served and under-represented communities.
The initiative will be overseen by an advisory board that includes eminent leaders in entertainment, education, and civil rights such as mayor of Los Angeles Eric Garcetti, Inglewood Unified School District state administrator Dr. Thelma Melendez, CEO of Big Brothers Big Sisters of Greater Los Angeles Olivia Diaz-Lapham, former chairman of Paramount Pictures Sherry Lansing and head of Amazon Studios Jennifer Salke. The hope is that this new breed of industry leaders will better reflect the US population and serve the communities that are so often ignored or worse, mischaracterized in mainstream media.
To make more films like Black Panther, Boseman noted, “We need leaders of all classes, all races and all genders in pivotal positions. The question is, how to find them? We are delighted to announce a new program designed to create a pipeline for future leaders in entertainment — all geared to attract brilliant young men and women. It should be brilliant young women and men, from some of the most under-served communities in Los Angeles.” Considering executives are the ones making the calls when it comes to what movies get greenlit, which actors get called in, and what projects are deemed worthy of an investment, this initiative — which kicks off in April of 2019 — has the chance to truly make a seismic impact on an industry that, despite its “diversity talk” remains mired in gatekeeping and shunning minorities at every level.