It’s the best of times and the worst of times for employment in the entertainment/streaming industry. As with the labor market nationwide, there is a shortage of workers, which is good for those looking for a job. But the situation leaves companies struggling to fill vacancies. As a result, workforce training programs appear and grow in Hollywood.
“There’s certainly a tight job market for all types of workers, and that’s expanding the availability of experienced and skilled workers,” said Charles Slocum, deputy executive director of the Writers Guild of America/West. “Television is at or near the highest production levels ever, and feature films and other long-running productions are also at or near the highest production levels.”
This crisis goes from production crews to talent, says Slocum, an organized labor executive who held financial positions in Hollywood early in his career.
The long-standing labor shortage seemed to be amplified by the big Covid reboot in Hollywood.
“Once the industry was convinced it could produce movies and TV shows safely, in January 2021, we saw all studios kind of stepping on the accelerator,” said Mark Goldstein , chairman and CEO of Entertainment Partners, which is a production company. provider of financial, management and corporate services in Hollywood. “The result was that a significant number of productions were greenlit at the same time, which then led to a need for more talent in the industry to support all the products” that hit the streets simultaneously. Entertainment Partners is owned by private equity giant TPG Capital.
Today, workforce training initiatives proliferate across Hollywood, mounted by industry, governments, nonprofits and labor unions. Often the ambition is to bring in workers from other industries to deepen Hollywood’s labor pool and to hire people from historically underrepresented communities to improve demographic diversity. Programs include in-person classroom learning, distance learning via video, and connecting with working professionals and internships.
The California Film Commission has launched two parallel training initiatives. CFC, a state agency for economic development, launched its Career Pathways program in 2020 with the aim of attracting and training individuals – namely women and minorities – from underserved communities for employment. entry into the Hollywood craft. Career Pathways add life skills as well as job training.
The separate career preparation program that began in 2005 prepares participants for careers in Hollywood production and uses third-party training partners in the mix. CFC says that in fiscal year 2020-21 “approximately 100 productions under the 2.0 and 3.0 programs hired more than 250 interns to meet the career readiness requirement, resulting in approximately 53 000 hours of paid work”.
There is a strong
emphasis on diversity, equity and inclusion.
California Film Commission
“We are a part of training in the state of California,” said Colleen Bell, executive director of CFC. “The focus is on diversity, equity and inclusion – diversifying the entertainment industry pipeline.” Bell has worked as a television producer and in government, including as ambassador to Hungary for the Obama administration.
Private sector initiatives are another piece of the training puzzle. Major movie studios have a myriad of training efforts, which isn’t surprising given their size and manpower requirements. For example, Sony Pictures Television founded its Diverse Directors program to find emerging talent from diverse backgrounds. Among the Diverse Directors graduates is Barry Jenkins, who went on to direct Best Picture Oscar-winning ‘Moonlight’.
In the video streaming sector, Amazon Studios announced in October sponsorship of the Youth Cinema Project Alumni program for the 2022-2023 school year, which is managed by the Latino Film Institute led by Edward James Olmos.
Taking a distance-learning approach, industry services provider Entertainment Partners has developed 20 self-study video courses in 2020 for training Hollywood teams, finance and management. Some 12,500 people have taken these EP Academy courses, which were free during the pandemic and now range in cost from free to $199 (and free for EP customers).
“It wasn’t expensive to do and it was totally worth it” to hone the workforce, Goldstein said. Entertainment Partners operates a leading payroll service in Hollywood.
The labor movement also administers training programs. The WGA Showrunner training program, which was launched nearly two decades ago, emphasizes on-the-job learning for the high-paying category of writer/producer/director positions who guide television series; the Writers Guild union partners with the Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers employer group. SAG-AFTRA accredits half a dozen training programs for intimacy coordinators, who defend actors with production companies on scenes involving nudity and simulated sex. The atypical employment category was formalized in 2018.
The main preparatory grounds for white-collar jobs are local colleges and universities that cater to Hollywood as a big local industry. In addition to local institutions, more than a dozen out-of-state colleges and universities operate major permanent satellite campuses in the region, emphasizing entertainment/media studies that also feed graduates from the ‘industry. Among the schools are Boston-based Emerson College and New York University. Arizona State University opened its media and entertainment-focused California Center campus a year ago in the historic Herald Examiner Building in downtown Los Angeles at 11th Street and Broadway. ASU has the ambitious goal of enrolling 100 million more students in distance learning globally in 40 languages by 2030.
Training aimed at attracting underrepresented demographic groups has become sensitive and important. Industry criticism erupted earlier this month over plans to shut down Warner Bros.’ writers and directors workshop. Television, because it has been a training vehicle for minorities. The decision to close the program was reversed five days after the closure plans were announced, and the workshop is now hosted in WBD’s Diversity, Equity and Inclusion unit, in partnership with WBTV.