Wave Wire Services
LOS ANGELES — Some of Hollywood’s biggest names and industry leaders gathered in the Westlake District Sept. 14 to celebrate the opening of a specialized magnet program in partnership with the Los Angeles Unified School District to create a path for students to secure jobs in film and television.
“Our industry, really since its inception, has been pretty poor at inclusion,” actor George Clooney, the founder of the program, told students in the Roybal Film and Television Production Magnet program at the Roybal Learning Center. “Usually the way we try to fix it is at the end of the process, and that hasn’t worked out very well as we’ve seen.”
Clooney said there are 65,000 “below-the-line” jobs in the industry.
“Not acting and directing and writing — the real hard work: the editors and the visual effects supervisors and the cinematographers,” he said. “And these are the jobs that unless you know about them you can’t chase them.
“And there’s whole communities that haven’t even heard about this, don’t know anything about it. We aim to change that and we need to make sure that our industry is part of that.”
Clooney founded the Roybal Film and Television Production Magnet effort last year along with his long-time producing partner Grant Heslov and performers including Don Cheadle, Mindy Kaling, Kerry Washington and Eva Longoria. The group then worked to generate contributions and cooperation from major Hollywood studios — Amazon, Disney, Fox, NBCUniversal, Paramount, Netflix, Sony, History Channel and Warner Bros. — to support the effort to train students in industry careers and even open doors for them to gain employment.
“They’re saying that in two or three years when we are finished, when our first group is graduating … that there’s going to be internships and apprenticeships and actual jobs that are going to lead to better and better jobs, so that we can change the complexity of this industry,” Clooney said.
The magnet school officially opened in August with 150 students.
Clooney credited agent Bryan Lourd of Creative Artists Agency, or CAA, with pulling together the various industry partners to work with the students in the program.
“A year ago, 10 of us set out to establish a clear pathway to good-paying jobs for students in underserved communities by supporting them with a robust academic education and practical training,” Lourd said. “Today we welcome these companies into the Roybal family. Together, our collective resources will help deliver on the promise of a more inclusive industry. Roybal is just the beginning and we welcome all those who share in our mission to join us.”
Kaling and Cheadle joined Clooney at the Sept. 15 event celebrating the program.
“Hopefully we will be able to provide a pathway for you to get into this industry, find lucrative jobs and have greater representation in this business that we’ve been fortunate enough to be in for many years,” Cheadle told the students and organizers in attendance.
The magnet opened with ninth- and 10th-grade students and will include grades 11 and 12 over the next two years, with potential opportunity to expand the pilot program to more schools throughout the Los Angeles area.
Behind-the-scenes members of the entertainment industry including costume designers Ruth Carter and Emilio Sosa; production designers Wynn Thomas and Korey Washington; hair and make-up artist Howard Berger; cinematographer Erik Messerschmidt; lighting director Danny Gonzalez; supervising sound editors Bobbi Banks and Glenfield Payne; film editor Michael Tronick; animation artist Vicky Pui; and visual effects producer Brooke Breton; have joined as inaugural members of the Roybal Industry Council, bringing their expertise to the development and delivery of career pathways.
LAUSD Superintendent Alberto Carvalho hailed the partnership and the contributions of so many entertainment industry executives.
“People of goodwill will always carve out common ground to meet the needs of our students, our workforce and our school communities,” he said in a statement. “We are grateful to have the support of these extraordinary industry leaders to create opportunities for our students.
“The coalition will also provide Los Angeles Unified teachers with access to renowned storytellers, along with industry professionals and experts, and hands-on experience for students from underserved communities and create a pathway to employment within the industry.”