Bridging the gap
As a Latina lesbian filmmaker, I know the importance of having my films seen by all types of people, so I support and submit to all types of film festivals. But I do also believe in the necessity of having specifically themed film festivals, like Fusion, that continue to highlight and promote under-represented communities.
What sets Fusion and Outfest apart is their additional efforts for us, the filmmakers to connect with industry professionals and provide us with more tools to navigate the industry. You see, most of us work alone or in the margins, toughing-out the filmmaking adventure as best we can from the outside. We lack the contacts and know-how of how the mega-beast nicknamed “The Industry” works.
For these reasons, Outfest and Fusion have created a program called Access LA. The beauty of Access LA is that it entails an entire day dedicated to uniting filmmakers not only with each other (building community) but also with industry professionals who are interested in sharing their knowledge. These professionals volunteer their time in order to demystify the business and communicate how it really works. Their collaboration with Access LA directly helps us, the “content creators” (just to toss around a new industry term!) build contacts and relationships with people on the inside who work to create more diversity in the mainstream.
This year’s Fusion Access LA was held at Universal Studios and co-organized by OUT@NBCU (The Alliance of NBC Universal Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender and Straight Ally Employees, created in 1986!) Their mission statement:
OUT@NBCU is part of NBC-Universal’s commitment to the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual & Transgender Community. It helps develop and retain employees by providing volunteer and networking opportunities and allows people to make the most of their benefits, while advocating for policies that promote an inclusive work environment.
Twenty years ago when I first started filmmaking, I believed that being part of corporate media and film was like joining the devil! In the past few years however, I realized that in order to change the way under-represented people were viewed, some of us needed to be a part of these corporate entities and start to directly create the change from the inside. I now know that to create a real impact on how society at large perceives our communities we need to form a combined effort between independent content creators, like me, and established institutions/corporations, like NBC-Universal and others.
Inclusive and insightful
Our day at Fusion’s Access LA started at 8:30am at Universal Studios with a delightful breakfast and greeting from co-organizer and host extraordinaire, Jayzen Patria (NBCU and Outfest Board Member). This was a great opportunity to connect with some of the 40 filmmakers selected by Fusion to attend this unique event. After, I really enjoyed an inspirational discussion with Karen Horne, Vice President, NBC Entertainment Diversity Initiatives.
From the start, it was clear that diversity is very important to the company, as we were highly encouraged to learn more about their policies, programs and hiring practices. (FYI: There are actually more than 500 job offers at NBCU alone!) I confess, as a Latina lesbian, I’ve never felt like I had much of a place in corporate film or television, but the sincerity of the speakers matched the established number of programs and outreach offered.
All of the panelists and speakers belong to OUT@NBCU and each person throughout the day explained step-by-step how they got to where they are today. That was a real eye-opening experience! Here’s a list of the super-impressive people we met and who are notably all members of OUT@NBC.
Many panelists spoke of NBC-Universal’s Diversity programs and Talent Initiatives but they also included many of the other initiatives created by corporate competitors. Writing and directing programs destined to hone our craft for film and television include future opportunities with the companies that provide them (NBC Universal, ABC, Disney, Warner Brothers, and more). These unique programs are specifically tailored for those who want to break in to the business of film and television. And guess what? They are especially looking for diversity! And they mean all types of diversity, including race, gender, sexuality and more. I’m including some links below for anyone interested.