Life goes on this summer for Academy internships, in a virtual way. The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences is plowing forward with the fourth year of Academy Gold, its entertainment industry internship enhancement and mentorship program for students and young professionals from underrepresented communities. During the summer, as the pandemic continues, the program will be virtual, with an extension program in the fall for those students who delayed their summer internships.
“In the face of a pandemic and our continued efforts to drive equity in our industry, the decision on whether or not to proceed with the Academy Gold program this summer was very clear,” said Academy COO Christine Simmons. “Our pipeline program is even more critical at a time when underrepresented communities are being disproportionately affected by COVID-19. The needs are heightened, and we are dedicated to delivering an educational, fun and rewarding virtual experience for these students and young professionals that will change their trajectory in our industry.”
The Academy has managed to seal commitments from 19 partner companies: AMC Networks, Bron Studios, Circle of Confusion, Creative Artists Agency (CAA), The Walt Disney Company, Dolby Laboratories, DTS (part of Xperi Corporation), FotoKem, HBO, Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti’s Evolve Entertainment Fund, Moving Picture Institute, Panavision/Light Iron, Paradigm Talent Agency, Paramount Pictures, Participant Media, Sony Pictures Entertainment, Telsey + Company, Universal Filmed Entertainment Group and Warner Bros.
“Their support is integral to the success of Academy Gold,” said Academy governor and Education and Outreach Committee chair Nancy Utley, “and we commend them on finding innovative ways to continue their internship programs during this challenging and uncertain time.”
Each of the partners will sponsor up to three interns for the program, which kicks off June 17 with a two-day orientation that includes Academy governors, members and other industry speakers, studio and agency panels, and virtual tours of the Academy’s Film Archive, Margaret Herrick Library and Academy Museum of Motion Pictures.
This summer, 74 students from across the United States and abroad will participate in the Academy Gold eight-week program (complete with a graduation ceremony on August 8), which offers networking with Academy members and industry insiders, as well as online exposure to experts on various aspects of filmmaking (cinematography, costume design, production design, film editing and sound).
In the fall, when production is back as guidelines are followed, 30 students get to shoot scenes on a soundstage and shadow various departments on a live production. Participants include students from Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti’s Evolve Entertainment Fund, Los Angeles Trade-Technical College, Pasadena Community College, Santa Monica College, Los Angeles Film School, New York Film Academy, Exceptional Minds and the Ruderman Family Foundation.
Participating on craft panels: Stephanie Allain (producer); Victoria Alonso (EVP, Production, Marvel Studios); Annie Chang (VP, Creative Technologies, Universal Pictures); Matthew Cherry (writer-director); Jon M. Chu (director); Julie Ann Crommett (VP, Multicultural Audience Engagement, The Walt Disney Studios); Michael Goi (cinematographer); Tiffany Haddish (actor); Reginald Hudlin (producer-director); Franklin Leonard (founder and CEO, The Black List); Patrushkha Mierzwa (sound technician); Rachel Morrison (cinematographer); Daryn Okada (cinematographer); Academy President David Rubin (casting director); Kimberly Snyder (CEO, Panavision); Wynn P. Thomas (production designer); Karen Rupert Toliver (EVP, Creative, Sony Pictures Animation); Mark Ulano (sound mixer); and Mary Vogt (costume designer), among others.
Upon completion of the program, all Gold interns will be paired with an Academy member for an eight-month mentorship. This past year, members from every branch volunteered their time and support to the program, including Bobbi Banks, Sterling K. Brown, Bruce Cohen, Joyce Cox, Michael Goi, Jane Jenkins, Eric Roth, Taura Stinson and Virgil Williams.
Of the 300 past Academy Gold participants, 85 percent have joined film entertainment, technology, production services and digital media companies, with 27% in positions higher than entry level, and represent 74% people of color, 64% women, 30% LGBTQ+ and 6% with disability.
The Academy has launched an alumni program to lend support to all its talent development participants, including not only the Academy Gold interns, but the Student Academy Awards, Academy Nicholl Fellowships in Screenwriting, and the Academy Gold Fellowship for Women. The Gold Alumni Program will provide networking opportunities, access and career advancement services and offer affinity networking groups for Black and African American, Latinx, Asian American and Pacific Islander, LGBTQ+ and women alumni. The program is establishing a database to track participants’ career progress, and offer the industry a diverse talent pipeline.