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Eric Garcetti and Ava DuVernay launch diversity initiative for entertainment industry

Eric Garcetti and Ava DuVernay launch diversity initiative for entertainment industry
Filmmaker Ava DuVernay spoke at a Monday event in Los Angeles to launch a new diversity program for the entertainment industry. Producer Dan Lin, left, and L.A. Mayor Eric Garcetti also spoke. (Los Angeles Times)

Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti and filmmaker Ava DuVernay launched a diversity program on Monday that will fund internships in the entertainment industry for young people from underserved communities.

The new program, which kicks off this summer, will also provide production gap financing to feature projects made by filmmakers and crews who don't have sufficient funds to get through post production.

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The Evolve Entertainment Fund will assist 150 interns for the coming summer, with the goal to increase the number to 500 by 2020 and beyond. The $5-million initiative won't be financed with tax dollars but rather through fundraising, according to a city spokesperson.

The program will dispense grants to entertainment companies and organizations around L.A. The first grant recipient will be the Women in Entertainment Mentorship Program, a joint venture between Big Brothers and Big Sisters of Greater Los Angeles and the Hollywood Reporter.

Hollywood has come under harsh criticism in recent years for its lack of racial and gender diversity in key production and executive positions. The industry has also been roiled in recent months by widespread accusations of sexual harassment, beginning with allegations that surfaced in October that producer Harvey Weinstein engaged in sexual misconduct against women for decades.

"Unless we change, the status quo stays," said Garcetti during a launch event Monday at the Filipinotown headquarters of "The Lego Movie" producer Dan Lin.

An immigrant from Taiwan who grew up in a modest Brooklyn neighborhood, Lin said his production company, which has been renamed Rideback Ranch, will be a "symbol of inclusion and diversity."

DuVernay was also on hand to speak, encouraging entertainment executives to hire more women and ethnic minorities in production roles. "Real change happens when we take tangible action," said the L.A. native who grew up in the Compton area. She also joked that she was tired of attending diversity panels and that it is time for action.

The "Wrinkle in Time" director serves as co-chair of the Evolve Entertainment Fund. Her film distribution company, Array, has acquired new space on Glendale Boulevard near Echo Park to serve as its campus starting this summer.

Array is one of several entertainment companies that are partnering on the new initiative and expected to hire interns. Others include Netflix, Sundance and producers Ryan Murphy and Shonda Rhimes.

Garcetti said the new program will look for candidates from neighborhoods that aren't normally associated with the glamour of Hollywood — including Watts, Boyle Heights and Pacoima. The mayor noted that while his Hire L.A.'s Youth program found jobs for 15,000 young people from underserved communities last year, only 13 of them were in the entertainment industry.

He said the new program is designed to correct that imbalance and bring change to Hollywood.

"It matters on the screen and it matters behind the scenes as well," Garcetti said.

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