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Studio owner launches initiative to boost minority hiring in the entertainment industry

Television City studio complex, formerly known as CBS Television City, in the Fairfax district of Los Angeles.
The Television City studio complex, formerly known as CBS Television City, in the Fairfax district of Los Angeles.
(Buyenlarge / Getty Images)

High-profile studio Television City has pledged a $1-million endowment to improve diversity in the entertainment industry by training Black students and other young people from underrepresented communities so they can work behind the camera.

The historic Los Angeles studio, formerly known as CBS Television City, is owned by an affiliate of Hackman Capital Partners, a Culver City real estate company that has become one of the region’s largest studio operators.

Chief Executive Michael Hackman said he hopes others in the industry will participate in the program to encourage mentoring, internships, scholarships, education and onsite training to secure jobs in the field. Hackman Capital owns Television City in Los Angeles, Culver Studios in Culver City and Manhattan Beach Studios.

Television City also pledged another $1 million to support the recovery of the Fairfax district around Television City from hardships related to the coronavirus outbreak that saw the closure of most businesses as well as property damage caused during recent civil unrest surrounding the death of George Floyd, an unarmed Black man killed while in police custody in Minneapolis.

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The entertainment industry is one of the largest employers in the region but has a reputation for being insular and difficult to break into, especially for people without specialized training or connections.

“Too often, securing a high-quality job isn’t based on what you can do, but it’s about who you know,” Hackman said. “Hopefully, our initiatives will start to catalyze some meaningful change.”

Beneath the fury over George Floyd’s death lie longstanding economic inequities that have plagued California’s 2.6 million black people.

Hackman described the $1-million endowment as “seed capital” for an organization run by industry stakeholders who will invest in its success.

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The organization, which has yet to be named, will work with local schools, production studios and content creators to provide scholarships, financial aid and other resources to help bridge the gap between learning about the business and entering it.

The goal is to help counter systemic racism in American culture that creates economic disadvantages, he said.

“Getting people of diversity into good-paying jobs is one very significant way to make a difference,” Hackman said, but “what we’ve found is that a lot of the underrepresented communities don’t have the financial resources to obtain the education and training to qualify for these jobs.”

He likened the program to the Motion Picture & Television Fund, which was established by Hollywood luminaries such as Charlie Chaplin and Mary Pickford in 1921 to help financially struggling colleagues and drew widespread support in the industry.

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“We think if we work together we can create an endowment that a lot of people would contribute to,” he said, and communally address a different industry problem a century later.

Hackman pledged the participation of MBS Services, which provides resources for content creation such as lighting and grip equipment for the owners of 35 studios and more than 300 soundstages in television and film production markets around the world. Hackman Capital acquired MBS when it bought Manhattan Beach Studios last year.

Other media and entertainment companies have pledged financial actions in response to nationwide protests against police brutality, including Philadelphia cable giant Comcast Corp., which on Monday unveiled a $100-million plan to support social justice and equality.

When largely peaceful protests swept Los Angeles on May 30, they passed by the gates of Television City. Some businesses in the neighborhood were vandalized and burglarized, including the Grove shopping center next door.

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Hackman Capital received some criticism for allowing police to use the facility as a staging area, and the company responded in a statement to Variety that at the request of the city it “provided access to first responders, including the LAFD and LAPD, to ensure public safety.”

Michael Hackman said when announcing the educational endowment that as a studio and individuals, “We all stand in solidarity with the Black community and those speaking out against unequal justice leading to economic disparities that must be addressed and healed.”

“The overwhelming majority of the protesters have been peaceful,” said Hackman, who also called them “courageous and inspiring.”

Hackman has a record of philanthropy, including support for such organizations as the Jewish Federation, Culver City Backpacks for Kids and the Help Group.

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Television City’s $1-million pledge to the neighborhood is to support local organizations, businesses and individuals that are working to revitalize the Beverly/Fairfax district, he said.


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