PROJECT INVOLVE TURNS 20!
This year, Film Independent celebrates the 20th anniversary of Project Involve, our signature diversity and mentorship program. In October, we welcomed thirty talented filmmakers into our twentieth class. Anniversaries come and go, but this one feels truly significant to all of us at Film Independent. Project Involve is squarely at the center of our mission: championing the cause of independent film and supporting a community of artists who embody diversity, innovation and uniqueness of vision.
For anyone unfamiliar with the program, Project Involve is a nine-month program that runs in Los Angeles from October through June. Each year we accept about 30 filmmakers from communities traditionally underrepresented in the film industry – a mix of writers, directors, producers, DPs and editors, as well as people seeking to work in acquisitions, marketing, distribution, agencies, etc. Over the nine months of the program, these filmmakers receive one-on-one mentorship, participate in a series of master workshops on the craft as well as the business of filmmaking, and they also work together to create a collection of short films. The program concludes in June when their short films premiere at the Los Angeles Film Festival.
A little history: When the program began twenty years ago, it was specifically for young women of color, aged 18 to 24. Since then, the program has evolved to embody the broadest notion of diversity, or inclusiveness. We welcome talented filmmakers from different ethnicities, sexual orientations, genders, ages, economic backgrounds and with physical disabilities. We have over 600 alumni who are now working in virtually every part of the film industry – in independent film, the studio world, television, the web, you name it. Among the many films written, directed and/or produced by PI Fellows are Circumstance, Pariah, Amreeka, Justin Bieber: Never Say Never, Real Women Have Curves, Miss Navajo, Mosquita y Mari, and After Innocence – to name but a few.
Do We Still Need a Diversity Program?
Anniversaries are a time for self-reflection, and they also present an opportunity to ask about the value of what one is doing. So one might ask, do we really need Project Involve today? Given all those alumni out there making films, can we stop the program now? It’s noteworthy that just as the PI anniversary kicks off, one of the biggest films to open is Cloud Atlas, a huge studio film co-directed by Lana Wachowski, an openly transgendered filmmaker.
While it’s certainly fair to ask such a question, there is absolutely no doubt that programs like Project Involve are needed now more than ever. There remain plenty of unheard voices and untold stories in the film industry. To cite one recent statistic, women accounted for 5% of directors in 2011, which is actually a decrease of 2% from 2010 and about half the percentage of women directors working in 1998. In another study, the DGA reported this fall that in 2011-2012, 73% of all television episodes were directed by Caucasian males. Only 4% of episodes were directed by minority women. Other statistics are, sadly, equally grim.
“We believe that a vibrant film culture is one that includes all voices, one that tells stories you haven’t seen or heard before, and tells them in ways that are fresh and surprising.”
A Vibrant Film Culture Includes All Voices
While hearing these stats year after year may have a demoralizing effect, at Film Independent we take them as a spur to action and as reinforcement that Project Involve remains as vitally important today as it was 20 years ago. We believe that a vibrant film culture is one that includes all voices, one that tells stories you haven’t seen or heard before, and tells them in ways that are fresh and surprising.
At the Spirit Awards – one of our other key programs – we celebrate films that embody uniqueness of vision and that tackle original, provocative subject matter. It’s our belief that those films are born not out of the typically homogenous group currently represented in our industry, but out of an inclusive artistic culture that champions personal, risk-taking and authentic stories – one that looks like a lot like Project Involve.
To mark PI’s anniversary, we reached out to director and PI alumna Jessica Sanders to see if she would direct a PSA for the program. Together with producer Mel Jones, also a program alumna, they came up with the above, which we feel beautifully captures the joyous and welcoming spirit of the program. A huge thanks to Jessica and Mel, and everyone else who worked on this PSA!
A Plea to You, the Reader: Get Involved!
If you are a graduate of Project Involve and you’re not a current member of Film Independent, please join! In addition to being an annual program, Project Involve is a community of incredible alumni: like-minded filmmakers who support each other. By joining Film Independent, you will help us to stay connected with you as well as to be able to continue offering this program to future filmmakers. If you would like to support the program at any level, please click here. On behalf of past, present and future Project Involve filmmakers, we thank you.
– by Josh Welsh, Co-President, Film Independent
Click here to learn more about Project Involve
October 29th, 2012 • No Comments