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St. Louis workshop to help open doors for people shut out of the film business

Continuity, a St. Louis-based nonprofit focused on increasing diversity in media, held a similar workshop in January to share practical information about getting and keeping jobs in the film industry.

People working in the film business say personal connections are the key to getting a start in the field and landing those early jobs that can lead to a career.

When most producers and other decision-makers are white, able-bodied and neurotypical, people from other backgrounds can be shut out.

The one-day Set Basics workshop at Spot Content Studio in St. Louis on June 11 will be an attempt to help people of color, as well as others who have been excluded from the film industry, find jobs in the field.

“You get your job based off of who you know, and most people hang out with and are most closely connected to people who look like them,” said Michael Frances, a St. Louis-based reality television producer who is Black. “That is one of the big hurdles that hinders a lot of people from being able to get into the production world.”

Frances is a board member of the St. Louis-based nonprofit Continuity, which is working with the Missouri Film Office, the event’s sponsor.

The one-day session is open to 30 people, who must apply to attend. Those invited to participate must pay a $25 fee. Event materials specify that it is designed to assist people of “different backgrounds, ethnicities, race, age, identities and neurodivergence” who are looking for work in the film industry.

The workshop will focus on intangible skills that someone outside the film industry, or excluded from professional internships, might never otherwise have an opportunity to learn.

Frances said the workshop topics will include how to get a job, on-set etiquette and how to follow up and get more work once you’ve started. “You can learn on the job. But nobody teaches you how to get the job and how to function so that people keep you on a job.”

Continuity plans to repeat the St. Louis workshop in the fall and offer a similar one in Kansas City.

Organizers say it can be hard for people of color to make the personal connections they need to succeed.

“I realized that there’s kind of two film industries, not only in St. Louis but throughout the state of Missouri,” said Andrea Sporcic Klund, director of the Missouri Film Office, “in which there’s a Black filmmaking community and a white filmmaking community. And — not on purpose, but — they didn’t actually kind of meet in the middle. And I don’t think that’s great. So we really wanted to bridge that gap and allow more opportunity for more diversity across all of the jobs in the film industry.”

Skills from many jobs outside the film industry translate well to that business, Klund said.

“Construction skills, logistical skills, communication skills, even specific skills like being able to do hair and makeup, and electricians and all of these things we have in the film industry,” she said.

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Jeremy is the arts & culture reporter at St. Louis Public Radio.

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