With Hollywood scrambling to address last year’s #Oscarssowhite controversy and audiences shifting from broadcast networks to streaming and cable television, the need for more diversity in front of and behind the camera has become more than just a “hot topic” – it’s now imperative for our bottom line.
The Producers Guild of America’s Diversity Committee has been at the forefront of this issue through its year-round initiatives, including the Media Access Awards, the Disability Film Challenge, various networking events and seminars. Now in its fourteenth year, the committee’s flagship, the Power of Diversity Master Workshop is an intensive eight-week program that offers master classes with some of today’s top producers as well as one-to-one mentoring. Emerging and mid-level producers are trained in the art of pitching, packaging, financing and marketing to prepare their projects for the marketplace. Tori Kyes, a graduate of the 2016 program, recently shared her experience and the impact it has made on her career.
Last year, my friend Tim Cruz brought the script Hopeful Soul to my attention. The poignancy of the story and its relevance to today's societal issues ignited a spark, so we submitted it to the PGA Power of Diversity workshop in hopes it would get the jump start that it needed.
Hopeful Soul is a feature-length drama about a troubled white teenaged orphan who seeks refuge in the black community and the culture of gospel music as the racial tensions of 1967 Detroit escalate. I strongly felt the Power of Diversity workshop would give us a leg up in helping to shape and prepare a story with diversity at its center. As unnecessary deaths due to police brutality, burgeoning race riots, and the surprising election of a President who has fueled a race-driven diatribe continued to unfold around us, this story and the global mission of diversity in film became more and more important to us.
Because of the Power of Diversity workshop, we've learned invaluable techniques and met a variety of phenomenal people all of whom helped us refine our pitch and story, ultimately allowing us to raise $15M for production, receive firm interest from an A-list director, secure distribution through Smith Global / SONY, and attach Andraé Crouch’s famed music producer to score the film. I can honestly say that none of this would have been possible without the tremendous support and guidance of the Power of Diversity workshop and our amazing mentors.
Like Tori and Tim, the Power of Diversity Master Workshop – which is free of charge to participants – can help you prepare your project for the marketplace. To apply, visit www.pgadiversity.org. The final deadline is March 13th and only ten applicants will be selected. We look forward to your submissions!