California lawmakers want to diversify Hollywood. So does an LA church
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This budget proposal — which is still under consideration — would extend California’s existing film tax credit by five years. To get a chunk of the $330 million in funding, productions have to demonstrate a commitment to diversifying their cast and crew.
More and more, it’s smaller, emerging Los Angeles-based production studios that are fulfilling this mission.
“We produce content that we dream up, that we envision,” said Krenée Tolson, director of Hope Entertainment and Hope Studios, which creates its own productions and rents out studio space.
Tolson does not immediately reveal all details about the studio to her entertainment industry contacts when she invites them to the production space.
“I just say, come to Hope Studios,” Tolson said. “When they get here, they can see that it’s a church and a church parking lot and all of that, but by that time it’s too late for them really to turn around.”
Her nondenominational church is called Center of Hope, which is located in Inglewood — a diverse, cultural city in Los Angeles County. Tolson wants Hollywood to become more inclusive.
“Hollywood has a little bubble that’s hard to break into,” Tolson explained.
The church invested $500,000 to create its production studio arm. The idea is to cultivate local talent and create films, both short and long, and opportunities for content creators.
According to the Hollywood Diversity Report 2022, published by the University of California, Los Angeles, people of color made up only 30% of Hollywood directors and 32% of film writers in the 2020-21 season. State lawmakers hope their proposal changes that, and small production studios are key.
Another company, Hoorae Media, has set productions in Inglewood and South Los Angeles, like the HBO comedy-drama “Insecure.” Chief of Staff Kaylin Cotton said Hoorae focused on employing people from the area.
“They were part of the crew. They were part of the cast of the show,” Cotton said. “And also just showing beautiful spaces like Leimert Park [a Los Angeles neighborhood], apartments in South LA, eateries, everything, etc. Like, you’re just seeing them in such a completely different light.”
Diversifying the entertainment industry is a broader effort. Pamala Buzick Kim leads the nonprofit Free the Work, which supports diverse talent in Hollywood. She said that small production companies with underrepresented leadership play a big role.
“I think that they’re changing the system within their own systems,” Buzick Kim said. “They’re running their production company the way that they would like to see the bigger industry change.”
Companies like Hope Entertainment are also looking at the larger picture.
“We’re Black-owned,” said Geremy Dixon, the Center of Hope church pastor. “Representation matters. There’s some great people who can tell great stories, but no one can tell the African American story like African American people.”
Dixon also wants the people creating this content to reap the benefits of having ownership of the productions.
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