In 1992, in the wake of the LA riots, producer Dorothy Thompson created Streetlights, a nonprofit organization which today has a proven track record of bringing a skilled, ethnically diverse workforce to the behind-the-camera world of films, television, commercials and other media platforms.
As a Job Training, Job Placement and Career Advancement organization, Streetlight’s mission is to create careers, not just jobs, for underrepresented young women and men from diverse backgrounds, while increasing diversity throughout the entertainment industry. When students graduate from the first four weeks of training, they are placed on jobs as production assistants, a traditional stepping stone to get your foot in the door. Each form of media has the same general requirements for a PA, but also responsibilities specific to each; Streetlights’ graduates are so well trained they can easily move from one-hour TV dramas to 30-second TV commercials to long-form feature films. The curriculum is taught by industry professionals and the comprehensive training allows the new PAs to be of true assistance to the project from their very first day on the job. Then, through the Career Advancement Services and the apprenticeship program, the Commercial Diversity Initiative, Streelights moves experienced PAs into the departments that interest them and for which they show aptitude.
For over 25 years Streetlights has been providing a rich cultural backdrop to thousands of productions. Today, the global community is seeking content, and the importance of varied experiences in the creation process is obvious. What is overlooked is that this variety needs to be represented in every department, and not rest only with the writers and directors. The look, feel and final product is impacted by them, but also by set designers, lighting techs, etc. Talent and inclusion executives scour colleges across the country looking for potential writers and directors, but Streetlights’ minority talent pool covers the full gamut of behind-the-camera jobs.
For the many production companies looking to hire, Streetlights maintains an up-to-date roster of experienced crews, helping to fill those requests with the most appropriate employees for the job.
The beauty of the Streetlights program lies in its simplicity. Companies hire men and women they would need to hire anyway. They pay them a salary and, as a bonus, have an opportunity to help accomplished young people achieve both economic and social parity.