Ri-Karlo Handys Foundation Teams With California Film Commission For Inclusive Career Creation Program

Applications are now being accepted for a career initiative to provide traditionally unrepresented groups with a pathway to behind the scenes skills and jobs

Late last year, the Handy Foundation was awarded the Pilot Career Pathways Training Program by the California Film Commission. Breaking down into five separate programs, the one-year pilot received a total grant of $130,000 from the state funded CFC. Hollywood CPR and Manifest Works are also part of the program.

“Our long-term goal is to standardize sustainable pathways to these technical jobs and careers behind the scenes such that they become more diverse, equitable, and accessible to those willing to do the work it takes to be successful,” says Ri-Karlo Handy of the CFC program and the Foundation’s motivations.

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Having started to take applications on New Year’s Eve, the Production Audio & Post Audio Mixer Training Program has two seasonal offerings with Winter 2023 running from February 4 to March 12, and Spring 2023 going from May 13 to June 18. Applications for the former opened on December 31 and applications for the latter start on April 4. The Digital Imaging Technician Training Program’s Winter session goes from February 18 to March 19, with applications starting on January 7 to January 27.  

The Handy Foundation’s Summer DIT Training Program runs from June 3 to September 10, with applications open as of April 28.

The Assistant editor training program falls into three separate sessions – Spring, Summer and Fall. Spring runs form March 4 to April 2 with applications being accepted starting January 28. The Summer session goes from May 6 to June 11 and the Fall session spans August 8 to September 17, with applications open April Fool’s Day and July 15 respectively. The Post Coordinator Program goes from March 18 to April 23, applications open February 11. The Virtual Production Specialist Training Program has a Spring session (March 11 to May 5, applications starting February 4) and a Summer session (July 8 to September 10, with applications open June 3). Applications can be accessed here.

“Following an extensive search that included a competitive RFP, we were very pleased to select The Handy Foundation as our latest training provider,” CFC Deputy Director for the Film & TV Tax Credit Program Nancy Rae Stone told Deadline. “They have an impressive track record helping students from underrepresented communities prepare for a range of production industry jobs. They also have significant expertise with online instruction, which enables students statewide to participate.”

Formed in 2020 not long after longtime TV editor Handy took to social media and other platforms to look for fellow editors of color and decry the lack of diversity behind the camera, the Handy Foundation has since partnered specifically with Guilds and production companies like Bunim/Murray, ITV America and Fremantle in

“Bunim/Murray is committed to telling authentic stories. Jacob Lane, VP of Post Creative at Bunim/Murray Productions said today of the relationship. We recognize how important it is for the voices behind those stories to have the same rich, diverse, and lived experiences as the voices represented within our series. Partnering with the Handy Foundation has helped BMP find, mentor, and grow the next generation of story-tellers across all of our series, while also helping to build a pipeline of diverse talent for our entire industry.” 

ITV America CEO David George and ITV Studios America President and Managing Director Philippe Maigret noted: “We are proud to be a partner of The Handy Foundation and to have placed trainees on numerous, award-winning series, including Alone, Queer Eye and Snowpiercer, among many others under the ITV America and ITV Studios America banners,”

“These partnerships are critical to ensuring opportunity in the content business for underserved communities, and for the long-term prosperity of our industry,” points out Fremantle COO Suzanne Lopez of working with Handy. “Fremantle is thrilled to be collaborating with The Handy Foundation to expand diversity, foster inclusion and provide opportunities for training and employment to underserved communities.” 

Currently at CES in Las Vegas this week, Handy chatted with me about the Foundation taking on the training program, preparing participants for the real world, equity and playing the industry long game.

DEADLINE: How did the Handy Foundation getting the nod from the CFC come about?

HANDY: Through a competitive RFP process, the California Film Commission selected The Handy Foundation as a training partner for its Pilot Career Pathways Training Program, which helps prepare individuals from underserved communities for careers in the film and TV production industry.  The Pilot Career Pathways Training Program is an important component of the state’s Film & Television Tax Credit Program 3.0.  The Handy Foundation was selected based on our track record in training and job placement for diverse workers in below-the-line positions in TV and Film.

DEADLINE: It seems almost silly to ask you, but what do you honestly think made the Handy Foundation application stand out?

HANDY: I believe one of the things that made us stand out is the fact that our programs are available to individuals across the entire state where most other applicants may only service a single county or region.  The CFC and Tax Credit program is not just for Hollywood residents, it is for the benefit of the entire state. 

DEADLINE: With that, what was the application process like?

HANDY: The process was daunting!

We had to submit metrics for our previous programs, clearly lay out our future plans. With the help of our Grant Writing Team at Anese & Associates, detailed timelines, constituents projected to serve, and budgetary plans.  aired with our extensive industry experience, dedicated leadership of the Handy Foundation, and our trusted consultant, we responded to the competitive RFP, entering ourselves into a diverse pool of applications. Then, based on a review and competitive scoring process which analyzed anticipated results and data points, we were notified of our selection to receive this award.

DEADLINE: Why do you think such a program and your partnership is needed now?

HANDY: Our partnership is needed now because there is an industry wide spotlight on the need for equity.

Also, productions and the talent needed to do the work behind the scenes is leaving the state, especially in the area of Visual Effects and Virtual Production. To that end, training and creating pathways to sustainable careers in entertainment in California is currently a state-wide priority.   We are working in partnership with the California Department of Education’s Arts, Media, and Entertainment Industry Sector on an apprenticeship initiative and part of a new High Road Training Partnership coalition with the Entertainment Equity Alliance.  

Additionally, workforce development and job training is a significant barrier to employment for those in disadvantaged communities of color. With our help, qualified candidates will have an opportunity to learn an industry they may not otherwise be exposed to. In turn, the diversification of an industry that’s systematically excluded minorities and people of color gains value, diversity, equity, and inclusion credibility in a world that looks to this industry for such leadership. This is due to the fact that those who appear on screen give the false appearance of diversity behind the screen. 

DEADLINE: What are the long-term goals?

HANDY: Our long-term goal is to standardize sustainable pathways to these technical jobs and careers behind the scenes such that they become more diverse, equitable, and accessible to those willing to do the work it takes to be successful.  We aim to change access to industry long-term from “it’s all about who you” to being all about “what you know how to do.”   This will not only provide high-paying jobs to trainees state-wide but equip them with the necessary skills to succeed long term. 

DEADLINE: What has been the response to the partnership so far?

HANDY: The response to our partnership has been excellent. We’ve collaborated with organizations like the LA Urban League, NAACP, Urban League of Greater Atlanta, CFC, IATSE Training Trust, and employers like ITV, IPC, Fremantle, AMC Networks, Warner Horizon, Bunim-Murray, A-Smith & Co., and more. 

Our partnerships and collaborations have fostered our growth and success as we’ve worked towards fulfilling our mission of increasing visibility for underrepresented workers, creating a more equitable and profitable Hollywood for all. And they are thrilled to be a part of our new pathways,

DEADLINE: With economic contradictions, & an expected slowdown in the industry, are you concerned this partnership may not have its intended impact? 

HANDY: No, we are not concerned that this partnership may not have its intended impact, as the California Film and Tax Credit Program has had a strong track record since its introduction in 2009 and continues to receive more applications than it is able to award. According to Adam Fowler, Founding Partner at CVL Economics, “Statewide, the past decade has seen over 30% growth in employment in the entertainment and digital media sectors and that growth was resilient in the face economic headwinds from the Great Recession and there’s no reason to believe the industry won’t be able to navigate a little turbulence in the broader economy should it arise over the next couple years.” 

We are confident that our trainees’ skills will prepare them for the industry and beyond as the need for technical below-the-line positions is not exclusive to film and television, due to content demand across industries. 

DEADLINE: What separates this partnership from other pathway programs?

HANDY: This partnership differs from other programs because we are bridging the gap between education, workforce development, and actual industry jobs all under one roof.

Bottom line is we get our trainees jobs, most programs that do training and or job opportunities are usually just add you to an industry list, get you a short Internship and or Production Assistant jobs, which we do not do.  Historically those jobs still rely on the goodwill of a mentor to take you under their wing to bring you up to the next level, which can be problematic and exclusionary if you are the only person of color on a project and are not in the leadership social circle. 

Our program places apprentices across multiple tradecraft into careers that they can stay in for life with skills that allow them to compete for jobs at the top level of our industry.   

Since 2020, we have successfully placed 89 Assistant Editors, with over 90% of non-union placements extended or offered permanent positions, and 85% of union placements extended or offered permanent positions.

Subsequently, on average our trainees saw a 131.27% wage growth when comparing their average wages before and after the completion of our program. Placing trainees on shows like Lizzo’s Watch Out for the Big Grrrls – Amazon Prime Video, The Real World Homecoming: New Orleans – Paramount +, After Happily Ever After – BET, The Challenge: Ride or Dies – MTV, The Challenge: All Stars, Season 3 – Paramount +, Alone, Queer Eye, Snowpiercer. And, we’re consistently looking for studio and production partners and corporate sponsorships to continue to serve this diverse community. 

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