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How LA Mayor and Ava DuVernay are making the entertainment industry more diverse

On Monday, Los Angeles mayor Eric Garcetti teamed up with film director Ava DuVernay and producer Dan Lin to announce the Evolve Entertainment Fund (EEF), aimed at encouraging diversity and unheard voices in film and entertainment.

The fund, which is a public-private partnership, plans to raise $5 million by 2020 and distribute grants to different entertainment organizations.

Billboard reported further on EEF:

“The Evolve Fund is an alliance between the City of Los Angeles, industry leaders in entertainment and digital media, non-profit organizations, and educational institutions, dedicated to building career pathways into film, television, and music for women, people of color, and low-income Angelenos through paid internships, focused mentoring, and an ongoing series of workshops and panels.”

Garcetti said at a Monday press conference that recent initiatives in Hollywood, including ‘Oscars So White’ and ‘Time’s Up’, have put an emphasis on the need for diversity, inclusion, and voices from typically unrepresented demographics.

“When ‘Oscars So White’ and ‘Time’s Up’ put a spotlight on inequality in Hollywood, they captured the frustrations of people shut out of opportunity in what the world knows as L.A.’s signature industry. We created the Evolve Entertainment Fund to give people in underserved communities a new opportunity to chase their dreams in Hollywood.”

Garcetti went on to point out that these opportunities include everything from being a  director to behind the scenes work: “Whether they want to be the next award-winning director or screenwriter, or are looking to secure a future in below-the-line jobs that are the bedrock of this city’s middle class.”

The mayor explained that the initiative mirrors the cultural fabric of Los Angeles, the most diverse city in the world. Garcetti clarified the aim of the fund:

“Tell the stories of all the beautiful complexity of this city, which is the most diverse city in the world today, a place where 39 countries find their largest population outside their home country.”

In order to promote the voices and work of typically underrepresented demographics in film, EEF will provide mini-grants to non-profits that connect young people with mentors and job opportunities in film.

Ava DuVernay, director of Selma and The 13th, spoke about her optimism about the fund and her vision of EEF helping shape “a new reality”:

“I’m always optimistic every time I go in the room. I think that if you don’t have hope that this moment is going to be different then there is really no way forward. Hope is intrinsic to any of these efforts. I am hopeful that this will really blossom into something dynamic for this city. There’s a lot of incredible people involved so the hope is that we can all just stay committed to it so that it becomes … I don’t really like the word movement – I just want it to be a fact, a new reality.”

No matter the field, diversity improves the quality and cultural accuracy of the work. More and more spaces should take a page from the people behind EEF and actively implement policies and funds that encourage diversity.

Social media campaigns and initiatives are effective, Garcetti referenced a couple in his statement about EEF, but when efforts come from public administrations with a substantial budget, that’s when real change can go down.