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The 9th annual Hollywood Creative Forum (HCF) concluded this week in Beverly Hills, and while every year brings intriguing discussions around diversity in TV and mentorship for diverse content creators, this year the conversation opened up even more.
The Forum, hosted by The Walter Kaitz Foundation, is a once-a-year event when mid-career creatives along with veterans in the industry gather to foster diversity and creativity in the media and entertainment industries. “It’s an event designed for proven content creators who are looking to advance in Hollywood through career development and networking opportunities with showrunners, producers and directors,” said Walter Kaitz Foundation Executive Director David Porter.
New to the HCF this year were two scholarship recipients of the first GCI fellowship program. The program sends qualified Native Alaskan filmmakers to take part in the Forum. In a state as rural and remote as Alaska, a program like this is eye-opening for Native Alaskans who rarely get the chance to be a part of the Hollywood conversation, and for Hollywood to hear from content creators of a distinctive background and culture. By actively seeking out these voices through a partnership with GCI, the Forum will ultimately help to give a voice to writers who often remain unheard, and whose stories remain untold on television.
A large part of the discussions this year were also centered around leadership and women of color. This emphasis is more important than ever as the television landscape has shifted towards embracing strong female plot-driven shows--like HBO's Emmy-award winning Big Little Lies--and towards affording African-American women more opportunities to break the mold--like HBO did with Issa Rae, the creator, executive producer and lead star of the network’s hit show, Insecure. On the opening day of the Forum, leading female executives of color from TV One led a discussion on gender equality in film and television and on how the industry can start to level the playing field for women working on the screen and behind the scenes.
Another addition to the schedule this year were the "Kaitz Talks"--a series of half-hour presentations from leading experts in the film and television world that covered topics ranging from driving innovation in OTT, the art of pitching a diverse concept, a dissection of the multicultural female consumer, creating a personal entertainment PR strategy, to preparing to fund a project. The Forum also continued its strong focus on mentorship during its "round robin" luncheon, where creators of scripted content were matched with experienced studio and network executives to further networking opportunities for all parties.
The demand for diverse and multicultural programming is higher than it has ever been. “As the industry continues to evolve through technology, viewing patterns, and audience demographics, so should the discussions surrounding diversity in the industry,” said Porter. The Forum is an important venue where diverse voices can gather and exchange ideas and experiences, while gaining important insights into business and development trends that can impact how content creators navigate the landscape.
As Michelle Ray, deputy executive director of the Foundation concluded, “the raison d’être of the Hollywood Creative Forum is to foster the career development of diverse content creators so that their stories and their faces are brought into the spotlight.” She added that, “If we are to continue to set the tone for a more inclusive Hollywood and TV experience, we have to keep developing unique perspectives through programs like this.”