“When Oscar nominations were announced Jan. 14, protests about Hollywood’s lack of diversity centered on actors and, occasionally, writers and directors. But Dorothy Thompson, founder of the nonprofit Streetlights, knows that true diversity should involve every level of filmmaking — including behind-the-camera work. And her Hollywood-based organization proves that progress is possible.
Thompson started the organization following L.A.’s Rodney King uprisings that year. She realized a big part of the unrest came from frustration. “It all rests on jobs; it all rests on hiring,” she tellsVariety.
Streetlights holds three sets of classes each year, with 15 trainees in each group. Individuals each receive 240 hours of training, with half that time spent working on paid productions.
“We take four weeks to teach absolutely anything and everything a P.A. would ever need to know,” says Thompson, “so our P.A.’s don’t feel like strangers when they arrive on their first job.” The training covers all aspects of crew jobs, from use of walkie-talkies to handling purchase orders and return slips.
After finishing the program, the trainees are available to work in whatever department needs assistance: camera, art, grip or props, etc…”