Amazon Studios is formalizing its commitment to the Latino community in Hollywood and beyond by partnering with Edward James Olmos’ Latino Film Institute, the Youth Cinema Project and local non-profit LA Collab, working together to strengthen the Hollywood pipeline.
“As we strive to be a global entertainment destination, we acknowledge the power and importance of Latino audiences. In order to tell their rich and dynamic stories authentically, we need their skills and creative power both in front of and behind the camera,” stated Latasha Gillespie, global head of DEIA for Amazon Studios, Freevee and IMDb, in a press release announcing the news. “Partnering with LFI and LA Collab is not a charitable endeavor, it is an equitable endeavor. It is our responsibility to remove barriers and open doors so everyone has the opportunity to thrive.”
As such, Amazon Studios has signed on as the exclusive sponsor of its Youth Cinema Project (YCP) Alumni Program for the 2022-2023 school year. The program connects over 300 graduates from low income, under-resourced public schools to hands-on access and learning opportunities across the industry, including mentoring and assistance with college applications. The company will also fund the inaugural YCP Fellowship, which will provide 15 college-bound students with resources to make a high-quality short film, working as a team to strengthen their film school applications and scholarship opportunities. Their films will then screen at the 2023 edition of the Los Angeles Latino International Film Festival (LALIFF).
Amazon Studios also reaffirmed its commitment to LA Collab as the organization builds LTX Match, an AI-enabled platform that aims to combat the all-too common statement “We can’t find Latinos to work in entertainment” by connecting Latino talent with “jobs, mentorship, boards, capital and community” across the Hollywood ecosystem.
Gillespie discussed the new and renewed partnerships at an exclusive event celebrating Latino heritage and culture held on Monday night at NeueHouse Hollywood on Monday night, where she was joined by community leaders like Olmos, founder of the Latino Film Institute (LFI); Gloria Calderón Kellett, showrunner of Prime Video’s “With Love”; and Youth Cinema Project’s executive director Erika Sabel Flores.
Before the program began, Gillespie explained the motivation behind Amazon Studios’ efforts.
“One of the things we try to pride ourselves in doing is the internal work,” Gillespie told Variety. “It’s always easy to point the finger and say what that industry or Hollywood isn’t doing, but it’s a harder thing to say, ‘What are we not doing? Or not doing well enough?’”
When the DEIA team looked at the data, they identified a gap in their progress with the Latino community, both in terms of the company’s creative partnerships and its own internal network; these partnerships and initiatives were founded in order to fill that gap.
“It was about an impatience and dissatisfaction with our progress in terms of Latiné community. We were like, ‘We have to do better,’” Gillespie said. “That’s what equity is about — it’s understanding we have a lot of work to do in a lot of spaces, but some spaces need more immediate attention than others, and for us right now that’s the Latiné community. Not taking our foot off the gas for the other communities, but in addition to.”
The new initiatives come as Amazon Studios DEIA team marks the one-year anniversary of their Inclusion Policy and Playbook, a guidepost in the company’s effort to improve diversity, equity, inclusion and accessibility in its productions and on its sets via “clear directives, and aspirational goals that move us toward a more equitable future.”
According to Gillespie, the company has been encouraged by the progress made in the first year of the playbook, despite a few “humbling lessons learned” along the way, as the team found its groove.
“All in all, it renewed our faith and renewed our commitment that change can happen if you are intentional about it, and if you build structure, policies and systems to support it,” she said, summarizing the main takeaway.
Gillespie also noted the anniversary in her remarks before the assembled crowd. “We celebrate our progress humbly embrace lessons learned and reiterate our intention to hold ourselves to a higher bar,” she said. “Let me be clear, we did not publish our Inclusion and Policy Playbook because we have it all solved. Just the opposite. We did it to increase our accountability and build further transparency.”
She continued: “At Amazon, building partnerships is one of the most essential foundations for our success. We know that experience matters, relationships matter and partnering with experts, leaders and trusted voices in the Latiné community matters.”
[Pictured: “With Love” showrunner Gloria Calderón Kellett, LFI Founder Edward James Olmos, Youth Cinema Project executive director Erika Sabel Flores, Global Head of DEIA for Amazon Studios, Freevee and IMDb Latasha Gillespie]