In a move to increase diversity in the entertainment industry, Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti has named WME partners Theresa Kang-Lowe and Amir Shahkhalili, and Endeavor Content senior associate Kevin Iwashina to serve on the city’s Entrepreneur-in-Residence program, an initiative that “enlists some of L.A.’s most accomplished business minds to build stronger industries across the city.”
They officially begin their appointments today at the 2019 Sundance Film Festival.
A statement released by the mayor’s office said the Endeavor team “will leverage its institutional knowledge and relationships with leading artists and content creators” to expand the mayor’s Evolve Entertainment Fund – a public-private partnership that creates new career opportunities “for communities that have been historically excluded from the entertainment industry.”
“Endeavor is at the center of a global network that will help strengthen my office’s work to build a more inclusive entertainment ecosystem,” Garcetti said. “Theresa, Kevin, and Amir will bring new ideas and energy to our efforts to provide young people in underserved communities with opportunities to follow their dreams in Hollywood.”
Launched last February with filmmaker Ava Duvernay and more than 60 companies, the EEF is dedicated to building career pathways into film, television, and music for women, people of color, and low-income Angelenos through paid internships, focused mentoring, workshops and panels.
The mayor’s office said that “during their year-long term, Theresa, Kevin, and Amir will build support for EEF by expanding internship and mentoring opportunities, and creating new educational programming.” To date, the EEF has secured 140 internships and three full-time offers for L.A. residents from underrepresented communities, and aims to serve 1,000 Angelenos by the end of 2020.
Kang, Shahkhalili, and Iwashina will also partner with the Annenberg Inclusion Initiative to embark on a comprehensive study of diversity in L.A.’s entertainment industry, with a focus on below-the-line career opportunities.
“It is an honor for us to function as EIRs for Mayor Garcetti and the City of Los Angeles on their yearlong concentration on diversity and inclusion in entertainment,” said Shahkhalili. “We are incredibly eager to provide young Angelenos access and exposure to the entertainment industry. We look forward to bringing the Evolve Entertainment Fund to the forefront of conversation as we address systemic change that will impact the future of our Industry.”
With the support of the Sundance Institute, five EEF students will also take part in the Sundance Festival’s Ignite program, which supports the next generation of creators through a specially curated program of screenings, panels, and networking opportunities for emerging creatives ages 18-24.
“We’re looking forward to welcoming the Evolve Entertainment Fund students at our Festival,” said Keri Putnam, executive director of Sundance Institute, “Cultivating rising generations of creative storytellers is in the culture’s best interest, and engaging students like these with our community of independent artists, industry members, and film enthusiasts is a crucial way to spark dialogue and evolution.”
First launched in 2014, the EIR program is made possible with support from Ernst & Young and the Mayor’s Fund for Los Angeles. “We’re proud to support these Entrepreneurs-in-Residence and their critical work, which will help more creators from underserved communities tell their stories, contribute innovative ideas and add their voices to L.A.’s thriving entertainment industry,” said Patrick Niemann, managing partner of the Ernst & Young L.A. office.