When Oscar winner Jordan Peele’s anticipated film Nope went into production last year in Southern California, it welcomed the first cycle of trainees from Universal Filmed Entertainment Group’s California Below-the-Line Traineeship for individuals seeking careers behind the camera.
The new program—which NBCUniversal’s Global Talent Development & Inclusion department developed in concert with the Anti-Recidivism Coalition, Hollywood Cinema Production Resources, and assorted IATSE locals—was introduced as part of the media and entertainment conglomerate’s overall commitment to increasing diversity, equity and inclusion within all areas of production.
One member of the non-profit ARC, working to end mass incarceration in California, and five students of the non-profit Hollywood CPR—focused on educating aspiring artists, craftsmen and technicians, and creating pathways to employment—were selected to take part in the Nope traineeship, with each being assigned to a specific department based on their area of study or interest.
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All trainees taking part in Universal’s program were—and will be—paid for their work, the duration of their time on set varying on each production. The selection process for the first round included interviews with production executives, relevant stakeholders and the heads of their respective departments. Upon admission, trainees were invited to participate in production meetings, departmental meet-and-greets and relevant health and safety trainings. Each was also assigned a GTDI and HR partner to ensure the experience was as rewarding as possible.
The California Traineeship’s launch on Nope served as a model for interested domestic and international film and television productions. The initiative marks the first of wider below-the-line strategies that are currently being rolled out by NBCUniversal to provide underrepresented talent with on-set experience and mentorship.
“In line with our efforts to provide more gateways into the industry, we could not be more excited to bring this traineeship to a new generation of below-the-line talent. Honing your craft on the set of a Jordan Peele movie is an opportunity that none of the trainees took for granted,” said Universal Filmed Entertainment Group Chairman, Donna Langley. “We are extremely grateful to Jordan and the entire Monkeypaw team, who share our passion and commitment to investing in diversity and early career development.”
“At our core, Monkeypaw has always sought to highlight underrepresented voices and we have been honored to help share those stories with audiences. We are privileged to further our mission as the first production to partner with the California Below-the-Line Traineeship,” added Win Rosenfeld, who serves as President of Peele’s production company, Monkeypaw. “It is crucial not only to Monkeypaw’s growth, but the growth of the film industry that all producers collectively commit to initiatives that bring awareness and opportunities to underserved communities to help careers flourish.”
NBCUniversal’s Global Talent Development & Inclusion was launched under Langley’s leadership in 2017, with the studio becoming the first to establish a department reporting directly to the Chairman, and the only one thus far to address D&I issues with one team delving into both content and work culture.
“As our state works to expand career opportunities for more Californians in the film and television industry, the California Below-the-Line Traineeship is a welcome initiative to increase diversity in below-the-line crew,” said Governor Gavin Newsom, who recently signed legislation expanding the state’s film and television tax credit program, including incentives to meet diversity goals for both above- and below-the-line workers. “Traineeships are an important tool to expand access and foster a more inclusive workforce, supporting California’s commitment to an equitable recovery.”
NBCUniversal subsidiary Universal Filmed Entertainment Group produces, acquires, markets and distributes filmed entertainment worldwide in various media formats for theatrical, home entertainment, television and other distribution platforms. The global division includes Universal Pictures, Focus Features, Universal Pictures Home Entertainment and DreamWorks Animation Film and Television.
Since Monkeypaw’s launch in 2012, the company has garnered international recognition with films including Get Out, which earned Peele the Oscar for Best Original Screenplay in 2018, and the filmmaker’s follow-up Us, which posted the largest-ever box-office opening for an original horror movie. It has an exclusive five-year production partnership with Universal Pictures and Universal Studio Group, and most recently released co-writer-director Nia DaCosta’s adaptation of Candyman, which became the first movie from a Black female director ever to debut at No. 1 at the domestic box office, also spearheading a social impact campaign for the film in partnership with Universal. Monkeypaw also produced and released Spike Lee’s BlacKkKlansman for Universal’s specialty label Focus Features.
Peele’s next film Nope for Monkeypaw, starring Daniel Kaluuya, Keke Palmer and Steven Yeun, is slated for release on July 22. Details as far as its plot have been kept under wraps. Monkeypaw and Universal also recently landed the rights to a buzzed-about, untitled horror film from Nikyatu Jusu, who recently won the Grand Jury Prize in U.S. Dramatic Competition at the Sundance Film Festival for her horror-drama, Nanny.
TV projects from Peele’s shingle include Key and Peele, The Last O.G., CBS’ reboot of The Twilight Zone and HBO’s Lovecraft Country. It’s currently in production on the second season of the Golden Globe-nominated Hunters for Amazon.
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