NBCUniversal Launch is the company’s first major effort to increase diversity and representation for unscripted programming. These efforts include different programs to increase diversity behind the camera from directors, to producers and below-the-line talent. Recently, POC Culture was invited to a celebratory reception for NBCU Launch.
Over the past year, Jeanne Mau, Senior Vice President of TV Programming, Diversity, Equity and Inclusion at NBCUniversal created these programs, along with her launch team and other executives at NBCU, to create lasting change.
“Making a major investment in diversity efforts for unscripted television has been one of our main focuses since I started at NBCU almost 2 years ago. It’s no surprise that in this room, unscripted shows have continued to represent massive amounts of volume for programming on our television. And that not only contributes to pop culture, but it also influences our culture at large,” Mau said. “We’ve seen this in Cody Lee’s memorable golden buzzer moment on America’s Got Talent, Taraji P. Henson and Normani getting doused with water on That’s My Jam, to three Swedes teaching us to live life to the fullest on The Gentle Art of Swedish Death Cleaning. Let’s not forget finding inspiration in the extraordinary life of a civil rights hero in The Rebellious Life of Mrs. Rosa Parks.”
The programs created include the Unscripted Producers Initiative, the goal of which is to increase representation amongst showrunners and senior level producers. The initiative seeks to hire mid-level producers from marginalized groups. In addition, there is also the Below-The-Line Traineeship, the Unscripted Assistant Editor Initiative, the Production Assistant Initiative, and the Talent & Casting Assistant Program.
Christina Edwards, Vice President of Unscripted Alternative Programming, shared that they have placed four producers on America’s Got Talent, American Ninja Warrior, and Password. Toby Gorman, President of Universal Television Alternative Studios, also shared that they have placed production assistants and below-the line- trainees across a number of their shows, including That’s My Jam, The Wall, and Weakest Link. “The plan is that is just the start of things,” Gorman said.
NBCU Launch partners with organizations for the initiative to help underrepresented groups gain opportunities and a career into the industry once they have completed the program. One such organization is The Handy Foundation which is part of the Assistant Editor Initiative. The goal is to identify candidates who have completed an assistant editor training program, so they can be considered for assistant editor roles on unscripted shows. Partners for the Unscripted Production Assistant Initiative include Ghetto Film School, Streetlights, and more.
“Unscripted storytelling has the power to not only entertain, but educate and most importantly, expand our world of understanding. With that, it was important that we ensure that our teams behind the scenes reflect the same rich diversity of the people and stories told on screen,” Mau said.
Through these programs, the effort to increase diversity is a daily conversation, and an active process with accountability, as opposed to being a passive hope spoken about yearly. It was heartwarming to hear about these steps being taken, and the level of care from everyone involved. With so many people committed to making change, and the many partner organizations involved, it’s exciting to think about all the opportunities this will create for people pursuing their dreams, and the lives that will change as a result.
NBCU LAUNCH UNVEILS ITS FIRST MAJOR BELOW-THE-LINE INITIATIVES TO BOOST REPRESENTATION IN KEY PRODUCTION ROLES ON TELEVISION
New Efforts Span Across Scripted and Unscripted Programming for NBCUniversal Television Productions in the U.S. and Canada
Initiatives Were Created in Partnership with IATSE Locals and Training Programs from Recognized Industry Partners in an Effort to Promote Hiring of Qualified Diverse Talent Directly onto Productions
UNIVERSAL CITY, Calif. – May 18, 2023 – NBCU LAUNCH, the umbrella brand that houses the comprehensive diversity, equity and inclusion efforts across NBCUniversal’s entertainment television portfolio, has unveiled its first major below-the-line talent initiatives – the NBCU LAUNCH Below-the-Line Traineeship and the NBCU LAUNCH Production Assistant Initiative – to boost representation in key production roles on television.
The two new efforts give qualified talent who historically haven’t had access to the industry, including those from underrepresented backgrounds, an opportunity to have meaningful and paid on-the-job experiences in below-the-line roles on NBCUniversal television productions. The main objective of both initiatives is to increase the pool of experienced talent, including those from underrepresented backgrounds, who can be hired directly onto productions.
“Below-the-line production roles have been historically underserved across our industry when we look at inclusion efforts. Our first major endeavor to increase representation on our production crews across Universal Studio Group and our entertainment networks are just a start in addressing this critical need,” said Jeanne Mau, Senior Vice President, TV Programming Diversity Equity & Inclusion, NBCUniversal. “We’re confident that our ongoing below-the-line efforts will effectively contribute to lasting change in the composition of crews and lead to increased representation among departments heads and even head of productions.”
The NBCU LAUNCH Below-the-Line Traineeship cultivates the next generation of head of departments crucial to any production including costumes, props, grips, set lighting and the myriad of other below-the-line roles. Created in partnership with various IATSE Locals in the United States and Canada, the program gives participants paid, on-the-job production experience.
Participants in the U.S. are sourced through Hollywood Cinema Production Resources (Hollywood CPR), Georgia Film Academy and New Orleans Video Access Center (NOVAC).
In the last 18 months, the Below-the-Line Traineeship has successfully placed 24 trainees across 10 Universal Studio Group (USG) productions, including “Angelyne,” “Baking It,” “Based on a True Story,” the first two seasons of “Bel-Air,” “Candy,” “A Friend of the Family,” “Hysteria,” “Killing It,” “TED” and “Quantum Leap.” Sixteen trainees who worked on Los Angeles-based productions were able to fulfill their on-the-job production hours as part of their certification through Hollywood CPR, which affords them the opportunity to be placed on their applicable local IATSE roster. Six of them are already in their local union and can be considered for paid positions on union productions.
In April, the Below-the-Line Traineeship expanded to the program’s first international production. Through the company’s existing partnership with Cinespace Studios, qualified trainees who have completed their IATSE training as part of the CineCares Workforce Training Program now have a pipeline onto USG productions filming in Toronto. The third season of “Chucky” will be the inaugural participating series.
The NBCU LAUNCH Production Assistant Initiative aims to boost representation amongst PA’s across NBCUniversal’s television productions in the United States. Since its launch in fall 2022, the initiative has placed 15 production assistants from underrepresented backgrounds across seven NBCU unscripted series, including “America’s Got Talent,” “Baking It,” “Botched,” “The Real Housewives of New York City,” “That’s My Jam,” “The Wall” and “Weakest Link.” They were placed in both production and post-production roles. The initiative will expand to include scripted programming later this year.
NBCU LAUNCH works with five recognized industry partners – the Amazing Stories Foundation, Entertainment Industry Foundation (EIF) Careers Program, Ghetto Film School, Streetlights and the Television Academy Foundation – to identify candidates who have completed their vocational education and training in their desired craft and are qualified to be hired as PA’s. They are then referred to production to be considered in the talent pool for hiring.
To learn more about the NBCU LAUNCH Below the Line Traineeship and the Production Assistant Initiative, please visit the NBCU LAUNCH site.
ABOUT NBCU LAUNCH
NBCU LAUNCH houses the comprehensive diversity, equity and inclusion efforts across the entertainment networks in the NBCU Television and Streaming portfolio – NBC, Bravo, E!, Oxygen, SYFY, Universal Kids, USA and Peacock – as well as Universal Studio Group, which comprises four powerhouse studios, Universal Television, Universal Content Productions (UCP), Universal International Studios and Universal Television Alternative Studio. NBCU LAUNCH supports the company’s goal to produce authentic and compelling content with a focus on giving talented diverse content creators, at any place in their career, access to meaningful opportunities in television. For more information, visit NBCUniversalLaunch.com and follow LAUNCH on Instagram.
Jorgie is a pop culture fan and contributor at POCculture.com. He loves learning about visual effects, production, film, and art, and how they all come together to make films like Star Wars.