Toronto’s mayor announced that he is committed to maintaining funding for a pilot program that aims to improve local diversity in the city’s multi-billion-dollar film industry which has landed some participants placements with HBO.
Speaking at Astrolab Studios on Friday, John Tory said the Production Assistant Training Program has been a big success. The pilot project’s goal was to help expose young black adults from under-represented communities to job opportunities in Toronto’s film industry.
After six weeks of training, half of the students taking part in the program have found work placements. Tory announced some of the students have been selected to work on HBO productions “Brother” and “Run.”
On a spring trade mission to Los Angeles, Tory said members of the film industry there told him the city’s talent pool needs to include more diversity. Tory said it was important to keep the pilot project going following its completion.
“I think the best thing we could do is continue to fund this program,” said Tory, adding continued partnerships with United Way, who helped pay for the program, need to be maintained.
Now that the first cohort of trainees have completed the program, Biju Pappachan said they will be looking at three goals to measure its success. Pappachan is the executive director of POV 3rd Street, a Toronto-based charity which created and operated the program.
Pappachan said they will measure how many of the students go on to more training and education, as well as to employment. Based on those measures of success, he said they will be seeking more funding from the city and other partners to keep it going.
The program itself cost about $100,000, with deductions coming from in-kind donations from the studio and other partners. Pappachan said he would like to see enough support to continue the program as early as next January.
Agapi Gessesse from the CEE Centre for Young Black Professionals said the Toronto pilot was inspired by a similar project in New York City.
“In order for you to get a permit in the city of New York for TV or film, you have to actually hire from a community program like one of these,” she said.
Gessesse said it was exciting to see the 20 students on a set that would otherwise be out of reach for many.
“You’re telling a young person that you trust them, you’re telling them that they’re welcome here, and you’re telling them that you believe in their abilities,” she said.
Kimone Smith from Parkdale said the program was intense but left her inspired for what could come after for her.
“There is a program there for people like me that can come into the industry and also leave footprints for other young people who want to go on that same path,” Smith said.