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Film Academy Launches VFX Training Track for Young, Underrepresented Talent

Entertainment industry partners are working with AMPAS on the sixth year of its ”Gold Rising“ program

The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences has launched as part of its annual Academy Gold Rising program a training and mentorship track specifically focused on the art of visual effects in movies with the aim of providing burgeoning filmmakers and underrepresented talent opportunities in the VFX space.

This year’s Gold Rising program, now entering its sixth year, received commitments from 27 partner companies, all of whom will help with internships and mentorships for students and young professionals from underrepresented communities. The program’s production track focuses on below-the-line careers, and this will be the first year that VFX will be a dedicated part of the focus.

One-hundred students, including 14 interns placed within the Academy and the Academy Museum, will across eight weeks participate in panel discussions and networking opportunities with Academy members and other professionals focused on every aspect of filmmaking and career prep. Those in the production track will also have access to online technical workshops and masterclasses for students interested in cinematography, costume design, film editing, production design, sound and visual effects.

This year’s program also has specific panel discussions on the making of films such as “Top Gun: Maverick” and “Encanto” and a session on helping women and LGBTQIA+ individuals crack into the worlds of the executive suite and storytelling.

The program kicks off Wednesday, and partners will sponsor up to three interns each. Interns who complete the program will then be paired with an Academy member for an 8-month mentorship. Past mentors have included Khadija Alami, Judd Apatow, Lorrie Bartlett, Sterling K. Brown, Michael Goi, Spike Jonze, Eric Roth, Osnat Shurer, Karen Toliver, Ennio Torresan, Michael Tronick, Nancy Utley, Virgil Williams and Janet Yang.

Alongside the Academy, participating partners for 2022 include AMC Networks, Amazon Studios, Annapurna Pictures, The Black List, BRON Studios, Circle of Confusion, Creative Artists Agency (CAA), DTS – Xperi, The Walt Disney Company, Dolby Laboratories, Filmmakers Academy, Formosa Group LLC, FotoKem, Fremantle, Group Effort Initiative, Illumination Entertainment, Monkeypaw Productions, Moving Picture Institute, Panavision, Paramount Pictures, Participant, Shout! Factory, Streamland Media, United Talent Agency (UTA), Universal Filmed Entertainment Group and WarnerMedia.

“We are incredibly inspired by the participants of Gold Rising.  Just as we seek to impart knowledge throughout this program, we are equally eager to learn from these talented individuals who consistently bring their unique ideas and insights,” Academy governor and Education and Outreach Committee chair Wynn P. Thomas said in a statement. “We welcome this new class and look forward to seeing their ambitions unfold as they begin their journeys into our global film community.”

“The Academy’s goal is to evolve constantly in finding new ways to support emerging filmmakers within various disciplines.  We’re thrilled to add a visual effects focus to our Gold Rising production track program this year, underscoring the importance of emerging technological advances in the art of filmmaking and their invaluable role in creating a story,” Academy vice president, Talent Development and Inclusion Programs Kendra Carter said. “We look forward to expanding the breadth of hands-on experiences that will help open doors for our participants to explore their futures in the industry, and we thank our incredible partners, Academy members and donors for making this robust program possible.”

To date, there are 465 past Gold Rising program participants. The 2022 class hails from 48 colleges and universities and comprises 82% underrepresented racial/ethnic communities, 59% women, 32% LGBTQ+ and 18% with disability.

Gold Rising, led by program directors Bettina Fisher and Niti Shah, is a part of Academy Gold, a global talent development and inclusion initiative that provides creative individuals of diverse backgrounds with access and resources toward achieving their career pathways in filmmaking.  Programs under the Academy Gold umbrella also include Gold Fellowship for Women, the Student Academy Awards and the Academy Nicholl Fellowships in Screenwriting.  All past participants and award recipients of these programs become a part of the Gold Alumni Program, which provides networking opportunities, access and career advancement services, and offers affinity groups for Black and African American, Latinx, Asian American and Pacific Islander, LGBTQ+ and women alumni to network with others who share similar identities, backgrounds and experiences.  The program also tracks participants’ career progression and successes through a database, offering a diverse talent pipeline for the industry.

Academy Gold Rising is supported by grants from The James Irvine Foundation and the JPMorgan Chase Foundation.  Additional support is provided by The Walt Disney Company and the Ruderman Family Foundation.

Other funding is provided by the Los Angeles County Department of Arts and Culture, Critics Choice Association in honor of Melvin Van Peebles, and Leon Silverman.

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