Arts & Entertainment

Academy Gold Rising program helping boost diversity in Hollywood

Los Angeles, Aug 5 (EFE).- Boosting diversity in Hollywood and providing opportunities for promising students and young professionals from underrepresented communities are the primary objectives of Gold Rising, an Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences internship enhancement and mentorship program that was launched five years ago and counts many Hispanics among its beneficiaries.

A total of 100 young people selected from among more than 9,000 applicants took part in the 2021 edition of Academy Gold Rising, which was held virtually for the second straight year and will hold its graduation ceremony on Saturday.

That group has spent the past eight weeks participating in panel discussions on filmmaking and networking with industry professionals and receiving support and guidance from the Academy, best known for organizing the annual Oscars ceremony.

Christine Simmons, the Academy’s chief operating officer, told Efe that her organization is excited to see the positive impact Gold Rising has had on the careers of program participants from the United States and abroad.

One of the participants in Gold Rising 2021, Sofia Ayerdi, said she was thrilled to learn she had been selected for the program, whose partner companies include AMC Networks, The Walt Disney Company, Paramount Pictures and WarnerMedia.

“It was something I simply couldn’t believe. I said, ‘there has to be some mistake. This is really happening to me? The Academy?’ It’s something truly incredible.”

A Texas-born woman of Mexican descent who studies film production at California State University, Northridge, Ayerdi said the Academy Gold Rising program is introducing younger generations to the inner workings of Hollywood.

“Being able to be with people who have won an Oscar is something that shows you it’s possible, shows you that you can do it. That goal that had been so far away, it brings it closer and tells you you’re capable of that and more,” she added.

Ayerdi, whose interests range from directing to sound production, said she sees no drawbacks to having taken part in the Gold Rising program via distance learning.

“I’d be eating with my family in Mexico, and then suddenly I’d be talking later with Ruth Carter,” winner of a Best Costume Design Oscar for her work on “Black Panther,” she said smiling.

The Hispanic student, who said she has been inspired during Academy Gold Rising by the work of Mexican-American filmmaker Carlos Lopez Estrada and the sound team of the 2020 horror film “A Quiet Place Part II,” expressed optimism about her future in the film industry.

“I feel like it’s now the perfect time to be in the industry (for those who come from) a different cultural background,” she said.

A participant in the 2019 edition of Gold Rising, Felipe Vargas, said his first day in the program was one of the best days of his life.

“They took us to Walt Disney Animation Studios, Paramount, Warner Bros… I’ve wanted to make films since I was a kid, so the 10-year-old Felipe would have been super surprised to hear about everything I ended up doing that summer,” he said.

A Colombian-born screenwriter and director who grew up in Florida and studied at the University of Southern California, Vargas said participants in Gold Rising feel as though “the doors of Hollywood open up.”

“The mentor they assigned to me has helped me a lot in my career to get representation as a director,” he said. “He also showed me how the industry works as far as things you don’t learn at university: like getting involved in projects, how the studios work … It’s like going in and getting an inside look.”

A big fan of the fantasy, horror and magical realism genres, Vargas said the program was crucial in helping him find work at big multimedia companies like Disney Channel, Amazon and Sony.

“What I’m interested in is for there to be diversity in horror, fantasy, crime films … So those stories (about Hispanics and other communities underrepresented on the big screen) are not only seen in immigration dramas,” he added. EFE


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