Tell us about yourself and your job.
I am the Program Director for the CDDP-Commercial Directors Diversity Program. Our Mission is to foster awareness and increase opportunities for women and other historically under-represented groups of people through a targeted program of outreach and exposure. I helped design, develop and create a 6- month program of workshops, mentoring, networking, a grant to create a spec commercial and an industry showcase to present the work of 6 Fellows chosen from a competitive field of hundreds of applicants. My background is as a filmmaker and producer. I also helped research and develop the Academy Gold Internship & Mentoring program at the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences. And I am the Founder/Creator and Exec. Director of the non-profit organization- Make A Film Foundation which grants film wishes to children who have serious or life-threatening medical conditions by teaming them with noted actors, writers and directors who help them to create short film legacies.
What was the greatest obstacle you’ve had to overcome since you began working in advertising?
My background is in Film and Television. I’m actually fairly new to advertising. I had to learn a lot about the differences in advertising vs. traditional film and TV. I think my position is unique in that I’m introducing a very specific type of Inclusion program to the industry. So in addition to learning the specifics about advertising, I really have had to get up to speed on various production companies to inspire them to support our CDDProgram and also to find out what kind of Directors they are looking for so that we can match our Fellows with great mentors and mentoring companies. Mentoring is a commitment so it was a bit of challenge landing all of the mentoring companies.
What is your opinion on the current state of diversity within the industry?
I feel that the Industry is aware of itself and the need to grow when it comes to Diversity and Inclusion. I think the industry is willing to change. And with programs like the CDDP-Commercial Directors Diversity Program, that was generated during negotiations between the DGA-Directors Guild of American and the AICP-Association of Independent Commercial Producers, we are moving the needle forward. We have had some of our Directing Fellows signed to production companies even before their Industry showcase presenting their work. And there are other programs and initiatives that are also receiving a lot of support from the industry. It is said that you have to admit you have a problem before you can solve it… I think the eagle has landed on that one. And people seem genuinely interested in finding ways to be more Inclusive in all aspects of the Industry. It will take time but I believe it is happening.
What do you think causes agencies such difficulty when attracting, retaining, and nurturing people of color?
I think the difficult part of attracting people of color is that often times agencies may not know where to look to find talent. And they may fall into the trap of thinking because they haven’t found the talent that the talent doesn’t exist. Which is an easy way to dismiss all of the amazing talent that is actually out there. An extra effort should be made because the door has been closed. So in order to find talent there has to be a very special and concerted effort to open that door wide, and invite the talent in. That means when the talent is invited in that they are treated with respect, not marginalized and are supported and yes nurtured like other directors. It may also mean having an open mind and being more tolerant about differences and things that may feel somewhat uncomfortable to them because they are not used to it. Being understanding, tolerant and excited about new and diverse talent will help retain the talent but also really expressing in word and deed that the inclusive talent is welcome and wanted and not just there to make a quota but because they believe that Diversity and Inclusion will make things better- will go a long way to keep that talent as well.
The advertising industry has for years been talking about its many diversity issues, what do you think a long-term solution could look like?
The long-term solution involves many pieces. The CDDP and other Diversity and Inclusion programs and Initiatives like Free the Bid – which are making an impact, opening doors and moving that needle forward…. Are definitely a start. These programs have proved that they can make a big difference and a sustainable impact. Long term means committing every day at every company and agency, on every set to an experience that involves Inclusion. A Diverse/Inclusive set should not be an anomaly. It should be the norm. That means that it has to continue to be a part of the conversation and a pro-active part of what all parties in the industry are committed to. It means supporting programs and initiatives like the CDDP. It means asking questions about how a set or hiring situation can be opened up and include something other than what people are used to. And it means asking these questions and making these changes all the time until we get a sense of balance. It means people have to expand and perhaps step outside of their comfort zone and what they are ‘used’ to.
What is going on within your agency to improve diversity?
The CDDP- Commercial Directors Diversity Workshop is a model that seems to be working on many levels. Our Mission is to foster awareness and increase directing opportunities for women and other historically under-represented communities through a targeted program of outreach, mentorship and exposure. In essence, we are committed to bringing more Women and other under-represented groups into the commercial world- specifically in the role of Director.
We plan to continue building and developing the program to create even greater success which equals more Women and Diverse Directors getting signed to commercial production companies, getting paid to create more commercial work and ultimately joining the DGA.
How do you plan to inspire the next generation?
I plan to inspire the next generation through example, mentorship, service and pro-active means of nurturing, developing and supporting their creative ideas and endeavors whenever I can while continuing to create and build myself. I hope that growing and developing the CDDP inspires others to embrace auto-Inclusion whenever possible so that Diversity and Inclusion is normalized. I truly believe that the best way to inspire anyone is by example and I set my example by creating change wherever I can, choosing and supporting Inclusion on every level that is possible for me and using my gifts and talents in service.