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A possible solution to #OscarsSoWhite still needs funding

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Producer Rachel Miller may have figured out a solution to Hollywood’s diversity problem that also helps underprivileged, at-risk high school kids find a viable career path. The 35-year old founding partner of management production company Haven Entertainment is the force behind a one-year-old nonprofit called Film2Future that teaches teenagers the basic tenets of filmmaking with the hope of creating a pipeline of talent for the industry.

“We have a huge lack of diversity in Hollywood which I believe is a symptom, not a cause,” says Miller. “The cause is we don’t have a pipeline. We have a socioeconomic drawbridge. I’m determined to change the output by changing the input and at the same time change kids lives.”

The inaugural year of Film2Future saw 19 teenagers ages 14-17 participate in an intensive two-week summer program in which they learned about narrative filmmaking, worked in groups, and made their own short films. That was followed by summer weekend events, résumé-writing workshops, college reviews, and then a gala in October. Each student was also paired with a working professional in his or her field of choice to serve as a mentor. Mentors included The Last Man on Earth editor Annie Court; Footloose director of photography Amy Vincent; Black-ish costume designer Jessica Elliot; and Master of None writer and actor Kelvin Yu, to name a few.

Viola Davis’ JuVee Production Company gave the organization a shout out recently.

The program was funded by a one-year $150,000 grant from the Obama Administration, which Miller expected would be renewed until the Trump Administration came into power. She did not receive her second round of funding.

Now, the philanthropist needs to raise an additional $150,000 by June so she can begin year two of the program, which will focus on animation. Miller already has 25 teenagers signed up (17 are returning students), $20,000 in raised funds, and a sponsor (CBS).

A key component of the program is offering transportation and healthy meals to the students — a vital, and expensive, part of the operation.

“My belief is you have to look at the program holistically and remove any obstacles for kids to succeed,” says Miller, who was a public school teacher before her segue into entertainment. “It’s worth it. Fifty percent of our kids couldn’t come to our program if we didn’t provide transportation. My philosophy is the kids should be able to just show up and be creative. Everything else is handled.”

Miller is partnering with Deutsch LA advertising agency this year to house the students in their new 60,000-foot studio, which features its own recording booth, mixing room, and sound stage. The goal for this summer will be for each kid to walk away with a finished animated short that can be added to their portfolio and included in their resumes.

Run entirely by a volunteer staff, Film2Future’s end goal is to create a robust 4-year program where students join in 9th grade and, by the time they graduate from high school, have acquired skills and interest in Hollywood careers that can either lead to college acceptances or union jobs.

“I’m all about giving kids access to the thousands of jobs in the sound department, the art department, the hair and makeup department,” says Miller. “These are great jobs that no one talks about. I want to change that.”

To see the students’ shorts from 2016, take a look at the group’s YouTube page. Those interested in learning more about Film2Future can visit the nonprofit’s website.