Ryan Reynolds Marks Third Anniversary of DEI-Focused Group Effort Initiative With Call for More Productions to “Please Come on Board”

In a new video released today, Ryan Reynolds is marking the three-year anniversary of Group Effort Initiative, the nonprofit he and wife Blake Lively founded that secures job and internship placements for members of underrepresented communities.

“I’m incredibly proud of this organization and its growth as a pipeline for members of underrepresented communities to get real, lasting careers within the entertainment industry,” says Reynolds in the YouTube video, which announces that Group Effort Initiative, since its founding in 2020 has secured more than 1,000 total placements for participants, including 797 internships, 128 corporate entry-level jobs and 175 PA (production assistant) positions on the 116 productions which have partnered with GEI to date.

The nonprofit currently has 767 active participants; they come from a variety of underserved populations, including people of color, LGBTQ individuals, former foster and homeless youth, people with disabilities and individuals that have been previously incarcerated and are reentering the workforce.

GEI’s placement numbers represent a big leap forward from where the group started. Back in late 2020 and early 2021, Lively and Reynolds placed eight participants on the latter’s Netflix film, The Adam Project, which shot in Vancouver. The nonprofit paid for the salaries and housing of trainees during the shoot and they gained experience working in such departments as VFX, set decoration, makeup, art, construction and as assistant directors.

“When Ryan and Blake initially started Group Effort Initiative,” GEI executive director Sumi Parekh tells The Hollywood Reporter, “they really wanted to focus on diversifying their own productions and their own projects and help people from underrepresented communities get entry-level, on-set jobs. That’s how they kicked it off.”

Ryan Reynolds (center) on the set of ‘The Adam Project’ in Vancouver with Group Effort Initiative’s initial eight trainees.

Group Effort Initiative

That initial effort “went really well” says Parekh, who explains that Reynolds and Lively started getting calls from other productions about placing trainees.

“They realized, ‘This is going to be a much bigger thing and it could be bigger than just doing it on our own productions and sets,’” continues Parekh, who previously worked under Eric Garcetti when he was mayor of Los Angeles. During her time in city government, Parekh founded the Evolve Entertainment Fund, which similarly to GEI, worked to open up job pathways into the entertainment industry.

“I got connected about growing out GEI and I joined the team in 2021,” recalls Parekh. That year, GEI and Evolve Entertainment Fund merged.

“We’re able to focus now on three pathways for underrepresented populations: the corporate side, the creative side and the production side, which focuses on getting folks into below-the-line jobs as an entry-level PA and [eventually] helping those folks navigate their way into a union,” says Parekh.

In the anniversary video, Michael, a costume designer and GEI alumni, shares how the group helped him speed up his entry in the entertainment industry. “I’m a costume union member,” he says. “In nine months, GEI was able to work with me and assist me in getting into the union  which I think was unheard of in so many ways.”

Group Effort Initiative also focuses on professional development training and education for its participants to help ensure that they are successful in their jobs.

It’s continuing to work with and build out private-public partnerships with entities like L.A.’s Economic & Workforce Development Department which “provide subsidized internships at companies that don’t have the budget for an internship,” says Parekh.

And last fall, GEI launched a mentorship program that has already paired 125 mentors and mentees. “It’s a year-long program. We curate it. We check in with the pairs each month and make sure they are both getting what they need,” says Parekh, adding that a “round two” cycle will start this fall.

Companies that GEI has worked with include Disney, Paramount, Netflix, The Martin Agency and Banijay Americas.

GEI finds participants by working with other organizations “that are also working with these [underrepresented] populations and they are nominating people who say are interested in working in the entertainment industry,” says Parekh.

Going forward, she says, GEI is looking to expand to more cities even beyond the places where it has already secured entertainment jobs for its participants. To date, those places include Albuquerque, Atlanta, Austin, Boston, Cleveland, London, Long Island, Los Angeles, the New Jersey area, New York City, O’ahu, Pittsburgh, Portland, the San Francisco Bay Area, Toronto, Vancouver, Washington D.C., and Winnipeg. “We’re building out in places like Sydney, Australia and in Sofia, Bulgaria, as well,” says Parekh. “Sofia seems to be a hotspot lately [for filming].”

Reynolds tells THR that he’s proud of GEI’s “incredible momentum towards our goal of creating a flowing talent pipeline into the film industry from underrepresented communities,” and, in the anniversary video, calls on more productions to “please come on board,” adding, “True diversity and inclusion cannot be possible without the support of those with the power and resources to make an impact.”

Source From: www.hollywoodreporter.com

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