Leading a Diverse & Inclusive Organization: Reel Works

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    • 00:01


    • 00:24

      JOHN WILLIAMS: Real Works mentors and inspires and trainsyoung New Yorkers to tell their stories through filmmakingand for many to launch their careers.

    • 00:34

      STEPHANIE WALTER: We live in a citythat is many voiced and has multiple cultures, races.We want to reflect the world.

    • 00:43

      JAMES GANTT: How do you connect to a larger social issuethat might be something that is at the core of your story?

    • 00:49

      STEPHANIE WALTER: Our mission is to find young talentin underserved communities where we can develop them, and thenhopefully get them jobs in the industry.What do you think you're struggling with?What do you feel good about?And where are you generally with it?How much more work do you need to do?

    • 01:10

      STEPHANIE WALTER [continued]: Why do we need an inclusive industry?I have a biracial kid.He says to me, I never see myself on television.I never see myself in film.So that when I do, I don't feel so muchof an outsider in my own community,right, in my own country.Think about it.

    • 01:30

      STEPHANIE WALTER [continued]: We live in a world that's so diverse and yet not inclusive.And that's the truth.We are just starting to make inroads in that regard.But as the industry grows, as the stories becomemore diverse, I think the interest of young people,seeing themselves represented in film,gives them permission to be part of an industrybefore that they saw as non inclusive.

    • 01:53

      STEPHANIE WALTER [continued]: - Whatever we are listening to isgoing to put us in the mood for how hefeels about this whole scene.Like, how does he feel about this?And the song is supposed to kind of give off, like,his inner thoughts on how he's feeling in general.And so he's trying to escape, but like, through, like,hard rock music or whatever.

    • 02:10

      JAMES GANTT: Real Works focuses on workingwith students who have limited access to arts programming.That's really important because youcan have a student who's going to a high functioning school.Their academics are sound.The school has a lot of opportunitiesfor academic experiences, but it gives students zero accessto arts programming.

    • 02:30

      JAMES GANTT [continued]: And I think that--I can even speak from my own experiencewhen I say that arts really helpswith the development of EQ.We are starting our Real Impact class.The core of the classes is answering the question,I have a film, now what?And the most immediate answer is get more peopleto see it, right?So teaching you how to target the specific audiences that

    • 02:53

      JAMES GANTT [continued]: would naturally have an interest to the subjectmatter that you're talking about.Thea, I'm very much interested in your experiencebecause I know what it's like to havethat challenge with parents with two-- parents in twodifferent places, so I would be interested in your filmand you'd want to target folks like me who'vehad that experience.

    • 03:10

      STEPHANIE WALTER: My husband and Irecognized while we lived in Brooklyn that it wasa tale of two cities, you know.You had people who were exorbitantly wealthy,and then a large portion of Brooklynwere kids who were seriously underserved.So I had discussed it with my husband,how can we serve our community?

    • 03:30

      STEPHANIE WALTER [continued]: And then the YMCA called me up out of the blue.I had done a short documentary for themon their basketball league, whichwas integrated and inclusive and very interesting.And they said, do you want to run a program for kids?Sure.And I did.And we started off with the documentary program.Kids would come in, they would tella personal story or something they were interested in.

    • 03:53

      STEPHANIE WALTER [continued]: Sure enough their stories were remarkable.And then they'd leave.OK, kid, great job.It's been nice meeting you.Take your film.You're wonderful, right?And a social worker said to us, you can't just cut them loose,they've found a home.They found a place where they feel safeand they can be themselves.I mean, what's the point of your program?

    • 04:15

      STEPHANIE WALTER [continued]: So we left our jobs and we decidedto go full time, which was really tough financially.But we were able to extend the program.The program became two documentary programsand then we added a narrative program,because kids really wanted to tell storiesby writing their own scripts.And we also realized that the worlds they were living in

    • 04:36

      STEPHANIE WALTER [continued]: could be translated into narrativefilm in a really exciting way.- Basically he's loving but he's more so, like, you know,I have to do me, I have to look out for me.And he's that type of, like-- that type of character.- So he's a little bit selfish in a sense.- Yeah.- Which is good, because so many of your lineswere, like, just feeding the fact that he was, like,a selfish character.

    • 04:57

      STEPHANIE WALTER [continued]: - Self-absorbed type of character.- What did you do with the mom character?- So with the mom, she's a conservative parent.More of like-- because, you know, remember,I put her as the mom, like, her husband died because she-- hegot shot and killed at an event.- OK.- And the wrong place, wrong time.

    • 05:14

      STEPHANIE WALTER: After the narrative program,we started something called the Fellows Program.They'll work with a mentor, as all of our kidsdo from the documentary lab up.But they're taking basically a graduate level filmcourse for a year.At the end they do a capstone project togetherwith their team.They deliver it, and we do a screening.When they leave here, I mean, some people

    • 05:36

      STEPHANIE WALTER [continued]: are really ready to just work.

    • 05:38

      JOHN WILLIAMS: After a very successful first decadeof really being about mentoring and filmmakingand student art making, we've become very muchan organization that's focused on workforce readinessand getting kids jobs in the industry.So that's both the result of what our students wantand need, what they were telling usthey needed, what our corporate partners were interested in.

    • 06:01

      JOHN WILLIAMS [continued]: As time when Oscar So White was making people really awareof the lack of diversity in the industry.And we happen to be training super wonderfully talentedyoung people who could fill those roles.

    • 06:12

      STEPHANIE WALTER: The thing that'shappening at Viacom, what are they doing up there?

    • 06:15

      JAMES GANTT: They're learning howto make television commercials.

    • 06:17

      STEPHANIE WALTER: There you go.I was right.- OK.Is it too late to do that?

    • 06:21

      STEPHANIE WALTER: Maybe not.

    • 06:22

      JAMES GANTT: I'd have to talk to them.- OK.

    • 06:23

      JAMES GANTT: Because today was the first day literally.So like, they're there as we speak.

    • 06:26

      STEPHANIE WALTER: And when--do they-- it's every Thursday?

    • 06:28

      JAMES GANTT: Yeah.

    • 06:29

      STEPHANIE WALTER: At what time?

    • 06:29

      JAMES GANTT: Just for the month of May.From 4 to 6.- OK.

    • 06:32

      STEPHANIE WALTER: That's that.And then the other thing is, are you guysthinking about next year at all?

    • 06:36

      JAMES GANTT: When a student completes a filmmaking programat Real Works, they have the opportunityto get access to a plethora of other opportunitiesand experiences.And then beyond the core of the work,there's community building and creatingthat space where young people feel welcome to be themselvesessentially.- Our men's empowerment group is run by James, it's on Tuesdays.

    • 06:59

      JAMES GANTT [continued]: They get together, they play video games.And while you're playing video games,you can kind of have these conversations about what'sgoing on in your life.And then with their women's empowerment group,we have a few different events coming up.Next week-- or in two weeks we have Planned Parenthoodcoming to do a-- and this open to the men as well.

    • 07:16

      JOHN WILLIAMS: Real Works is an ideal youth development space.When students come here, first of all,they hear their name called out.They're welcomed.They're in a community that they belongto that's safe in all ways.Our students are surrounded by caring adults,whether it's their mentors or the teachers.And so there's always an adult whois the right match for a young personto turn to when they need to.

    • 07:37

      JOHN WILLIAMS [continued]: - I got like two or three weeks left of the entire semester.And I have, like, less than 75% of all my classes.So I got to get--I'm behind a lot in all my classes,so I've got to get all that done.And--

    • 07:51

      STEPHANIE WALTER: You have to be veryaware of the population you're serving,and make sure that that's reflective in the people whoare serving them.

    • 07:58

      JAMES GANTT: You're juggling family stuff,your first narrative film, shooting, directing, casting,all the things you have to do for your film.And you're still trying to maintain your gradesall while doing this as a first year college student, right?So I want to--

    • 08:12

      JOHN WILLIAMS: So Real Works population of young peopleis 90% young people of color.So that means that we have to think very consciouslyabout when we hire who our teachers are,who our mentors are, our volun-- right down to our volunteers,and of course who our staff is.You know, we know that it helps young people

    • 08:34

      JOHN WILLIAMS [continued]: to see people who look like them in positions of authority.

    • 08:38

      STEPHANIE WALTER: You're always aware of the messagethat you're sending to your young people through the peoplethat you hire.- Aton has a really good--like, his-- like, the whole story of,like, getting rid of technology and focusingon family, which is something I feel like is completely gone.There's so much stuff.Like, you can pull like a million themes out of--So that, that I feel like I can do.

    • 08:59

      STEPHANIE WALTER: You certainly can.And then like, for instance, last semester some kiddid something on racial bias.And he actually held a town hall and showed his filmand then people discussed it.

    • 09:10

      JOHN WILLIAMS: So with our teaching artists,they see a lot of people.And we're really looking for unicorns.We're looking for really gifted teachers, who are alsofilmmakers, who are most often people of color as well,who reflect the community.And that takes time and effort and a real conscious approach.- I'm just trying to, like, think on my feetand try to figure out how to keep them engaged.

    • 09:33

      JOHN WILLIAMS [continued]: Because again, Evan is great, and I justwant to keep him engaged.And he still comes even though he's in the other program.- Right.That's amazing though.Yeah, that shows dedication that you're doing something right.

    • 09:43

      JOHN WILLIAMS: We have this hiring process herebefore an offer is made.They've met pretty much everybody on the team.And we've had conversations about who this person is,you know, who's the best qualified,and we'll have very candid conversationsabout diversity inclusion.We have to be very open and conscious about that.You know, and I'm very aware that, you know,we can't change that Stephanie and I are

    • 10:04

      JOHN WILLIAMS [continued]: two white people running an organization thatserves mostly people of color.But you know, I'm really proud-- when I look at our staff--I'm really proud of the diversity of our staff.I look my board of directors, I'm really proud of that too.Because boards of directors tend not to be very diverse.We have a wonderfully diverse board of directors.So you know, I hope that our values of diversity inclusion

    • 10:27

      JOHN WILLIAMS [continued]: are reflective across the entire organization.

    • 10:29

      STEPHANIE WALTER: Our board would be furiousif everyone looked like me.I wouldn't want to work with a team that was just like me.Where do you learn?Where do you grow?How do I understand to become a stronger leaderand to become better with the young people around meif I'm not going to challenge myself?And it is a challenging thing.In order to address the issues that you

    • 10:51

      STEPHANIE WALTER [continued]: face working with a diverse communityis to be very transparent.I'm going to make mistakes.I'm going to say things that could be offensive.To me, they're not, right?I'm just-- this is the way I've been talking my whole life,whatever.But if somebody says to me, that's hurtful.And I have to really listen and understand.

    • 11:13

      STEPHANIE WALTER [continued]: That helps me to grow as a person.It enables me to become stronger.Then you'll do these ideas about helpingthem to find the connections between their filmsand a broader audience.- OK.OK.All right.So, OK.Oh God, am I the inspiration?

    • 11:30

      STEPHANIE WALTER: No, because she couldcome to one of your classes.- OK.

    • 11:34

      STEPHANIE WALTER: Right?It would be great for her to come to your schooland hold a little symposium.- Oh yeah.

    • 11:39

      STEPHANIE WALTER: Right?- Oh, my school would love something like--

    • 11:42

      STEPHANIE WALTER: They would love something like that.So it's like that kind of thing.Where do we want to reach out?Like, I think where you could be the most effective is this.I can think, you know--You have to talk to your team.I struggled for the longest time.I just thought, they'll work it out.But it's not going to happen.You're working with very diverse personalities.You're working with people from very different backgrounds.

    • 12:04

      STEPHANIE WALTER [continued]: You're working with people who have very different managementstyles.It's imperative that the conversation is openall the time, that you're very clear about whatyour expectations are, but also what they expect from you,right?What do you need from me to enable youto be a better communicator?

    • 12:25

      STEPHANIE WALTER [continued]: Without the transparency, you're notgoing to have a strong team.I was fortunate enough to work with a woman last year whowas incredibly tough on me when it came to the way that I--I don't know, just, like, spoke about things.And I had to-- look, it's a generational thingand it's also a cultural thing.

    • 12:46

      STEPHANIE WALTER [continued]: And you-- and by generational, I don'tmean the language you use, it's just the way you look at life.I had to learn that.I had to understand that.I had to realize that as a woman who is a leader in a leadershipposition working with young peoplethat the way that we express ourselves

    • 13:09

      STEPHANIE WALTER [continued]: and the way that we share with one anotheris a very different landscape than itwas even five years ago.So you're growing all the time and you'rechanging all the time.And I'm really glad.You know, that's fortunate.So I want you to think about, if I'mgoing to tell the story the way I'm going to tell it,how do I use my supporting footage, right,

    • 13:30

      STEPHANIE WALTER [continued]: to help the audience see what she's saying.- So this bagel is an event.

    • 13:37

      STEPHANIE WALTER: The bagel--- I didn't know what to do here.

    • 13:39

      STEPHANIE WALTER: Don't worry about the bagel right now.But I might flip-- like for instance,show me what happens here.So you could do--I'll show you what to do with the bagel, ready?I'm proud that we at Real Works are constantlydeveloping young people from every walk of life.And that could be a kid from a super wealthy family,

    • 14:01

      STEPHANIE WALTER [continued]: it could be a kid who is growing up in the projects,it doesn't matter.What does matter is we're bringing together voices.And in doing so, they not only grow as young storytellers,they grow as people.They understand that their concerns are actuallypretty similar.[MUSIC PLAYING]

Leading a Diverse & Inclusive Organization: Reel Works

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Co-founders John Williams and Stephanie Walter, and after-school program coordinator James Gantt, discuss the inclusive and diversity-focused opportunities in the film industry that Reel Works provides an under-served population of young people.

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Leading a Diverse & Inclusive Organization: Reel Works

Co-founders John Williams and Stephanie Walter, and after-school program coordinator James Gantt, discuss the inclusive and diversity-focused opportunities in the film industry that Reel Works provides an under-served population of young people.

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