Film Forward

How Will Smith And Jada Pinkett Smith Are Helping Improve Diversity In The Film Industry

They're teaming with Sundance to give opportunities to filmmakers.

Lack of diversity is still a huge issue in the film industry, both in front of and behind the camera. That's why it's so encouraging to see major organizations and big stars taking steps to increase representation, and provide opportunities to new and talented filmmakers.

Deadline reports that the Sundance Institute and the Will & Jada Smith Family Foundation, founded by married actors Will Smith and Jada Pinkett Smith, are working together to encourage diversity among independent filmmakers. 

In a two-year partnership, the foundation will support the film festival's Screenwriters Intensive, as well as "year-round work with diverse independent filmmakers and artists." The program, which is part of the festival's Diversity Initiative, invites 10 rising screenwriters from underrepresented groups to participate in a two-day creative workshop.

According to Ebony, filmmakers such as Ava DuVernay and Lee Daniels are among those who have been supported by Sundance over the years. We have a feeling we'll be adding a few more success stories to that list thanks to these new efforts.

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Keri Putnam, executive director of the Sundance Institute, said of the partnership, "Sundance is proud to work with storytellers from a wide range of backgrounds and experiences, both at the Festival and in our artist development programs. We are so grateful for the generous support of The Will & Jada Smith Family Foundation. Together, we will build momentum and awareness about the need to create a film and media landscape that reflects the full richness and diversity of our culture."

Pinkett Smith added her own excitement over what this news will mean for the future of filmmaking. "We are honored and energized to collaborate with Sundance Institute to cultivate stories and storytellers reflective of the world at large," she said, "and we view today as the beginning of a productive, purposeful and powerful alignment with an enduring institution."

It's not the first time the Smiths have spoken out about Hollywood diversity. Last year, they joined a boycott of the Academy Awards following the #OscarsSoWhite controversy. "There's a position that we hold in this community and if we're not a part of the solution we're part of the problem," Will Smith said of the decision at the time.

(H/T: Deadline)

Cover image: Helga Esteb / Shutterstock, Inc.

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