Nonprofit works to diversify production crews in St. Louis' film industry
Fans of film and television are keeping tabs on awards given to their favorites and focusing attention in front of and behind the lens.
Diversity in media — especially video and film production — is an ongoing challenge in St. Louis. While Black people are the largest non-white population, less than 2% of staff at local commercial video production houses are Black. It’s not for lack of interest among Black St. Louisans but inequitable access to adequate training and gatekeeping around on-set opportunities. That’s according to Continuity, a nonprofit organization whose mission is to make it easier for minority creatives to get into the media industry.
Kyle Montgomery co-founded Continuity in 2014 after facilitating an after-school program for St. Louis Public School District students interested in media production. He said that experience opened his eyes to how many young people were interested in pursuing a media career but weren’t always encouraged to do so because of a number of biases.
“[Many students] were headed more towards the trades, not towards video production or media production,” Montgomery told St. Louis on the Air. “[My co-founder and I] saw that as an opportunity. Based on conversations with people in the local news and media industry that had lived [outside St. Louis], we really found we could make a difference by expanding diversity through media production training.”
Quinsonta Boyd was one of those students who participated in the after-school media training. As a senior at Roosevelt High School in 2014, Boyd realized he could take his hobby of producing music videos for himself and his friends and make it into a career. He just needed to be pointed in the right direction. Today, Boyd is a full-time videographer and serves on Continuity’s board of directors.
“When we started the [workshop] programs [at Continuity], there was a high amount of diversity, but not a lot of [access],” Boyd said. “They had the talent, but they didn’t have the tools. What we were able to do was plant the seeds and grow these talents [so] they can actually create.”
Breaking into the media industry can be tougher for Black creatives. It’s commonplace in film and television to get hired for jobs based on whom you know, not what you know. And in a city that continues to grapple with racial, educational and economic inequalities, St. Louis experiences film industry brain drain because talented and educated members of the workforce leave in search of opportunities.
Still, many Black aspiring media professionals want to work and live in St. Louis.
“That starts with being able to look at our industry and see where those investment dollars are going — into infrastructure and into training. Every time you see the credits roll in a film, those are high-paying jobs. Those are good jobs,” Montgomery said. “Over the last year [Continuity] started an apprenticeship program with the Missouri Film Office. People go though set basics training, then become a registered apprentice and are able to work on a film set that is part of the [Missouri film] tax incentive. We're really hopeful that those hands-on labs will help bridge that gap between what our workshops are doing with theory and actually putting those fundamentals into practice.”
For more on breaking into the television and film industry in St. Louis, why diversifying production matters and personal stories about local filmmakers’ experiences on set, listen to St. Louis on the Air on Apple Podcast, Spotify or Google Podcast, or by clicking the play button below.
What: Continuity Crew Workshop: Set Basics (Registration required)
When: March 16
Where: Spot Content Studio, 5550 Fyler Ave., St. Louis, MO 63139
“St. Louis on the Air” brings you the stories of St. Louis and the people who live, work and create in our region. The show is produced by Miya Norfleet, Emily Woodbury, Danny Wicentowski, Elaine Cha and Alex Heuer. Roshae Hemmings is our production assistant. The audio engineer is Aaron Doerr. Send questions and comments about this story to firstname.lastname@example.org.