Coolfire Studios Launches Foundation to Train Minorities For Careers in Creative Media Industries

By Christopher Reilly
In Culture

Over the last ten years, the lack of diversity in creative media industries has been a hot topic. The industry is responding to the anomaly—albeit slowly—through various initiatives that seek to address the problem. As these initiatives begin to show results, another issue presents itself: Are there enough minorities with the necessary training to fill the positions? Coolfire Studios means to address the diversity-in-media conundrum locally with the launch of The Coolfire Foundation, designed to clear pathways into creative media industries for minorities, immigrants and refugees through education, training and hands-on experience.

Courtesy of Coolfire Foundation

Courtesy of Coolfire Foundation

But there is another facet to Coolfire’s program—a human one—involving self-expression, art and creativity as a value in itself, reflected in the foundation’s slogan, “Every person has a story to tell.”

Coolfire will find the “born storytellers” the program is designed for by visiting high schools to talk to educators, guidance counselors, coaches, and boys’ and girls’ clubs. The program’s three points of focus are to inspire, educate and assist the future creatives.

To inspire, the kids will be taken on field trips to dozens of media businesses, such as advertising agencies and post-production facilities, which will also show them how what they learn can be applied to career opportunities.

To educate, kids who show interest will be invited into workshops and mentoring opportunities where they’ll learn such applicable skills as Photoshop, script writing, project management and producing. “Eventually we’ll let them take the lead,” says Coolfire Foundation Executive Director Chris Smith. “Some education will be in classroom situations, but there will be things like looking over a cameraman’s shoulder as well.”

To assist, Coolfire will offer two to four college or program scholarships per year as well as financial aid for students who show aptitude, and they’re considering possibly offering assistance to the students for acquiring equipment. Scholarships are expected to begin as early as next fall, so initially there will be high school seniors going through the program, but Smith envisions getting students involved at a much younger age.

Perhaps the most exciting element to the Coolfire program is the potential for complete immersion into the entire process of creating a professional video. Coolfire Studios does a lot of pro bono work for non-profits, but the requests outnumber what Coolfire is able to accommodate . They now hope to do more by letting the students do some of that pro bono work they wouldn’t be able to do otherwise. “The non-profit gets their piece made, and our kids get real opportunities to gain experience and create a portfolio,” Smith says.

The Foundation hopes to achieve two outcomes. The first is benefiting creative industries in St. Louis by expanding the talent pool. This will enable the industry to grow here instead of companies going to Los Angeles or New York. The second is to increase diversity in the field by mentoring African-Americans, immigrants and refugees.

Although Coolfire is paying the startup costs, they are interested in talking with people who want to be involved in the program, possibly as teachers, mentors or financial partners. “We hope to get the program in the black within the first year,” Smith says.

For more information visit the Coolfire Studios/Foundation website.

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