NBCU Launch Unveils Below-the-Line Traineeship and Production Assistant Initiative (Exclusive)

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NBCU Launch is unveiling two new below-the-line diversity, equity and inclusion efforts aimed at boosting representation in key production roles within the TV industry.

The Below-the-Line Traineeship and Production Assistant Initiative will offer opportunities for paid on-the-job experiences on NBCUniversal TV productions to qualified talent from communities historically marginalized within the industry. The pipeline programs will focus on increasing the pool of talent of underrepresented groups ready to be hired directly onto projects.

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“Below-the-line production roles have been historically underserved across our industry when we look at inclusion efforts. Our first major endeavor to increase representation on our production crews across Universal Studio Group and our entertainment networks are just a start in addressing this critical need,” Jeanne Mau, senior vp, TV Programming Diversity Equity & Inclusion, NBCUniversal, said in a statement.

Mau added that NBCU is confident “our ongoing below-the-line efforts will effectively contribute to lasting change in the composition of crews and lead to increased representation among departments heads and even head of productions.”

The production assistant initiative is focused on increasing PAs across NBCUniversal’s U.S. TV productions and will expand to include scripted programming later in 2023. The initiative works with industry partners Amazing Stories Foundation, Entertainment Industry Foundation (EIF) Careers Program, Ghetto Film School, Streetlights and the Television Academy Foundation, who help identify candidates for the program.

To participate, talent must have completed their vocational education and training in their desired craft and be qualified for hire as a PA, before they are referred for consideration in the hiring talent pool.

Since its fall 2022 launch, 15 production assistants from underrepresented backgrounds have been placed across seven NBCU unscripted series in both production and post-production roles. That includes America’s Got Talent, The Real Housewives of New York City, That’s My Jam and Weakest Link.

Created in partnership with various IATSE Locals in the United States and Canada, the below-the-line traineeship gives participants paid experience that will develop them into the next department heads for costumes, props, grips, set lighting and other below-the-line roles. Talent is sourced through Hollywood Cinema Production Resources (Hollywood CPR), Georgia Film Academy and New Orleans Video Access Center (NOVAC).

The program has already placed 24 trainees across 10 Universal Studio Group productions in the last 18 months. That includes Angelyne, Baking It, Candy, A Friend of the Family, TED, Quantum Leap and both seasons of Bel-Air. Sixteen trainees working on L.A.-based productions have fulfilled their on-the-job production hours for their certification through Hollywood CPR, affording them the chance to be placed on an applicable local IATSE roster. Six trainees are already in their local union and able to be considered for paid positions on union productions.

In April, the program expanded to its first international production — the third season of Syfy’s Chucky — through its partnership with Cinespace Studios. Trainees were supported in the completion of IATSE training in the CineCares Workforce Training Program, giving participants a pipeline onto USG productions filming in Toronto.

Both the traineeship and initiative are overseen by NBCU Launch, the home to NBCU’s diversity, equity and inclusion efforts in support of NBCUniversal’s entertainment television portfolio.

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