Shonda Rhimes has made inclusivity an important part of all her projects. When she signed a record-breaking nine-figure deal with Netflix in 2017, she made sure to make diversity, equity and inclusion part of the package.
And now, according to The Hollywood Reporter, the prolific producer will launch two new initiatives at the streaming network. Partly supported by the Netflix Fund for Creative Equity, The Producers Inclusion Initiative and The Ladder will provide practical, real-world training and mentorship for producers and crew members looking to get experience and opportunity in the entertainment industry.
As much as we discuss the lack of representation on-screen, it’s even worse behind the scenes. Like most of the world, Hollywood thrives on nepotism and favoritism. If you’re not related to or friendly with someone important, it can be extremely difficult to get the jobs and contacts needed to move ahead. If you’re an artist of color, a woman, disabled or LGBTQ+ it’s even harder. These initiatives from Shonda will help a lot of people skip some of the bullshit and get to where they want to be.
The Producers Inclusion Initiative is a paid “nine-week virtual program to train indie producers, unit production managers, supervisors and first assistant directors,” from marginalized communities. Production department heads and executives from Shondaland, Netflix and other companies will mentor and teach program participants, who will also have an opportunity for career advancement.
“At our core, Shondaland is a company dedicated to championing opportunities for underrepresented communities both on and off the screen. We have made incredible strides with ensuring women are represented in our productions and I’m excited to expand our efforts and see real results with all marginalized groups,” Sara Fischer, Shondaland’s head of production, said in a statement. “Our partnership with Netflix has allowed us to create these two new incredible programs that have already led to palpable changes in our industry. I am extremely proud to be a part of history as we look forward to greater representation on set.”
The Ladder offers on-set experience and training to crew members from marginalized communities. It starts with current U.K. Shondaland productions, featuring jobs in “production, locations, assistant directors, costume, sound and stunts.” The Ladder is also a paid program that includes transportation “from central points around London,” while “program grads will be eligible for job consideration on Shondaland and other Netflix productions.”
Here’s the thing: these sorts of programs get announced all the time. They’re usually just a PR stunt and we don’t hear much about them after the fact. However, Shondaland has always been a place that promotes from within, as writers and producers who started out on Grey’s Anatomy and Scandal, moved on to create and produce How to Get Away With Murder and Bridgerton. Shonda knows what it’s like to work hard to get in the room, so her initiatives get the benefit of the doubt.