In an industry that hides behind the myth of “meritocracy” but in reality functions on personal connections, the #Startwith8™ initiative connects well-established industry mentors to eight Women of Color working in the entertainment industry each. Together, they formulate a plan of action based on what each mentee desires and what is achievable by the mentor to create tangible progress in the mentee’s career.
The Bitch Pack’s Thuc Nguyen, screenwriter, activist, and curator of the annual Bitch List, started the #Startwith8Hollywood program on Twitter in early June 2020. Thuc had been a participant in the #Startwith8 initiative in the tech industry, and thought it would be great to involve entertainment executives and producers in the program as well.
Soon, Cheryl L. Bedford, Founder of Women of Color Unite and creator of The JTC List, joined forces with Thuc. WOCU is a social action organization focusing on fair access, fair treatment and fair pay for Women of Color in all aspects of the entertainment and media industries. The JTC List is a database of 3000+ Women of Color working in entertainment and is used by countless Hollywood entities to hire from; the list was named after Joan Theresa Curtis, Bedford’s mother, a statistician and activist, who passed away in February 2016.
Bedford put together a committee of volunteers and shaped the program into what it is today.
We recognize that we stand on the shoulders of our ancestors; we recognize that this movement would not have happened without the COVID-19 Pandemic, or the deaths of Ahmaud Arbery, Breonna Taylor and George Floyd, and the rebellion that followed.
a movement, sparked
#Startwith8 Hollywood Edition's first cycle wrapped up by the end of July 2020. It was driven by the sheer organizational force of the six volunteers involved, on no money. We connected nearly 300 Women of Color working in the entertainment industry, at different stages of their careers, to established industry mentors. New friendships have been forged, referrals have been made, advice has been freely shared... We know we are on to something special.
The second cycle of #Startwith8Hollywood happened in Winter 2020-2021, and it doubled the number of mentees from 300 to well over 600. Close to 1300 new connections were made.
#Startwith8™ was registered for trademark, and is on its way to become an international phenomenon: Canada and UK Editions are coming soon, as well as the third cycle of its Hollywood Edition.
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Be a Mentor!
If you are interested in passing on your knowledge and help open doors for Women of Color, and help make the industry a more diverse and equitable place for everyone, please register your interest by clicking the link below.
To stay in the loop, join Women of Color Unite, and enjoy our community and exclusive opportunities. WOCU members get first access to future cycles. Membership is free, and participation in the #Startwith8Hollywood program is completely free as well.
My meetings with #StartWith8Hollywood mentors, Sheryl J. Anderson (Sweet Magnolias) and Megan Fleming (The Safran Company) have truly been bright spots in my life. They’re not only solid human beings who were legitimately curious about my life and work (as I was about theirs), but they’re both laser-focused on making a difference in the industry… and holy cow do we ever need that.
I can’t say enough about the #Startwith8 initiative. Through them, I was able to meet with Monkeypaw Productions, something I’ve only dreamed about until now. This program is a real game changer that establishes authentic relationships and networking opportunities for women of color. Thank you from the bottom of my heart!
Pamela Ribon wanted to learn about me, so she could support my work. She then gave me insight & advice I could apply to my unique life experience & goals. Pamela actually wants to lift others up. She’s an A+ mentor. I’m so grateful to WOCU for #Startwith8Hollywood.
My mentor (a co-showrunner) and I went through my pilot scene by scene. He suggested what to do with each storyline. Not only did I gain wisdom from his suggestions, I also learned valuable screenwriting lessons from the experience itself.
#Startwith8Hollywood is a truly remarkable initiative. These mentor meetings are empowering hundreds of women of color to produce our stories as we share our voices, goals and dreams with Hollywood’s gatekeepers who are truly interested in expanding the narratives produced by the industry. This movement to produce and distribute new stories by and for people of color can ignite positive changes in Hollywood, which will ultimately improve the way people of color are perceived and accepted around the world.