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From Hollywood: American Indian FOX Summer Institute

HOLLYWOOD, Calif. - Hollywood Reporter magazine recently printed an article about how diversity is paving the way for minorities. According to the piece, the percentages of black and Latino performers employed at film studios and TV networks have increased in recent years. However, the same cannot be the said for American Indian artists. It is reported that they have not found as much work, down 2 percent in 2003.

A 1999 Los Angeles Times article entitled, "The White Wash of America: In primetime television" said that there were no lead or recurring roles for minorities on any of the major networks, CBS, NBC, ABC and FOX. These same networks met in 2000 to bring in people of color. Their major concerns were technicians, producers, business and the purchasing of procurement dollars from minority vendors.

But FOX did not want to employ minorities just for television. The studio went a step further by inviting minorities to walk through their doors of opportunity in film, cable, sports, and newspaper organizations Diversity at FOX was born.

With Diversity at FOX only a few years old, the studio wanted to see how to make it better for American Indians. So, in 2002 they created the American Indian FOX Summer Institute run by the Director of Diversity Recruitment Gerald Alkantar.

Most importantly, FOX wanted to show how they could turn its diversity proportion around and make it work. Alkantar explains that the summer institute was created not only to introduce American Indians to FOX, but to establish credibility in the Indian community and to educate Natives who have had little or no connection with the entertainment industry. Alkantar invited Indians from reservations around the United States to the summer institute. It was a diverse group of Indian students who made that first visit to Hollywood a success.

Alkantar hoped that the students would leave with more than just what they learned about FOX; with a clearer idea of themselves and their aspirations. Was it a life changing experience? Did the students want to work in the industry or not when they returned to the reservation?

Last year's institute was built around the idea of how the entertainment business works. Through team building and the collaboration of group decisions, the students were split into two groups and created entertainment brochures for the following year's students.

Alkantar hopes that the summer institute will be an ongoing project and that the students will get as much as possible out of their week with FOX. For many it will be a once in a lifetime opportunity. FOX executives are learning from each evaluation what is working and what needs changing. They have shown great support for the diversity department and their outreach into the American Indian community.

Within the Screen Actor's Guild there are more than 85,000 members and only 5,000 of them are working in Hollywood. From that 5,000 only a few American Indian actors and actresses are working in film, television and commercials. The negative Hollywood stereotypes of Indian men and women still loom large. Yet, FOX has welcomed American Indian actors to their acting showcases over the past two years for their primetime television shows.

This year FOX will invite the students for a week-long stay at the UCLA campus dorms. They will provide a first night reception on the studio lot with a screening of the new film "Le Divorce" starring Kate Hudson. There will also be visits to entertainment museums and FOX television shows. Alkantar has again invited successful American Indian performing artists, directors and producers to speak to the students. The week's finale will be a visit to the 35th Annual Southern California Indian Center Pow Wow.