It’s been a year since the pandemic-stricken social uprising of summer 2020, a time when entertainment and media stepped forward with vows to do better in the wake of George Floyd’s murder.
Though that manifested in a tidal wave of social media posts and sweeping pledges, the team at Paramount Pictures found that laser focus was the best way to immediately lift up its staff. Or, put simply, they decided to clean up their own house.
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Project Action, a set of task forces aimed at fast and effective equity within the studio’s marketing and distribution teams, was born from that moment and marks its first anniversary this week. While those groups may not be as sexy as development or production, they are gatekeepers of millions in P&A spending and creative influence in attracting audiences to their films.
“So much of this work tends to be boiling the ocean,” says Christine Benitez Torres, senior VP of global brand strategy and multicultural marketing, who runs Project Action with colleagues DeDe Brown and Jamal Salmon. “Our leadership wanted to hold us accountable. That’s rare. Each one of our task forces have gotten doors open that take years to open.”
Programs include Paramount Made, an executive mentorship program that has already seen cross-department promotions thanks to junior staffers’ access to top brass, vendor diversification to prioritize POC-owned businesses, a representation team that reviews all creative materials put into the market, an inclusion speakers series and a unit devoted to equitable talent and intern recruiting.
“We came at it with a heart-forward mindset and vulnerability,” says Brown. “It’s been a joy to watch our colleagues step into leadership roles, help guide our process and weigh in. What we really want to see is that all these things become standard business. In a few years, we hopefully won’t need task forces to pay attention to some of this stuff.”
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