If you don’t know who I am well… let me introduce myself! I’m Meah Denee Barrington, the founder of this website! I take great pride in that because this site evolved from just being a blog about some of my favorite black films and independent projects, into a resource for black creators that want to break into the film and television industry! Below I have listed some of the organizations that helped me become a full time freelancer and also gain employment as as Associate Producer at Conde Nast. But first here’s a little bit about my background and how I came across all these organizations.
After graduating from the University of North Carolina in May 2012 with a degree in Mass Communication and minor in Journalism. I moved into my grandmother’s apartment in the Bronx at the end of the summer. I didn’t know anyone or anything about working in the entertainment industry. I had an internship under my belt from working at the local news station in North Carolina at ABC11 for a semester, but nothing truly prepares you for the concrete jungle except ACTUAL industry experience.
I moved to New York after gaining the opportunity to work ONCE a week, unpaid, as a Respect My Vote correspondent on BET’s 106&Park. It was a dream come true! So many of us grew up watching Free & AJ and now I had the opportunity to be on 106&Park, it didn’t matter that the show was already on its last leg I was excited to be in the building. There was one producer, Lauren, that was friendly and helpful and let me shadow her sometimes. She explained how the show worked and even landed me an interview for a Production Assistant position working with talent. It should have been an easy win and foot in the door, but I didn’t get the job. I wasn’t prepared and had no real clue on how to work a job interview. I had a lot more resources at my disposal than most, especially with me having a network like UNC, but I didn’t understand the value of networking, or how to build real relationships until later on.
The whole time I was at 106&Park my father was ill and he eventually passed away which left me in a depressive state, and on top of that four months had gone by and I still couldn’t get an interview for a job in film or television. I’m not going to lie my motivation and confidence were dwindling. It wasn’t until I finally got a job in January 2013, at the GAP, that I finally started turning things around, working several jobs to save up enough money to buy my own camera equipment and eventually become a freelance videographer.
You’re probably wondering why I am telling you all of these things. Well it wasn’t until I started working as a freelancer and becoming a lot more strategic and creative about how I found television and film jobs that I started learning about job placement organizations that could help me. Non-profits and companies specifically catered to help people that look like me, people of color, struggling to get a foot in the door finally gain experience to land a great opportunity. Here is a list of the film organizations that helped me the most when it came to transitioning into full time employment and making consistent money as an entertainment professional.
MADE IN NEW YORK PA PROGRAM – This was one of the first film organization I came across when I moved to New York. It was founded alongside the Mayor’s office to provide opportunities for BIPOC NYC citizens that maybe unemployed and/or low income. They train you on how to be a set production assistant and help you with job placement after you graduate the program. They have expanded the program to provide a Post Production Training Program as well.
The training program is full time for five weeks, Monday – Friday, with homework and occasional evening sessions at the Brooklyn Navy Yard.
This sounded like the perfect opportunity for me, and I knew I would get in considering the only experience I had at the time was from a few indie short films and my internship at the local news station. I believe there were two or three rounds of interviews you had to pass before you could start but first, you must attend an orientation and fill out an application with your background information and work experience.
Unfortunately, I didn’t make it past the second round! They said I had too much experience and could use my network to gain employment in the entertainment industry. The program was for individuals with no experience so I didn’t fit their demographic basically. I really thought this was going to be my opportunity to get back on track career wise and stop working at jobs like the YMCA and Gap Outlet. I was beyond disappointed, but also even more determined to find another opportunity to get my foot in the door. Luckily, God knew how to keep me on track and led me to the next organization on this list.
PUBLIC ACCESS TELEVISION – Basically, every state and almost every town has their own television station where you can sign up for classes, learn how to work cameras and studio equipment, and produce your own television show! Big budget states, like New York, have low cost programs where classes cost as low as $25. The price definitely depends on the location but the majority of these programs cost way less than any film school. And NO, these places aren’t hiring you without previous experience but the benefit of public access television is that equipment is readily available for you to use. Manhattan Neighborhood Network was a major blessing for me after college, especially when I didn’t have the editing software to edit my freelance jobs or personal projects. They also have a studio in Harlem, that I came to love because it was less busy than their location by 59th street and Lexington ave.
When I wasn’t working some retail job or waitressing I was in downtown Manhattan learning how to run the boards for other producers public access television shows, or I was taking classes to improve my editing skills. It was truly a godsend! On top of building your skill set this is a great place to network with up and coming “reel creators,” directors, producers, writers, etc.
Issa Rae gave the best advice when she tells people they should network across and not above. Build relationships and connections with the people on your level grinding just as hard as you are. You never know where they will be a year or five years from now and how you can collaborate with them.
If you’re looking for a list of public access stations near you stay tuned because I am currently working on a document that provides ALL the public access stations throughout the country. Along with information on which stations allow you to submit content from other states! So make sure you sign up for our newsletter so you can receive that information.
WOMEN IN ENTERTAINMENT EMPOWERMENT NETWORK (WEEN) – This organization was found by four amazing, talented and smart, black women that had a vision to help lead other black women into the entertainment industry. They created a non-profit organization, WEEN, that hosts a yearly WEEN Academy. It’s basically, a four week boot camp for women 18 – 26 years old that teaches them how to navigate the industry, as well as challenges them to think outside the box, and put them in the right rooms to expand their network.
I auditioned for the WEEN Academy at 26 years old, so I only had one shot! I was attracted to the program for several reasons. At this point, I had lived in New York for almost five years, and I was beyond frustrated with my career and started questioning if I would ever make it in the film and television industry. I was working here and there as a freelance videographer or a production assistant, but I felt like this opportunity was the push I needed in my career. I also wanted to build a sisterhood with other like minded women something I never experienced before.
The academy definitely challenged me, there were good and bad moments, but what I took from it the most was that I was capable of working and thriving in the television and film industry. Outside of that I met amazing women, built great connections, and truly learned how to strategize and navigate the industry in a new way. That new energy, mindset, and hustle led me to working at Madame Noire as a freelance editor, along with many other great opportunities to cover industry events, and be in rooms that I didn’t have access to before.
HUE YOU KNOW FOR BIPOC IN MEDIA – I learned about this community of black filmmakers after graduating from the Ween Academy the summer of 2017, the co-founder, Sabrina Thompson, suggested we join. When I joined there were maybe 3k – 4k members, now there are 12,000 plus members! This organization focuses on bringing paid opportunities to people of color, along with building community, and providing mentorship for television and film professionals. Their Facebook group is a great resource for not only new job opportunities, but also networking, and events focused on building your skills in writing, producing, directing, etc.
Personally, I have not booked a job through their Facebook group, as of yet, but I have connected with great people. Some of those people being the amazing crew members and teammates for the web series, Hotline, I helped produce were found through this organization.
This organization includes a vast area of BIPOC entertainment professionals with various levels of experience, from novice to expert. You can also check out their website and submit your information to be added to their database of BIPOC television and film professionals.
GHETTO FILM SCHOOL (GFS) – I know the name seems a little suspect but this non-profit organization has been the greatest gift for my career. GFS is a film school in the Bronx catered to high school students, even though their main school is in the Bronx they also have a Los Angeles chapter. On top of teaching the next generation of filmmakers, they also help them find jobs within the television and film industry. They do this by curating networking events, workshops with media companies, and listing job opportunities through their GFS Roster. This organization truly works to make opportunities within the television and film industry accessible to BIPOC individuals. Believe it or not but you can sign up for the GFS roster for free, at any age, or any experience level. I am proof that this organization is making a difference in not only their students careers but the Roster members as well.
It was 2017, when I signed up for the GFS Roster. A few months had passed since I graduated from the WEEN Academy and I was no longer, waitressing but working part time at charity events / auctions for a mobile bidding company, on top of working random production assistant and videography gigs, when I could book them. The roster put out a job post looking for part time Assistant Editors, so I applied. I went to Long Island City to interview for Kornhaber Brown and got the job, literally on the spot. I was walking back to the train after the interview when they called me and told me I could start the next day! I was officially working three days a week making more money than I was waitressing and I was editing digital shows for MTV and PBS! The gig didn’t last as long as I wanted but I worked there for a good 6 months, and even afterwards they would call me in to help when someone was out sick or on vacation.
I even booked my first full time Office Production Assistant role for an HBO show, The Plot Against America, because of the GFS Roster. I applied to several production assistant jobs, one being for a CBS show that I didn’t book. Thankfully, I always follow up after every interview to say thank you, and because of those small things and my personality, I made a lasting impression. So when my boss at HBO reached out to the Production Coordinator at the CBS show looking for production assistants, he referred me, and the rest is history!
Lastly, I landed my current job as an Associate Producer at Conde Nast after attending a networking night through GFS and Conde Nast! At this point, I’ve landed three jobs through the GFS Roster! I’m a strong advocate that using their organization as a resource for opportunities in the film and television industry is essential.
Sorry this article was so lengthy but I truly love being able to share what I know for those that need the knowledge. Everyone’s journey is different and that is what makes working in the television and film industry so exciting because you never know when your next big opportunity will present itself. I hope these organizations are useful to you, please share some of your experiences in the comment section below!