USC’s Annenberg Inclusion Initiative is expanding its research focus from analyses of demographic diversity (i.e. gender, race/ethnicity, disability, sexuality and age) to address how entertainment narratives handle topical issues, including reproductive health, voting and gun violence.
“With the curtailing of reproductive rights, it is not only necessary to find legal solutions to protect marginalized communities, but it is essential to educate and inform audiences about these topics,” AI2 founder Stacy L. Smith said in a statement. “Entertainment has a unique ability to reach viewers and provide that education. Our goal is to illuminate how many opportunities there are to use storytelling as a tool to expand the conversation and create substantial attitude and policy change.”
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As with past AI2 studies, the Initiative intends to include solutions and suggested best practices for storytellers and content creators as part of this work. One such solution it is already offering itself: a new AI2 Accelerator to fund undergraduate filmmakers looking to tell stories about reproductive rights. Funded by several members of the gender equality philanthropy group Women Moving Millions, at least three students will receive a $25,000 film grant to develop their scripts and produce their project.
“Through this Accelerator program, we hope to support storytellers as they address some of the most pressing issues that will face their generation,” Psquared Charitable Foundation president Monika Parekh said in a statement. “By leveraging the power of entertainment, these students can shape the hearts and minds of their peers and broader audiences in ways that can influence culture and decision-making.”
More details will be released this fall about the new Accelerator, which joins AI2’s Snap Originals Annenberg Inclusion Award and its original Accelerator program, each of them $25,000 film grants, announced earlier this year.
“The entertainment community plays a critical role in educating people about their sexual and reproductive health and rights, including abortion,” Planned Parenthood Federation of America’s national director of arts and entertainment engagement Caren Spruch said in a statement. “With Roe v. Wade overturned and birth control, LGBTQ+ and other rights threatened, this new Annenberg Inclusion Initiative research project will provide an invaluable tool to ensure audiences are reached with medically and legislatively accurate storytelling about these issues. And, importantly, it will track the progress made. As we fight for every person’s right to bodily autonomy, working together with the Initiative and its supporters will be essential to changing the culture to achieve this goal.”
AI2 has reached out to a number of notable figures who have agreed to support the new research by helping to publicize it once a report is released. They include Meryl Streep, Scarlett Johansson, Kerry Washington, Tessa Thompson, Amy Schumer, Gemma Chan, Eva Longoria, Rosario Dawson and Jameela Jamil, as well as Universal Music Publishing Group chair and CEO Jody Gerson, Spotify chief content and advertising business officer Dawn Ostroff, U.S. Rep. Joaquin Castro, former Australian prime minister Julia Gillard, Capitol Music Group chair and CEO Michele Jubelirer, M88 co-founder and president Phillip Sun, Film Independent board chair Brenda Robinson, Rogers & Cowan PMK chairs Cindi Berger and Alan Nierob, Participant CEO David Linde and Hillman Grad Productions CEO Rishi Rajani.
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