“It’s a good day,” says Sheila Brown, the Executive Director of the CineCares Foundation. “The interns will receive twelve weeks of on-the-job training.”
Brown leads an effort to place young adults from nearby neighborhoods into paid internships at Cinespace. This morning, she learned that the first cohort participating in the foundation’s internship program will be working for an additional four weeks.
“I had given them a little bit of a heads-up,” she explains. “Today was the day we could notify them. I’m overjoyed!”
The CineCares Foundation formed a joint partnership with Wolf Films, NBC Universal, and the Motion Picture Studio Mechanics Union, Local 476. Its Board Chair, Cinespace President Alex Pissios, feels that the organization will not only help Cinespace “be a stronger part of the community” but also serve as a fitting way to honor his Uncle Nick Mirkopoulos, the founder of Cinespace.
“It was all about being a good corporate citizen,” says Brown. “Alex wanted to expose people to an industry that most, if not all, would not necessarily have exposure to.”
When Brown came on board in late 2016, Alex and Uncle Nick had already established a record of giving back to the community. Brown explained that most of their efforts came in the traditional form of do-goodery.
“Alex and Uncle Nick did everything from sponsoring little league teams to throwing Christmas parties for seniors and giving bikes and clothing to the children. All of which are important.” she explains.
“However, I said to Alex, ‘if we find job training opportunities for people in the community, they can work and buy their own things. The biggest impact that we can make is to give people work.’”
Brown emanates the intelligence, spunk, and compassion of a professional who knows how to get things done. Before joining CineCares, she spent twenty years as Founder and CEO of Freedom Entertainment, an event and video production company with a huge list of clients including, ESPN, Motown Records, and the NBA.
Her entrepreneurial wherewithal came in handy from the get-go.
“I worked to identify access points,” she explains. “Viewers see the actors and actresses on screen, but what they don’t see are the hundreds of people who feed them, clothe them, build the stages they are working on, and do so much more.”
With help from Chicago Med Producer Carla Corwin, she and Alex pitched the internship idea to Wolf Films and NBC Universal. The response was overwhelming. Wolf Films “immediately said yes” and NBC Universal has wanted to support the community “since day one.”
She eventually placed nearly ten individuals into the grip, electric, props, and locations departments on Chicago Fire, Chicago P.D., and Chicago Med.
Local 476 President Bradley Matthys called to encourage her and offer further assistance during the program’s early stage.
Organizations like BBF Family Services, North Lawndale Employment Network, Sinai Community Institute, Central States SER, and Free Spirit Media help Brown recruit the interns. All of these places work with their demographic and know how to identify and screen candidates.
That’s where Brown sees one of the Foundation’s greatest benefits.
“When we talk about our interns, they’re from west side neighborhoods like North Lawndale, Garfield Park, and Austin, which is where I grew up,” she says. “These African Americans and Latinos don’t have friends or family already in the business, so it’s hard to break in.”
Brown prepared the interns by explaining to them, “you may see glitz and glamour, but this industry is truly grit and grind” and “you are going to work your tail off.”
She also informed the young recruits that part of their challenge was “to do some straight up myth-busting.”
“Some people think North Lawndale is full of gangbangers and drug dealers,” she told the interns. “You’re going to show them that you are hard workers and deserve the opportunity to be here.”
Evidently, they got the job done.
“The interns are excited. We’re excited. This was a good day for all involved,” she says.
To read more “Day in the Life of Cinespace,” click here.