Sheila R. Brown exits from CineCares after a long history of changing lives

Sheila R. Brown
Sheila R.Brown with Cohort 7 under picture of founder “Uncle” Nick Mirkopoulos

Sheila R. Brown has stepped down from her position as Executive Director of the CineCares Division of Cinespace Film Studios.

Brown joined the Mirkopoulos and Pissios families at Cinespace in 2016 to help partner in the development of the Mirkopoulos Inclusion Program.

The program was part of the CineCares Foundation, created to help young adults from traditionally underserved communities on the West and South sides of Chicago, obtain paid job training opportunities on network television shows.

CineCares partnered with NBCUniversal, Wolf Entertainment, and IATSE Local 476 (Motion Picture Studio Mechanics Union) to pilot the internship program during the 2017-2018 filming season. Additional partners have included FOX, Lionsgate, AMC, STARZ and HBO.

From there, Brown reached out to the surrounding community, the Sinai Community Institute, 100 Black Men of Chicago, Chicago State University, etc.

“The community partners are the secret ingredient for me,” said Brown. “They are the first step in the process.

“Sheila got the community involved,” said former Chicago Med producer, Carla Corwin. “Once they understood what we were doing, they thought this is a great opportunity for the right people. The concept was simple. Get people in that are from underserved neighborhoods, that wouldn’t have a chance. Get them in and start training them, under people who know what they’re doing.”

Since its inception, 90% of the job trainees have successfully completed their 24 weeks of job training. Trainees have worked in the AD, Camera, Grip, Electric, Props, Sound, Locations, Art, Wardrobe, and On-Set Dresser departments. Over 80% of former trainees are working full-time in TV and Film with more than 50% becoming members of IATSE Locals 600, 476 and 769 representing the International Cinematographers Guild, Studio Mechanics and Theatrical Wardrobe respectively.

These positions are paid positions. The interns are coming from communities where the average household income is less than $23,000/year. During their 24-week internship, they make approximately $24,000. This makes a big impact on the well being of their entire family.

In addition to greatly impacting the increase in diversity in the Illinois labor force from 14% to 31%, their premier job training program inspired legislation in the last Film Tax Credit amendments, which led to the creation of the Illinois Production Workforce Fund.

Corwin added, “This never would have happened without Sheila Brown. She put her heart and soul into it and has done such a fabulous job… I mean fabulous!”

Brown’s work has been felt by this entire film community. Eamonn Walker, Chief Boden of Chicago Fire said, “I’m just really, really proud that Chicago, Sheila Brown, Cinespace, and the CineCares Foundation is doing the work that it’s doing because it’s leading the way forward for the rest of the industry to follow.”

Brown says CineCares will continue as a division of Cinespace. She is making a clean departure with her new groups lined up for 2022. “I just placed four people on Power Book IV: Force as Grip, Location, Sound, and Wardrobe trainees,” said Brown. “I have already selected the next nine trainees to make sure that my original network partner (NBCU) has another great crop of trainees.”

Clearly, Sheila R. Brown is moving forward to other adventures — a new and exciting position elsewhere. When I asked what’s next, Sheila coyly said “stay tuned!”

You will see what’s next for Brown later this week on Reel Chicago.

I know I speak for everyone when I say, “Thank you, Sheila Brown. Well done! You will be sorely missed on campus at Cinespace but your impact will be felt for years to come.”

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Wielding decades of Film & TV production experience, Barbara Roche is the editor/publisher of Reel Chicago and Reel 360.