One of the biggest challenges for any person interested in starting a career in the film industry is figuring out how to break in. For people in underserved communities, this is even more difficult. “Being from St. Louis and knowing its long struggles with racial division and equity, we saw that same lack of diversity in the media production industry we were in,” said Kyle Montgomery, Co-Founder of Continuity, a non-profit organization dedicated to expanding diversity in media production through skill-based training, mentorship, and opportunities for untapped talent. “We realized the path to getting there was much harder for many underrepresented creators in our area.”
Since it’s founding in December of 2014 Continuity has been training crew in St. Louis, first through their 36-week training program, and now also with their Continuity CREW program. CREW starts with a daylong “Set Basics” workshop, where individuals can come and learn from industry professionals how to work on a film set, with an emphasis on how to be a Production Assistant, the entry level job for production professionals. After attending Set Basics, attendees may participate in more specialized workshops on Pre-Production, Production and Post-Production. This past November, Continuity was able to expand and have their first Set Basics workshop in Kansas City.
Jessica Ambuehl, board member and event producer for Continuity, said “Continuity has provided a much-needed spark in countless lives that will hopefully continue to shine locally as we all strive to tell stories for a living and to give all people an opportunity to be seen no matter how they live or what they look like.”
Many graduates of the CREW program have gone on to work on film or commercials sets through the Continuity Apprentice program. In addition to this program, Set Basics attendees can be referred as registered apprentices for projects applying to the new Show MO Motion Media Tax Incentive Program. There were several Continuity apprentices on the feature film On Fire, which just filmed in St. Louis.
“I felt ready and equipped thanks to Continuity CREW,” said Terry Kendrick Jr, who attended the workshops in St. Louis and has since worked on productions for UMSL.
“Continuity is a program that I recommend to anyone wanting to get started in the industry,” said James Jackson, who has gone on to work as a production assistant for the St. Louis Blues twice after attending the workshop. “I would recommend the program over traditional film school because you learn what you need to know, and then you can get on the job training and work your way up for a lot less money.”
“Anyone that attends this training will gain a wealth of knowledge and be properly suited for success on any production,” said Corwin Watson, another St. Louis attendee.
Attendees learn a number of things at the workshop, ranging from proper set etiquette, walkie talkie codes, and production hierarchy. These how-to skills are important for any PA, but Jacob Kurtz, a workshop instructor said “However, I learned that our participants were more engaged with the life skills and entrepreneurial skills portion of our workshops. Topics such as going freelance vs. full-time work, the difference between an LLC and a sole proprietorship, and identifying yourself as a brand were particularly impactful. It was surprising to me to hear what people took away from these workshops that helped launch them into new opportunities or broke down the barriers that held them back. One of the most powerful examples of this was connecting with a single father on how to balance work in this demanding industry while still being a present and involved parent. After sharing my own story as a father of two and my experience finding work/life balance, he felt his goals were more obtainable, and it helped alleviate some of his concerns about switching over to his new career in video production.”
Michael D. Francis, a board member for Continuity, said that he wished there was an organization like Continuity when he was coming up in the industry. “When I started and was attempting to figure out how to break into the world of production, there weren’t any avenues or pathways for the underserved and unconnected. I saw Continuity as an organization I wished existed when I needed it, so I wanted to join to help others in the same situation I was in when I started. I believe we should all strive to be the people we needed when we were younger and make ourselves useful and available to those coming behind us.”
Quinsonta Boyd, the Board Secretary, has similar feelings. “I decided to join Continuity so that I could expose individuals to a field that helped me change the course of my life. It takes exposure to find your passion, and there’s no need for gatekeepers. Being in the program, I’ve learned that there are countless stories that need to be told, and sometimes the only thing someone needs is access to fundamentals and equipment.”
So how can you get involved with Continuity? There are a number of ways!
1) People new to the media industry or those simply desiring to learn more can attend an all-day workshop in St. Louis or Kansas City. New events are promoted on Continuity’s social platforms and website (www.continuitycrew.org). The next workshop in St. Louis will be on March 16th, 2024.
2) Production companies can financially sponsor a workshop to help continue to train and grow the industry into a more diversified community (email email@example.com).
3) Professional industry professionals who want to use their expertise and experience to invest in others can reach out with their interest to be a workshop speaker (firstname.lastname@example.org).
4) Productions can apply for one of Continuity CREW’s trained PAs (who attended at least one Set Basics Workshop) to work on their set through the CREW Apprenticeship Program. More information is available online at https://www.continuitycrew.org/crew-apprenticeships.
“Ten years of doing this work feels amazing to say,” says Montgomery. “It hasn’t been easy, and there is still a lot of work to be done, but we’re optimistic as to what the future holds for our organization and our Continuity family.”