Women of Color Unite to Launch #Startwith8 UK Edition

The successful mentorship program #StartWith8Hollywood, will now expand to the UK with support from the British Film Institute and led by Akua Gyamfi of The British Blacklist.

HOLLYWOOD, CA – Women of Color Unite (WOCU) will make available opportunities for hundreds of women/non-binary people of color in the UK to be mentored by seasoned veterans in the entertainment industry.

With the extraordinary success of the mentorship program, #StartWith8Hollywood in 2020, Women of Color Unite decided it was time to expand the reach of the program and give a hand up to women/non-binary people of color in the UK working in film & television. WOCU has established a relationship with the British Film Institute (BFI), which will support the program by offering advice, facilitating introductions, and supporting part of the initial setup costs using funds from the National Lottery.

#StartWith8 UK Edition will launch in June 2021 and will be led by Akua Gyamfi of The British Blacklist. There are no fees, no trauma essays, and no gatekeeping. The program is first come first served. #StartWith8 UK Edition is aiming to support 600 mentees in its first cycle.

The inception of the mentorship program that has now matched almost 1000 mentees in its first year, #StartWith8Hollywood was born from a Twitter moment by Thuc Doan Nguyen and spurred into a movement by Cheryl L. Bedford, Founder of WOCU/The JTC List (The accompanying database of 3000+ WOC Above and Below the Line). Two successful rounds have been executed in Hollywood and have spawned #StartWith8 Canada Edition, and now #StartWith8 UK Edition.

Hollywood mentors have to do one substantive act for that WOC based on the needs of the mentees. In less than a year the total number of mentors and mentees is 1151 with nearly 2000 meetings set up for women/non-binary people of color with entertainment industry decision-makers.
The launch of #StartWith8 UK Edition will coincide with the third round of #StartWith8 Hollywood Edition and the second round of #StartWith8 Canada Edition.

In addition to Akua Gyamfi, steering the program, an advisory board has been established consisting of: Melanie Hoyes, Industry Inclusion Executive at the BFI, Tamara Barton-Campbell, Creative Director + Executive Producer Renaissance Studios, Ani and Bila Benassou, Production Team, Sienna Beckman, Emergence Films, Manon de Reeper, Program Director for #StartWith8 & WOCU Business Development Strategist, Jazmine Nichelle, WOCU Director of Events & the youngest Board Member and Thuc Doan Nguyen, Founder of #StartWith8Hollywood & #TheBitchList and former UK resident.

“I can’t say enough good things about what #StartWith8 is doing in the entertainment business right now. They’re equipping working executives and creatives in town with the tool kits they need to make a difference, and course correct in a way that we will all notice and feel. I’ve met with all 8 of my mentees at this point and couldn’t be more excited about what the future holds for all of them.”— Andy Horwitz, Executive VP, Atlas Entertainment

The #StartWith8 UK team is currently recruiting UK mentors. Mentors are connected to eight mentees, and they have a one-time meeting. Together, they formulate a plan of action based on what each mentee desires and what is achievable by the mentor to create tangible progress in the mentee’s career. UK Mentors interested in participating can sign up here: airtable.com

Working with the BFI and the Advisory Board just seemed like the next natural step in the evolution of #StartWith8 and the Global reckoning of diversity. Thuc and I are excited that our missions align with our friends across the pond- to open up the world even further for better and more inclusive storytelling for everyone across borders. We are looking forward to the day when we can meet with our UK Team in person,” Cheryl Bedford, founder of WOCU.

Women of Color Unite and the #StartWith8Hollywood program is revolutionary in every way. The process was so simple and easy, just one form, and no need to write any long and complicated essays about my trauma, hardships, and pain. Access is such an essential part of the industry — and #StartWith8 provided that to me more than any other institution or entity. I found my current representation and have made real organic connections.” –Naomi Ko, WOCU member, and #Startwith8Hollywood mentee

Find out more at wocunite.org and thejtclist.com.

About Women of Color Unite
Women of Color Unite (WOCU), is a 501c3 non-profit founded by producer and advocate, Cheryl L. Bedford. It is the largest organization of its kind. Comprised of over 3000 women of color, the organization advocates against discrimination based on gender, race, age, size, sexual orientation, or disability. It is a social action organization focused on fair access, fair treatment and fair pay for women of color in all aspects of the entertainment and media industries.

About British Film Institute (BFI)
The BFI is the UK’s lead organisation for film, television and the moving image. It is a cultural charity that:
• Curates and presents the greatest international public programme of World Cinema for audiences; in cinemas, at festivals and online
• Cares for the BFI National Archive – the most significant film and television archive in the world
• Actively seeks out and supports the next generation of filmmakers
• Works with Government and industry to make the UK the most creatively exciting and prosperous place to make film internationally
Founded in 1933, the BFI is a registered charity governed by Royal Charter. The BFI Board of Governors is chaired by Tim Richards.

About The British Blacklist
The British Blacklist LTD launched in 2012 is an online platform that celebrates UK-based African & Caribbean creative professionals working in Screen, Stage, Literature, and Sound – both in front of and behind the scenes. The platform was founded by Akua Gyamfi, who has 25+ years of experience in the entertainment industry, with a career spanning fashion, film, television, theatre, print, and online media. The British Blacklist is a media brand dedicated to providing the latest editorial news of British black professionals in screen, stage, sound, and literature and at its heart is its database of the UK’s Black creatives documenting and championing their achievements in a way that hasn’t been done before. Industry partnerships include BFI, The Academy of Motion Pictures and Sciences, BAFTA, BBC, Netflix, and more. Recent projects include S.O.U.L. Film Festival.


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