Wednesday, November 17, 2021

Pegasus Media Project Provides One-of-a-Kind Career On-Ramp to Dallas’ Aspiring Film Artists

A new apprenticeship program, in partnership with The Alliance of Media Arts + Culture and Workforce Solutions Greater Dallas, provides a direct career merge for young adults from underserved communities.

When Joey Lee graduated with his Bachelor’s degree in Mass Communication, he felt excited about his future. He had created a portfolio of his strongest work and started to look for work in the advertising industry. Unfortunately, the work never came along with COVID. Ultimately, Lee returned home and to the unfulfilling job he had left prior to attending college.

“I was kind of lost, stuck,” Lee says. “It’s funny. I had just started thinking to myself that maybe the film industry was something I wanted to get into, just because I like writing and telling different stories.” That’s when Lee heard about Pegasus Media Project, and he applied on the spot. The first program of its kind offered in Dallas and, in fact, in the nation, the Pegasus Media Project apprenticeship program is designed to give young adults like Lee a pathway into the film and media arts industry.

While Dallas-Fort Worth boasts the state’s largest creative economy at $34 billion and over 200,000 jobs, pathways to those careers were built on a culture of unpaid internships. “But even with paid apprenticeships available, many people still need an on-ramp to qualify for them,” says Wendy Levy, Executive Director of The Alliance for Media Arts + Culture, the national program sponsor for Arts2Work.

In the spring of 2021, Arts2Work, Workforce Solutions Greater Dallas and Pegasus Media Project partnered to provide access to creative careers to people traditionally excluded from those opportunities. Apprentice Caodan Tran is one of those individuals. “Being Vietnamese-American, I wish I had seen more stories like mine growing up,” she said. “This is something I’ve always wanted access to. I just didn’t know how to get there besides going back to school.”

In launching the program, Arts2Work partners MIT Solve, New Profit, the Alliance for Media Arts + Culture, Workforce Solutions Greater Dallas and Adobe provided a $250,000 cash and in-kind investment in the Dallas pilot program, seeding Pegasus Media Project as a certified Arts2Work Training Center. The equipment and infrastructure have been vital to a program serving Dallas’ most underrepresented and underserved communities. Over 15 weeks, film educators, teachers and mentors working in the industry not only trained apprentices in equipment use and technique but quickly set them up to begin telling their own visual stories.

Lee’s mentor, Dallas filmmaker Jake Hochendoner, says he leaped at the opportunity to work with the apprentices. “I had mentors early on who helped me get to where I am today,” said Hochendoner. “Without those mentors, I would have probably struggled to find myself, find my place, find my voice and be validated as an artist.”

As part of their on-the-job training, Pegasus Media Project apprentices also made films for local performing arts groups, working together telling powerful stories to bring Dallas audiences back to theaters again. “We want to provide avenues for becoming an individual entrepreneur but also to have the option to hyper-focus on one skill and move into the workforce,” said Daniel Laabs, an independent Dallas filmmaker and lead mentor. “We want to give them as many options as possible and make them as hire-able as possible.”

Having completed the program, Lee says the experience has been meaningful for him and he hopes it will be a springboard to new opportunities for him.

“This program has blown me away,” said Tran, who said the skills she learned through the program felt like the missing link for her. “I have been so grateful.”

Photo Credit: PegasusMediaProject, Xenia Matthews, apprentice, on location shoot at Sate Fair of Texas, photo by Niloo Jalilvand

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