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Morgan State University Announces Film Production Internship

Morgan State University, 40 Acres & a Mule and the Gersh Agency partnered to create internship opportunities for HBCU graduates.

Bridge leading to Morgan State University SGJC. (Photo courtesy of Yogesh Patel)

Spike Lee’s 40 Acres & a Mule Filmworks and the Gersh Agency have collaborated with Morgan State University to establish an internship program that can lead to a full-time position within the film industry.

This partnership with Morgan State University’s School of Global Journalism and Communication (SGJC) aims to enhance the pipeline of historically Black colleges and university (HBCU) graduates working in the film industry.

Starting in summer 2024, one SGJC student will be selected to participate in an eight-week New York or Los Angeles-based internship. The intern will work alongside producers to study film production, help craft and edit scripts and learn the mechanics of making feature films and television programs.

The internship program and partnership with Morgan State’s SGJC was created by Morgan State alumnus Steven Jackson, who serves as head of production and development for 40 Acres & A Mule Filmworks, and Jayson Council, head of culture for The Gersh Agency.

“We just finished visiting the campus and meeting prospective students. We conducted a round of interviews to narrow it down, and we’re going to announce the student soon,” Jackson said. 

Jackson discussed his motivation behind creating the internship, the future of the program and advice for students at HBCUs, which are primarily based in southern and east coast states, who are looking to make the transition to industries on the West Coast, such as Hollywood and Silicon Valley. 

According to McKinsey & Company, only 6 percent of the writers, directors and producers in U.S.-produced films are Black. The film and TV industry remains disproportionately white. 

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Ajoi Adams, a sophomore TV and film major from Atlanta, Georgia, is thrilled for Morgan State students and hopes that they take advantage of this partnership.

“I think this partnership will create meaningful connections that will prepare students for the challenges and opportunities they’ll encounter in the industry,” Adams said.

Adams is delighted that other HBCUs are receiving fantastic opportunities, no matter the popularity or size.

“I think the internship will implore more diversity within the film industry. Having big-name companies and big-name people come to HBCUs gives us a great head start,” Adams said. 

Jackson said that when he began graduate school at the University of Southern California, he noticed that many of his classmates were aware of the LA job market, so he thought of ways to help future young professionals. 

“Many people were aware of how the system worked, whether they went to film school, USC or UCLA. As someone who attended Morgan State, an HBCU in Baltimore, I felt like there could be other tangible professional experiences in media industries in addition to journalism,” Jackson said. 

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As an undergraduate at Morgan State University, Jackson was a member of a Louis Carr Foundation (LCF) internship program, which provides up to 12 paid summer internships to undergraduate students of color studying communications. 

“I was in LA for a summer and worked at the BET Awards,” Jackson said.  

Morgan State University School of Global Journalism and Communications (SGJC). (Photo courtesy of SGJC). 

Jacob A. Smith, a junior television and film major and theater tech minor at Howard University from Columbus, Ohio, said this program is exactly what television and film majors need. 

“Having the opportunity to be exposed to the world of entertainment before graduating is crucial in not only cultivating skills to succeed within someone’s career, but also in developing a strong network of industry professionals and peers that could assist you, and vice-versa, in your career journey,” Smith said. 

Smith highlighted the lack of HBCU representation in the film industry and the importance of reshaping the portrayal of Black and other marginalized communities. 

“A pipeline that connects HBCU scholars to the industry they aspire to work in is essential in changing the representation of Black and other underrepresented communities, in front of and behind the scenes, to a more positive narrative by putting more of these creatives in decision-making positions,” he said. 

Jackson said that the hesitation that some students may have with moving across the country is not a factor that students should avoid, because with jobs in Hollywood, you “may feel as if you’re about to jump out of an airplane every day.”

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“I would say just do it, even though many people are nervous or scared to be far away or in a city that they’ve never been to,” he said. “You never know who you’re connected to that can help you and the world is smaller than you think.”

Jackson hopes the internship program will grow to include other HBCUs in the future. He said that the partnership with Morgan State was modeled after his LCF internship experience.

”Hopefully, the program will grow to where we can support up to ten students with housing and stipends,” Jackson said. 

Copy edited by Jalyn Lovelady

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