That’s why we embrace mentoring opportunities for our employees, and support them and the differences they can make in the lives of others. For example, since 2011, we have provided more than $250,000 to support OutSet: The Young Filmmakers Project. A partnership with the Los Angeles LGBT Center and Outfest, OutSet offers the opportunity for young LGBT filmmakers to learn technical skills from film industry professionals who mentor them to help bring their stories to life. Below is the story of one of those mentors.
As a child growing up in North Carolina, Tina Shaw loved movies. She didn’t want to act in them or make films – she wanted to make movie posters.
"I was always a huge film buff, but never thought about production," she said.
With a background in print design and no experience in television, she landed a job at a TV station in Durham, N.C., designing news graphics and opening credits on local shows. She then moved on to another television station in Philadelphia to learn and design for promotion and marketing.
But the movie bug lingered, so she went to California to finally create the posters she dreamed of. When she got there, Tina said, "I found people trying to make films, and it looked interesting… and fun."
Thus her independent film career began, along with all the mistakes that beginners often make.
"I didn’t have experienced people I could turn to, or the right people to help nurture me," she said.
After great film festival and licensing success with two earlier films, Tina’s third film was screened at Outfest, an LGBT-oriented film showcase and festival in Los Angeles, as part of their popular ‘Girls Shorts’ program.
Her evolving production and storytelling skills led her to a job six years ago with NBCUniversal, where she is now director of creative and digital production for NBC Entertainment Marketing & Digital. Tina’s team creates original short-form videos, typically under 6 minutes in duration, with the creators and casts of popular NBC shows to showcase them on multiple digital platforms and across social media.
"We work to give the audience engaging, original content to keep them interested and coming back to shows like ‘Blindspot,’ ‘The Blacklist’ and ‘Chicago Med,’ to name a few," she said.
Recalling the many questions and challenges she faced as an up-and-coming filmmaker, Tina jumped two years ago at the chance to work with OutSet. She has participated both as a mentor to young filmmakers and as a program speaker.
"My very first question for them was, ‘How many of you already have a social media campaign for your film?’" she said. "And there was this slow blink. They live and thrive by social media, but they hadn’t thought about marketing and promoting their content because they didn’t think they had a product for it."
"I was asking these questions about marketing and promotion and digital distribution, and how can we get our own personal content out there for my last film that I did in 2008," she said. "It’s interesting that these same questions still exist almost 10 years later."
The way OutSet works is that each fall 15 fellows, ages 16 to 24, are selected as writers, producers, or directors. Five teams of three are created, and professional mentors who are filmmakers and media executives guide the teams through the entire process of how to put a film together. Classes are held once a week for five months. At the end of the program, teams could premiere their short films at the Outfest Los Angeles LGBT Film Festival or Outfest Fusion: LGBT People of Color Film Festival.
OutSet celebrated its fifth anniversary on June 29 with a reception and a screening of films made by former fellows.
"I’ve reached a point in my career where I feel I have something to offer – a new perspective, valuable information, or even just asking more questions that help drive solutions," Tina said. "And it feels good to know that I have been helpful to someone who might not have found that help elsewhere – thus empowering them to reach their full creative potential."
For Comcast NBCUniversal, Tina said, finding and nurturing talent through OutSet opens the doors to these filmmakers possibly "joining our family and helping us to achieve better storytelling and creative ideas."
Tina still feels amazed when she drives to work every day into the main entrance to the NBCUniversal lot gate in Universal City.
"So many people drive by and think of a TV show or film they love and wonder what’s on the other side," she said. "I’m one of the lucky few to be on the other side and see it being put together from the creatives who are here. It’s very cool."