Joyce Choi ’19 received a grant from the Center for Leadership and the School of Communications to attend a November conference addressing diversity and inclusion in Hollywood.
By Sophia Ortiz ’21
Each year, Variety hosts its Inclusion Summit to discuss the state of diversity and representation across the entertainment industry. Presented by the prominent entertainment trade publication, the annual event attracts industry leaders and innovators in film, television and digital media.
This year’s event in November was no different, bringing together renowned directors, casting agents, actors and industry executives such as Entertainment Studios CEO Byron Allen, Oscar-winning director Barry Jenkins (“Moonlight,” “If Beale Street Could Talk”), George Tillman Jr. (“The Hate U Give”), Terri Taylor (“Crazy Rich Asians”), Tom Ascheim (“Freeform”) and Rachel Morrison (“Mudbound,” “Black Panther”).
Among those in attendance enjoying an up-close look at the entertainment industry was Joyce Choi ’19. Thanks to funding from Elon’s Center for Leadership and the School of Communications, the cinema and television arts major was able to attend the Los Angeles event.
“Seeing panels of industry leaders who looked like me and who understood what it felt like and meant to be ‘the only one in a room’ was incredibly impactful to me,” said Choi, an Isabella Cannon Leadership Fellow. “The summit gave me the opportunity to meet successful directors like Barry Jenkins and talent like Diego Luna and Eva Longoria, but it also allowed me to network … It was really interesting to hear so many different stories and perspectives and meet an entire community of people in Hollywood who valued inclusion.”
It was an eye-opening experience for Choi as panelists and attendees offered a behind-the-scenes look at the industry. According to Choi, panelists discussed how they were intentional about taking a stand for minorities and women, whether that be by insisting on an all-female crew – even when a female grip was almost impossible to find – or by adopting the inclusion rider for a production.
“Without people already in the room making a point to include those who are often left out, the movement for more representation inevitably stalls,” Choi said.
While Choi is quite familiar with Los Angeles, having completed the Elon in LA program two years ago and returning last summer for an internship with leading talent agency William Morris Endeavor, she explained it was unique to attend a conference intended for industry professionals as a student.
“The experience pushed me to learn to be more comfortable meeting new people and introducing myself to strangers,” she said. “I was forced to give my elevator pitch about myself over and over again, and grew more confident in my ability to pitch myself to others.”
While at the Inclusion Summit, Choi was able to network with WME agents she worked with over the summer. In July, she will begin working as an assistant to an agent, learning firsthand what goes into representing talent, negotiating deals and the ins and outs of the entertainment industry. She called it her “dream job.”
“I was able to catch up with many of the agents who had inspired me over the summer,” Choi said. “Talking to them further about their roles within the movement helped to reinforce for me that WME was where I wanted to be postgrad. Increasing representation is the driving force behind why I want to be a talent agent. This conference helped reinforce that, and I’m incredibly grateful to Dean Rochelle Ford and the CFL for making that possible.”