I’ve written about a few motion-picture-based organizations that attempt to help individuals break into the movie business. Although they exist to serve a wider audience, they do, and may still have, veterans sections that work to help that specific segment of the star struck who have served in the military.
Now, however, that has changed on the positive side, with the advent of Veterans in Film and Television that serves only veterans.
While attending the recent convention of the National Association of Broadcasters in Las Vegas, I talked to two representatives of the relatively new VFT. When it comes to veterans casting, VFT appears to be the featured player and can help make it a short trip from Boulder City to Hollywood.
Sarah Serrano, a Marine veteran and actress, said she has gained work since signing up with VFT. “I’ve done some student films and some music videos.”
Often aspiring actors work in student films to gain experience and resume credits, and most colleges with film curriculums have numerous student films being produced at any given time. Some productions pay stipends, while others just offer screen credits and copies of the film as payment.
Francisco Guzman, also a Marine veteran, served in Iraq and Afghanistan. He’s obtained work in public-service announcements through VFT, where he is very active.
“We’re a nonprofit group and we’re always seeking funding,” he said. “We hold meetings in Los Angeles and discuss acting” and related industry topics, including which casting directors are auditioning and the state of the Hollywood scene for up-and-coming actors with military experience.
He pointed out that members of VFT do not have to live in California or attend the meetings, but they must register with the organization. Actors who are veterans in any state are encouraged to join.
For more information or to register at no cost, go to www.vftla.org. In addition to actors, veterans who want to pursue work on film crews as lighting experts, sound engineers or in related careers also can sign up.
“More than a quarter million military service members return to civilian life each year, but their journey is not over. Through our continuous work with the entertainment industry, we can make huge strides to bridge the civilian-military divide,” said Chris Marvin, managing director of the NAB’s veterans outreach efforts.
A totally separate and long-standing, film-based organization that serves veterans and nonveterans alike is Inclusion in the Arts & Media of People With Disabilities. It advertises that it “Gives a face and a voice to the world’s largest minority” by waging a global civil rights campaign seeking equal employment opportunities for artists and professionals with disabilities throughout the worlds of entertainment and news media.
“The general public must demand that people with disabilities, who number at least 650 million worldwide and 54 million in the United States alone, no longer remain an invisible minority,” a spokesman said.
The latter number may be much higher now that many veterans with disabilities from combat wounds are returning home in large numbers. I AM PWD is funded by several film industry unions.
A survey several years ago conducted by the Screen Actors Guild asked disabled actors if they had requested special accommodations while working on a film. The most frequently requested types of assistance included sign language interpreters, asking staff members to speak louder and face the actors, assistance when walking long distances or climbing stairs, a place to sit when applicable and access to a nearby restroom. Many actors said they preferred not to seek special accommodations for fear of losing their jobs, of not being asked back, of being perceived as unable to do the work or of slowing down production.
For more information, go to www.iampwd.org.
Veterans who are not star struck and who are seeking other work also have a new source for finding employment. First lady Michelle Obama and Jill Biden announced the launch of an integrated employment tool to connect veterans and service members with employers, and to help translate military skills into the civilian workforce.
The Veterans Employment Center, an integrated, online tool connecting veterans, transitioning service members and their spouses with public and private-sector employers, is the result of an interagency effort to improve, simplify and consolidate the current array of employment resources for veterans, according to the White House.
Additionally, it will seek to provide one comprehensive database of resumes for employers who are seeking to leverage the skills and talents of veterans, service members and their spouses.
“Our service members haven’t always had the time or information they needed to prepare their resumes, to plot their career goals, to meet with employers and get the jobs they deserve. And that’s simply not acceptable,” Obama said. “As my husband has said, ‘When you’ve fought for this country around the world, you shouldn’t have to fight for a job when you return home.’ Starting today, every single service member, every veteran and every military family will have access to a new online tool that will revolutionize how you find jobs in both the public and private sectors. All you have to do is log on to ebenefits.va.gov.”
In connection with the first lady and Biden’s initiative, the Veterans Affairs Department worked with employers, the Defense, Labor and Education departments and the personnel management office to design and develop the site and incorporate features of existing online employment tools within government.
The Veterans Employment Center will provide employers with access to a targeted pool of resumes from veterans and transitioning service members, allowing them to search resumes to identify veterans with skill sets applicable to civilian employment at their organization, and to track progress toward reaching their veteran hiring goals. Resumes are visible to all employers with an active LinkedIn or Google profile.
To prevent spam, an applicant’s name and email address are redacted and only visible to employers verified by the VA as registered companies with the Internal Revenue Service. The site also is built using open data and an open application programming interface to attract private-sector innovation. For a tutorial video on how to use the Veterans Employment Center, visit www.youtube.com/watch?v=VWfhl eSoWk.
Journalist and author Chuck N. Baker is an Army veteran of the Vietnam War and a recipient of the Purple Heart. He can be heard each Thursday from 8-9 p.m. on “The Veterans Reporter Radio Show” on KLAV 1230 AM.