As production began on the upcoming fifth season of “Empire,” FOX’s Golden Globe-nominated drama series following the Lyon family’s exploits in the hip-hop industry, the show welcomed some new additions to its crew behind the scenes. A group of interns from the CineCares Foundation, a Chicago nonprofit providing education initiatives, joined colleagues in the Props, Wardrobe, Electric, Construction and other departments for the first 12 weeks of the shoot.
“Before Fox even signed on to the partnership, we were constantly getting requests from our young people to intern on ‘Empire’ or ‘The Chi,’” said CineCares Executive Director Sheila R. Brown. “Opportunities like these change our interns’ lives, giving them the chance to develop skill sets that most people from their circumstances never even dream about. It gives them a doorway into an industry that they have traditionally been excluded from, and we’re so grateful to Fox for giving them that way in.”
FOX’s full-time, paid internship provides CineCares interns with hands-on training and the opportunity to get a behind-the-scenes look within their assigned departments. While interns are not guaranteed job placement at the end of their terms, the program has already yielded employment success stories. For example, Michael Gianneschi, who has been “Empire’s” Prop Master since its very first episode, was so impressed with his CineCares intern Imanne Mondane that he offered her a full-time position on his staff.
“People like Imanne are precisely the reason 21CF offers internship opportunities similar to the ones CineCares provides,” said Craig Hill, SVP of Production at Twentieth Century Fox Television. “Welcoming more diverse voices behind the scenes of our television projects really empowers those voices and builds a strong pipeline for our productions.”
CineCares Foundation aims to empower Chicago youth through education and job training in TV and film and works with Chicago-based productions like “Empire” to identify internship opportunities for young people from the city’s most disadvantaged neighborhoods. The organization’s internship program, now in its second year, collaborates with local workforce development and youth and social services organizations to identify candidates between the ages of 18-26 who reside in North Lawndale or surrounding communities on the West Side of Chicago.