Comcast Wins Innovation in Corporate Philanthropy Award

Oct 29, 2020 10:00 AM ET

Originally featured in The Portland Business Journal

By Andy Giegerich

For Comcast, corporate philanthropy can consist of three simple steps: ready, set and, of course, action.

The notion is especially apparent in the giant media company’s (it employs nearly 200,000 workers nationwide) support of the Future Filmmak­ers program, in which it supports Portland Film Festival and Boys and Girls Clubs of the Portland Metropolitan Area.

At its core, Future Filmmakers is a work­shop designed to introduce youths to film­making as a creative outlet. Dig a little deeper, though, and the program could also clearly serve as a career guidepost, an avenue toward joining, and contributing mightily to, the media industry.

“One of the best parts about the Future Film­makers Workshop is that it’s inspiring the kids to dream, to think about their potential and that the sky’s the limit” said Rebecca Brown, Comcast’s top local giving program executive.

“Making a short film is a new and differ­ent outlet for their creativity, and they get to experiment and explore skills that they didn’t even realize they had.”

In 2019, 50 kids who participate in the Port­land Trailblazers Boys & Girls Club created two mini-films, between two and three minutes. To do so, they worked with professional media educators, filmmakers, and producers, nur­turing their concepts into fully fledged films.

That is, the teams, between the ages of sev­en and 17, developed stories, created charac­ters and scenes, then both directed, acted in and shot the action.

Astoundingly, they did so in just six hours.

“To be partnered with professionals from the industry, and have that mentorship? That’s pretty impactful,” Brown said.

The program has been offered for the past three years, meaning the archives now teem with what Brown calls “an amazing collec­tion of short films.”

The seeds for the program were planted three years ago when Josh Leake, executive director of the Portland Film Festival, talked with Comcast leaders about the company’s decision to become the festival’s presenting sponsor.

“We talked with Josh about our com­mitment to our communities, and how we look to support programs that can utilize our resources, and who we are as a compa­ny, to help create positive and substantive change,” Brown recalled. “When Josh pre­sented us with the idea of the Future Film­makers Workshop, we were so excited.”

And because the Boys and Girls Clubs of Portland Metro is a longtime Comcast partner, it made sense to offer the program through that nonprofit.

“They jumped at the opportunity and thought that many Club kids would be excit­ed to participate,” Brown said.

Brown said the filmmakers are given a film genre to explore, as well as a specific object that must be incorporated into the production. There’s also one line that a character must say.

“You can watch the kids come out of their shells: Where some kids might have started off being shy, hanging back and not partic­ipating fully, they become really confident behind the camera, directing their team­mates,” Brown said. “Or that child who lights up when the camera is on and they’re truly acting out their part.”

Brown loves when productions are com­plete. The filmmakers get to see their films on a big screen in a theater, with their families.

“They share how fun it was, and how it was one of the coolest things they ever did, and they never thought they’d be an actor,” she said. “Then the payoff: that proud smile.”

Not to mention the increased engagement among the Boys and Girls Club members.

“We’ve heard time and again from the Club staffers how the young filmmakers are now participating in more group activ­ities, stepping up to lead craft projects,” said Brown. “Those are my favorite stories.”