October 2023 Community Partner Spotlight: CREW Foundation 

CREW Foundation student speaking to audience

This past summer, a small group of students from Ginn Academy spent six weeks at Sears think[box], channeling their creativity into hands-on experiences that would prepare them for a future career, not in engineering or design, but in filmmaking.

The students participated in an intensive training pilot program for youth that was developed by the CREW Foundation (which stands for Creating Real Entertainment Workforce), a nonprofit aiming to develop a diverse, equitable and inclusive media production industry workforce in Ohio. CREW Foundation founder Sheila Wright admits that while Sears think[box] wasn’t the first space to come to mind as a location for a film and production boot camp, the helpful think[box] staff, central location, and availability of space to operate and store production equipment during the length of the program delivered well beyond expectation. 

In fact, Wright’s experience hosting the summer media production program at think[box] was so positive that CREW Foundation will return again next summer.

“I’m someone who’s big on building relationships,” Wright shared. “Every conversation and interaction that we had with the team at think[box] was met with excitement and interest. Anytime that you have something that requires this amount of effort, you need a team of the willing. And the team at think[box] was willing.” 

Wright already is planning for the program next summer, using lessons learned to refine the curriculum and to determine how best to help the students hone their skills to prepare them for jobs in filmmaking. 

But Wright's vision transcends preparing local youth and adults for careers in Hollywood. She champions a thriving local production industry as an emerging sector in the regional innovation economy. "Case Western Reserve University, leading as an early supporter, signifies the beginning of a broader alliance,” she says. “This mission not only includes nurturing talent, it echoes historic efforts to prioritize and stand up what has become one of Cleveland's largest economic drivers—an internationally renowned theater district." 

Through partnerships, the CREW Foundation aims to enhance the impact potential of the production ecosystem, develop a skilled workforce for both local and incoming projects, and ensure the local production economy is poised for scalable growth.

Drawing inspiration from local “eds and meds” initiatives, Wright emphasizes the need for a united front across institutions to bolster the local production industry. She sees a future where academia, foundations, government, and businesses partner to fortify a production economy. Within the CREW Foundation, she values CWRU’s pioneering spirit and inventive spaces like Think[box], as pivotal in helping to realize her vision. "An institution like Case Western Reserve, known for its innovative strides, makes them a key partner in this collaborative endeavor," she says.

Learn more about the CREW Foundation and watch this video to hear Wright explain her vision for building a local media production industry.