Tuesday, May 11, 2021

Making sense of Diversity & Inclusion in themed entertainment

by RJ Temple, Founder and Principal Creative Director, The Upbeat Imagination Workshop and Creative Quest Foundation

With racism and discrimination at the center of many issues we are facing today, themed entertainment has the task of taking on tough conversations creatively (all while surviving a pandemic). The world is in re-calibration, searching for answers and how to tell stories that are progressive and meaningful to fit the times. The entertainment industry has work to do. For many years cultural and racial stereotypes have persisted in the way stories have been shaped and told. More recently, diverse voices are being sought out by many major companies looking to change the narrative and bring forth positive change in the themed entertainment industry.

My own company, The Upbeat Imagination Workshop (TUIW), is focused on helping companies approach and implement Diversity & Inclusion practices. TUIW is an African American owned company with a strong team of creatives bringing prominent industry level experience encompassing theme parks, immersive environments, film, and games. Under the company umbrella is an initiative called Creative Quest Foundation (CQF). CQF provides resources for minorities to find opportunities to have one-on-one meet and greets with industry professionals and attend virtual mixers. There’s also an online content page in production to help minorities learn how to break into the themed entertainment industry (expected launch in late 2021).

During these unusual times, the team at TUIW and CQF has several suggestions for how to ensure Diversity & Inclusion (D&I) initiatives can be handled at a corporate level.

There’s no time like the present. The pandemic has significantly impacted many businesses. With furloughs, layoffs, downsizing and other cost-cutting measures being implemented in many companies, it’s tempting to want to freeze or postpone D&I initiatives. But just as sound business practices (open and transparent communication, investing in employee development programs, etc.) should remain a priority throughout challenging times, a continued commitment to D&I is critical, and will ensure success for a company down the road.

Remember that our industry is not immune to systemic racism. It oftentimes feels like the themed entertainment industry is like a small family, with many professional and personal friendships developing often. But every family has problems, and ours is no different. One way to fight systemic racism is to ensure companies have diverse voices at the table. They will help point out problems on a team that are causing unnecessary setbacks, especially in leadership – where creative culture and company habits are defined. 
 
Be honest about where the toxic issues are and ask for help. When members of the team identify problems, listen. And if solutions aren’t clear, it’s okay to ask for assistance. There are many resources available online and organizations like TUIW and CQF are making intentional moves to not just help people understand the importance of Diversity & Inclusion, but how to be a living example of the change necessary to move forward.

***All photos courtesy of The Upbeat Imagination Workshop***
RJ Temple

RJ Temple is the Founder and Principal Creative Director of The Upbeat Imagination Workshop and Creative Quest Foundation. Based in Orlando, Florida, TUIW’s initiative has caught the attention of companies such as Nickelodeon, Themed Entertainment Association, Midsummer Scream Convention, Slice Creative Network, Disney, and more. To hear some key conversations on Diversity and Inclusion check out www.tuiworkshop.com/news. The Creative Quest Foundation initiative, along with donation opportunities to support the cause can be found at www.creativequestfoundation.com. Follow TUIW and CQF on Instagram, Facebook, and Twitter.

Martin Palicki
Martin Palicki owns and publishes InPark Magazine. Started in 2004, InPark Magazine provides owners and operators the perspective from "in"side the "park." Martin has also written for publications like Sound & Communications, Lighting & Sound America, Attractions Management and others. Martin has been featured in Time Magazine, CNN.com and Folio. Martin lives in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, USA.

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