WCNY prepares for new entertainment training academy


In late June, Empire State Development announced that WCNY, located in Syracuse, was awarded nearly $500,000 from New York state’s Entertainment Workforce Diversity Grant Program for its new WCNY Entertainment Academy.

The academy is designed to train the next generation of television and film production engineers, set designers, and camera operators to help support the growing entertainment industry in Central New York.

“I was an iron worker here in Syracuse for about seven or eight years and like a lot of people who get in the film industry, I had a friend who was working on a film that had come to town and they needed someone who could carry sandbags and I got the call to come carry some sandbags,” said Mac Cushing, head instructor of the WCNY Entertainment Academy.

Sixteen years later, Cushing now has the chance to help others have an easier pathway into the film industry.

“It’s a great opportunity to help us do something we’ve been trying to do from the union standpoint for years,” Cushing said. “Right now this is like a great moment in history where we have the chance to really succeed and prepare for success as more jobs start coming the region.”

The academy will target individuals between the ages of 25 and 39. There will be three, 14-week training sessions with the first one beginning Sept. 7. The training sessions are free and will be three days each week, with two days being lecture base and one day being hands on learning.

“We’re trying to show the students how a production or a shoot goes from the beginning all the way up to the end,” Cushing said. “So, we’re starting with building the sets and then putting in all the grids and the construction that’s needed to build an actual sound stage.”

The curriculum will be taught by local union representatives, experienced staff at WCNY and adjunct faculty members and guest lectures from across the entertainment industry.

“We’re going to go in like it’s a regular job, break everyone off into teams and build the set, dress the set, light everything,” Cushing said. “And once they’re done with that, we’re going to shoot a little 15 second bumper.”

Cushing says he’s excited to help teach the next generation.

“And I think it’s really important to come back to Syracuse and give other people the opportunity, people like me who thought they didn’t have a chance to be in this industry and still live in this area,” Cushing said.

Upon completion of the course, graduates will earn certifications including OSHA and Aerial lift. To apply, go to wcny.org/academy.

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