Vets2Set, a group looking to create production assistant job opportunities for U.S. military veterans, is picking up momentum even before its official launch on November 6. The nonprofit’s goal is to place two vets on every shoot--advertising, TV, film and digital media--which in turn will help open the door to careers for them in the production industry.
Scores of production companies have signed up and the movement has gained support from Matt Miller, president and CEO of the AICP. Recently the Academy of Television Arts and Sciences and Ogilvy NY engaged Vets2Set.org to provide them with production assistance in producing this year’s NY viewing party of the 71st Emmy Awards for TV Academy members and their guests. The gala event was held at Ogilvy’s NY quarters.
Vets2Set operates a proprietary database of veterans’ profiles that enrolled employers can search by zip code. Employers hire and pay vets directly as they do any other production assistant. Vets2Set takes no fees from the vet or employer but rather depends upon tax-free donations to operate.
Vets2Set was conceived in 2017 by co-founder David Cohen who recognized how he could leverage his four decades of experience in advertising and marketing (including having been COO at Pure/Chemistry and EVP/creative services at Creative Bubble) to the benefit of veterans transitioning into civilian life. His business partner and co-founder of the organization, Peter Friedman, leapt at the opportunity to lend his own four decades of experience in commercial production (including serving as head of production at McCann) and powerful connections to the venture. The two industry veterans recruited retired Army Col. Maureen Weigl as co-founder to shore up contacts in the military and the U.S. Department of Labor through her expertise in human resource management.
With the pro bono legal assistance of Connecticut-based Pullman & Comley, Vets2Set achieved its not-for-profit status in March 2019 and the organization began developing its public presence through the design and marketing expertise of WORX Branding, Prospect, CT. Since the emergence of Vets2Set in social media, word has spread quickly among military veterans and in the commercial and entertainment industries.
Samsung has been a supporter from the very start by promoting the hiring of the organization’s first veterans in a pilot program in 2017 on the set of a commercial shoot for Samsung produced by RSA Films. Retired Air Force veteran Nelson Martinez made it known to drone operators on the set of his own experience with drones and found himself hired two weeks later by Beverly Hills Aerials for a Chrysler commercial. This experience symbolizes the intentions of Vets2Set, which is to open the door to the production industry and start a veteran on the path to a fulfilling career.
With the organization’s formal launch scheduled for November 6, Samsung’s parenting of Vets2Set comes full circle. Co-sponsored by Samsung and ComcastNBCUniversal at Samsung headquarters in New York, the invitation-only launch event features a welcome from Al Roker Entertainment and attendance by numerous production companies that have already signed up to seek out two veterans for every production. Among the veterans who will attend the launch are Air Force vet and celebrity chef Sunny Anderson of the Air Force, and Talaysia Gordon of the Navy who has worked with both Ogilvy and Al Roker Entertainment since signing up with Vets2Set. Samsung’s John Hendrick and Grace Dolan have been essential supporters of the launch.
Given the large number of commercial shoots taking place every day, potential income for veterans hired as production assistants could range as high as a combined several million dollars each year. The November launch just prior to Veterans Day in New York City is designed to inspire not only commercial producers but also postproduction, digital media, and entertainment companies to commit to the program. Although most employment opportunities will remain in New York and Los Angeles, nationwide recruitment of veterans by the organization makes it possible to find veterans wherever a shoot takes place.
Vets2Set depends upon fully deductible donations to operate. It has succeeded thus far through the generosity of volunteer labor, pro bono expertise, a seed grant from the Asofsky Family Foundation, private donors, and the support of major corporations such as Samsung and ComcastNBCUniversal.
Veterans and employers can enroll in this veteran employment program here.