Vivica A. Fox, 58, hosted the premiere of 3M‘s new docuseries “Skilled,” produced by 3M and Generous Films and directed by Julio Palacio, at the 2023 Sundance Film Festival on Sunday, January 22, in Park City, Salt Lake City, Utah.
Fox, a native of South Bend, Indiana, where the local economy employs 46.6k residents in the areas of manufacturing, educational services, and health care, understands the importance for people to land gainful employment considering the employment rate in South Bend grew at an abysmal rate of 0.996% from 46.2k to 46.6 employees during 2019 to 2020, according to Data USA.
“I’m honored to host our first screening of “Skilled” the “Kill Bill” actress told People. “I have my own personal connections to those who work in the trades, as my oldest brother became a skilled worker after leaving the Army, and my niece has held various skilled labor positions.”
The film follows four workers, highlights the importance of skilled trade laborers, and tears down the misconceptions people may hold against pursuing trade worker positions while exploring the frequently overlooked opportunities each profession bears. The docuseries features Paige Knowles, a 20-year-old plumber and author of the children’s book Plumber Paige; she also organizes an all-girls construction summer camp. Cedric Smith works as a welder, and Anni Martinez is a gaffer at Amazonas Electricas, an all-female grip and electrical team that thrives within Mexico’s film industry; she earned a recent credit working on the principal photography of the James Bond movie Spectre. The last story in the documentary centers around Andrea Martin, a fall protection specialist at 3M, who was named one of the 2022 Top Women in Safety by Canadian Occupational Safety.
Fox especially wants to underscore the number of women who are tradespeople, “I love seeing women breaking through barriers [and] having new wonderful opportunities that we haven’t had in the past. Breaking down some misconceptions about women, being skilled trade workers, and also having friends and family members that are skilled workers that are successful [like] my good girlfriend Vanessa Zeno and her mother, Alyssa Nelson, they are mother and daughter duo that work at a Detroit factory, they drive forklifts, wear their hard hats, [and they] send me videos of them at work,” she says. “When they get off work, they’re girly girls and enjoy [wearing] their lashes, having a great time, and being successful. I have another good girlfriend by the name of Shauna Chin, who works in the health profession, got us all through COVID, and made a lot of sacrifices helping people. All the wonderful ladies who are successful now as cappers, electricians, and set builders would have never been given that opportunity less than ten years ago.”
As an in-demand entertainer, Fox comes into contact with crew members on television and film sets that work below the line occupying positions like grips, gaffers, and electricians. However, employers need help filling these occupations.
Gen Z, individuals born between 1997-2012, have shown little interest in pursuing technical jobs in the field of plumbing, building, and electrical work, which plummeted by 49% in 2022 contrasted with application rates in 2020 based on a study conducted by online recruiting platform Handshake, according to NPR.
“At 3M, we’re working to increase awareness around the variety of opportunities available in the trades and support students who choose these exciting career paths,” said 3M’s James Momon, chief equity officer. “Skilled workers are vital to our global communities and economies. Because access to education and opportunity remains inequitable, we are focused on sharing “Skilled” in classrooms and advancing our global commitment to create 5 million unique skilled trades and STEM learning experiences for underrepresented individuals by the end of 2025.”
As layoffs continue to rise, many people will find themselves out of work and experiencing difficulty landing another placement; Fox wants the masses to consider the trade industry, “You know, it’s a wonderful option if you were dealt a curveball in your life, it’s a great option for you is to learn a skilled trade. We never know what wonderful new chapter it may be for you like [Martinez], that ended up working on a James Bond movie, she’s a mom, and this just provided a wonderful new chapter for her that she never saw in her future.”
*This interview has been edited for length and clarity.