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The Identity School of Acting, the groundbreaking, diversity-focused acting school that first opened in London in 2003, branched out into repping with the Identity Agency Group, and has helped launch the careers of major stars, such as John Boyega and Letitia Wright, has set up its own production arm, Identity Filmworks.
The expansion, revealed to The Hollywood Reporter by founder Femi Oguns, comes just as the school’s L.A. branch — based in East Hollywood’s Thymele Arts center — celebrates its one-year anniversary with a major showcase of its pupils’ work.
“Basically, the money that we gain from students’ attendance, we’re going to put back into the school,” says Oguns, who added that the plan was to create “original content” that Identity Filmworks could then look to get distribution for.
“Now our actors will be given permission and license to be a part of that whole creative process, in the hope that they don’t have to be totally reliant on what their agents or managers get them, or what they can hopefully secure in the audition room,” he says. “They can create their own content, and if any was picked up, they’d gain the financial as well as creative rewards.”
The first title branded with the Identity Filmworks name is actually being debuted in the IDSA Los Angeles’ showcase on December 4 in the TCL Chinese Theatre, both to the college’s 300 students plus their friends and family and, in a separate screening, industry professionals, including managers, agents and producers.
Motel, written by and starring students at the IDSA Los Angeles and directed by Oguns, is a feature-length anthology of shorts (all set in a motel) that he says is a “reflection of the true wealth of talent that we have as this school, not only in front of, but behind the camera.”
A lot of time and money was invested in Motel, with the aim being that the film serves not simply as a tool to promote the school and showcase its students’ work, but to launch Identity Filmworks and its first project.
“It wasn’t going to end with just a film showcase … this also can be used as a means of selling it,” Oguns says.
After a year of operations in the U.S., Oguns claims that one of his primary takeaways was that “American actors are absolutely freaking talented,” and that it was a “myth” that there was something in the water in the U.K. that sets its actors apart.
“I think you can just substitute that water with the access to the right type of training, and what we’re clearly seeing now is these actors in the U.S. receiving the same sort of training,” he says.
There are currently no plans for the L.A. school to grow beyond its current 300 students, and with 99.9 percent of its first year’s alumni looking to return for the second year, according to Oguns, finding space for new pupils will probably be tight.
However, Identity could soon be looking for space in another U.S. city.
“Don’t be surprised if we pop up in Atlanta, Georgia next,” Oguns says. “That’s one of the hubs of black Hollywood and we’ve been inundated with requests to set up there. We’ve also had people in New York ask us, but the next step, if we’re going to do it, would be Atlanta.”
See the trailer for Motel below.
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