Sebastian Stan, David O. Russell and Jason Mitchell were just a few of the big names who joined together as Hollywood and philanthropy collided Tuesday night at the Ghetto Film School (GFS) table read in New York City.
The non-profit film academy, which helps young filmmakers from the ages of 14 to 17 bring their stories to life and receive live feedback from the industry’s best, put on the event in partnership with former New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s Bloomberg Philanthropies
The A-list stars and filmmakers volunteered their time to read aloud the work of the British students of Ghetto Film School’s London campus. Others involved included Ansel Elgort, writer James Ivory, Tatiana Maslany and Tony Danza.
The stars laughed, cried and played the roles that were created by the students for a live audience, and then proceeded to fill in the gaps and praise the work of the young directors and writers in the room.
For Jason Mitchell, this was an important way for him to give back as he, himself, never went to film school.
“I’m just a very honest person and when I’m honest with myself, there is a lot I still don’t know about film, so when I can get around peers of mine who I admire and learn and give back, then I want to be involved,” the Mudbound star told The Hollywood Reporter.
The actor said he enjoyed the back and forth of the live table read with the mix of young filmmakers and established industry professionals. “I loved this — I wish I had something for them to read of mine so I can get notes,” Mitchell added.
The film academy was founded 18 years ago in the South Bronx and today has campuses in both Los Angeles and London. The nonprofit focuses on creating a platform for the next generation of filmmakers who may be traditionally underrepresented in Hollywood.
Stosh Mintek, the school’s executive director, opened the evening by expressing how important it is to incorporate established artists for this table read-style event, which has been a landmark part of the program for the past five years.
Russell, a veteran of the event, has been participating in the table read for the past few years and has been involved with the film school for almost 16 years.
“It really started so small, but nothing inspires students to care more than narrative and the history of narrative, and [GFS] has the highest enrollment and graduation rate of any school in [New York City] and it’s because the kids are motivated,” he said. Today, more than 250 graduates of the Ghetto Film School are currently working in the industry, including in film, TV and advertising.
The critically acclaimed director gave astute notes and suggestions to his younger counterparts and was intrigued by their brave and authentic storytelling capabilities.
“It’s so interesting and it’s always so different. You never know what to expect, but I love seeing people take a chance,” Russell said.
The two pieces that were read aloud Tuesday night are set to start production in Los Angeles this summer.