N.Y.'s Acclaimed Ghetto Film School Opens Los Angeles Campus

With funding from 21st Century Fox, the L.A. school welcomed an inaugural class of 23 young aspiring filmmakers to its new MacArthur Park facility Monday.

One of America’s most innovative cinematic education initiatives planted its flag in Los Angeles on Monday, when the Ghetto Film School opened its doors to the first 23 students to enroll at its MacArthur Park facility.

Academy Award-nominated writer-director David O. Russell — a longtime board member of the original Ghetto Film School in the South Bronx — was among the entertainment industry notables participating in Monday’s festivities in the Westlake District, along with Fox Networks Group CEO and chairman Peter Rice, Los Angeles City film czar Ken Ziffren and City Councilman Gil Cedillo.

The L.A. school, which is being funding by 21st Century Fox, represents an expansion of GFS' highly acclaimed New York program. As Fox’s James Murdoch told THR when the West Coast school was announced last month, “for us as a creative business, supporting a center like this is a natural. Supporting storytellers is what we do, and aspire to do, every day in our company — so to be able to support new storytellers at the Ghetto Film School just feels right."

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The first 23 students — most of them teens living in the MacArthur Park-Westlake area of Los Angeles — were chosen after a rigorous selection process. GFS believes that its skilled and experienced faculty can impart the techniques and technology of filmmaking to students with an innate talent for storytelling.

"It's wonderful for these kids to realize that in their hometown there is this entire creative industry with many different jobs," Rice said. "This can give them an access point. It has changed the lives of thousands of kids in New York and it will do so here."

GFS L.A. initially is operating as an eight-week summer program based on the rigorous creative education model used at the South Bronx campus. Senior Fox executives and other members of the entertainment industry will serve as mentors and lecturers for the student body, which will increase to 75 carefully selected students over the next few years. The school is being operated in partnership with the nonprofit Heart of Los Angeles, which will house GFS at its MacArthur Park headquarters.

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Founded by Joe Hall in New York in 2000, GFS has come to be regarded as one of NYC’s premier programs devoted to cultivating a new generation of storytellers from low-income, mainly minority neighborhoods. Filmmaker Stosh Mintek, a graduate of GFS, will be heading up the program in L.A.

"We're looking for kids who are passionate about storytelling and who love movies," said Mintek. "We also make sure this is something they are strongly committed to. We have storytelling exercises the kids have to do just to apply. That way we can gage if they have a creative and unique perspective on the story."

GFS student Simone Walker, 14, said she heard about the school through a theater group she participates in. "I went ahead and applied because it seemed like a good opportunity," Walker said.

Axel Colin, who at age 13 is the youngest student at GFS L.A., said he has been working on a sci-fi screenplay for the past year, but Monday marked his first attempt at using a camera. "I would like to be a director just to yell 'cut,' " he said.