Manager-Producer Rachel Miller Looks to Boost High School Student Filmmakers

Film2Future students shoot their short films in Los Angeles
Lorenzo Hodges/@photographybylorenzo; Inset: Lauren Elisabeth Photography

The COVID-19 pandemic halted film production in Los Angeles for months, but once it was safe to venture out, manager-producer Rachel Miller — a founding partner of Haven Entertainment, where her clients include Ben Schwartz — made sure her filmmakers had what they needed to do the job.

A total of 25 were set up with fully equipped “tech pods” supplied with laptops, headphones, Wi-Fi hotspots, Adobe and Final Draft software, comfortable chairs and even a weekly delivery of fruits and vegetables from CropSwap. But those 25 are not accomplished Hollywood auteurs one might find on Miller’s client list. Instead, the group is the latest crop of high school students to spring from Film2Future, the nonprofit Miller founded to help pump Hollywood’s pipeline with talent from underserved communities.

The students get storytelling and filmmaking training in addition to courses in financial literacy, how to nail interviews, internship placement and more. Guest speakers like Insecure’s Prentice Penny and Daniel Dae Kim even have made appearances during special Q&As.

“The system is rigged, but the great thing is Hollywood is finally waking up. In order to make real change you have to support training programs and pipelines by giving access,” explains Miller, who adds that they receive applicants from a slew of L.A. charter and public schools like Lynwood and South El Monte high schools and by word of mouth. “We are specifically looking for students who don’t know or don't believe or have access to the industry.”

Launched in 2016, Film2Future’s alumni network now includes 125 students in total. In November, Miller and her team will celebrate at the org’s first virtual gala, during which five films will be screened from this year’s student participants. The theme? “Origin stories, and the films are incredibly impactful.”

Film2Future, she adds, is not looking for students with perfect grades and transcripts. Instead, they request essays that display voice and passion with an optional video component as well as recommendation letters that don’t have to be from a teacher. “Not every student excels in school — I certainly didn’t,” she said, citing one favored letter that came from an applicant’s sibling. “We are not reactionary to this moment. We have been doing the work for five years and it’s working. Hollywood just has to support and support early to build a practical pipeline program [like this].”

A version of this story first appeared in the Sept. 2 issue of The Hollywood Reporter magazine. Click here to subscribe.