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Can a New LA School Make Hollywood Teams More Inclusive?




In Hollywood’s relationship-based economy, barriers to entry for people of color start at an early age, experts say.

Film and television crews provide solid, well-paying jobs, often protected by unions. But they constantly lack non-white workers, who often have little exposure to entertainment industry jobs during high school and earlier.

What if there was a high school that recruited industry professionals, including Oscar-winning cinematographers and production composers, to give students this early training?

George Clooney and a group of A-listers, including Don Cheadle and Kerry Washington, are working with the Los Angeles Unified School District to fill this gap by launching an academy that promises to provide education and hands-on training in the arts and sciences. cinema to marginalized communities. The planned school will be a focal point, meaning that students will be able to apply across the district.

The founders hope the effort, which will include internships at studios and production companies, will create better pathways to jobs in the entertainment industry by training future set designers, costume designers and cameramen.

Clooney, who first discussed the idea with his agent Bryan Lourd and production partner Grant Heslov less than a month ago, said the industry had an unprecedented opportunity to act after years of criticism for his lack of racial representation behind the scenes.

Right now is a great time to get people involved, because right now their eye is on the ball, Clooney said in an interview on Sunday. It doesn’t make sense that Los Angeles of all places, point zero for Hollywood, isn’t more a part of this movement to bring more under-represented people into the pipeline.

The new school, dubbed the Roybal School of Film and Television Production, will debut in fall 2022 as a pilot program with ninth and tenth graders and will be housed in the Edward R. Roybal Learning Center, just outside the west of highway 110. downtown.

The program is expected to expand to Grades 11 and 12 over the next two years, and if all goes well, the program may expand to include more Los Angeles area schools.

The program, which will be created by educators at LA Unified in collaboration with industry players, is still in its infancy. Clooney and industry players are now responsible for reaching out to studios, talents and other partners to get involved and provide volunteers, internships, funding and equipment such as camera lenses, visual effects. and editing software.

The program focuses on jobs below the line on film and television productions, which have historically been dominated by whites.

According to a study by USC’s Annenberg Inclusion Initiative, there were no women of color as cinematographers in the Top 300 Movies from 2016 to 2018. White men made up 80% of the positions. editor. Only 6% of production designers were people of color.

Some industry leaders have tried creative ways to improve hiring. Ava DuVernay and her team have launched a research platform, called Array Crew, for various crews, free to anyone with verifiable credit in the industry.

Filmmakers and entertainment companies have worked with LA schools in the past. Warner Bros. launched two programs in 2018 to encourage middle and high school students at LA Unified sites to consider a career in the film industry, in partnership with the non-profit Ghetto Film School and the Young Storytellers mentorship program.

The founding of the Roybal Academies comes just a week after rapper Dr. Dre and music mogul Jimmy Iovine announced a new magnet at Audubon Middle School in Leimert Park.

District Superintendent Austin Beutner said the advantage of Roybal Schools will be its merger of industrial training with standard education, with film and television professionals teaching alongside math and science teachers. The teaching of the physics of light will cross, for example, the learning of the use of camera lenses.

Simply put, we have makeup artists and costume designers in our schools every day; we just call them ninth graders, said Beutner, who will be retiring this month. And what we were trying to do was find a way to connect all of these great careers with the students in our schools, and we needed a set of industry leaders to make that happen.

Eighty percent of the population served by LA Unified lives in poverty. Eighty-three percent of the students in the districts are Latino or black.

The new school, which is open for applications, is expected to accommodate 125 to 150 students in its first year and reach up to 250 students as it expands to additional classes.

The Roybal magnet will cost 20 to 25% more to run than other schools its size, which would typically cost $ 5 million a year, said Beutner, who also served as editor of The Times for about a year. The schools’ annual budget is expected to be around $ 7 million, of which $ 2-3 million will come from Hollywood partner projects.

The key, however, will be the human capital of the industry, the professionals who will work with the students.

At the end of the day, kids will learn the skills they can use to enter industry or enter college if they want to continue their education, said Heslov, who won an Oscar for producing Argo. It’s a cool thing, but in the end, selfishly, when George and I [produce a film] in five years, we want there to be a real pool of young and diverse talents to choose from.

The seed of the idea came when Clooney told his friend and producer of Les Misérables Eric Fellner about Working Title Films at London Screen Academy, which Fellner co-founded in 2018.

Inspired by the work of his friends in Britain, Clooney called Lourd, the co-chair of Creative Artists Agency, who pitched at Beutner. Now, the industry coalition supporting the project includes well-known names such as Mindy Kaling and Eva Longoria, as well as Nicole Avant, former US Ambassador to the Bahamas.

Lourd said organizers hope their program can inspire similar initiatives in other schools and districts.

Before the pandemic, the film and sound recording industry employed 152,500 people in Los Angeles County, according to the state. But the company also has hubs across the country, including Georgia, Louisiana and New York.

We realize it’s a school, and I think everyone is hoping it’s modelable and scalable, said Lourd. Our intention is to be the example. It’s not about us; it’s about us as the organizing force around what we hope will be a community effort.

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