Ghetto Film School debuts in L.A., David O. Russell on board of directors

Ghetto Film School debuts in L.A., David O. Russell on board of directors
David O. Russell. (Ricardo DeAratanha / Los Angeles Times)

This post has been updated. See below for details.

While thousands were welcoming Lord Stanley's Cup back to Los Angeles on Monday, not far away others were celebrating the arrival of a new city addition.


Students, teachers, board members — including a prominent Hollywood director — and sponsors  gathered near MacArthur Park on the patio of the Heart of Los Angeles building to celebrate the first day of class for the Los Angeles branch of the Ghetto Film School.

The educational organization from the Bronx opened its doors for the first day of class here. Created through a partnership with 21st Century Fox, the nonprofit program hopes to attract a diverse group of film students who have a passion for storytelling.

Through the college level pre-professional program, students get hands-on training in filmmaking, from animation to features to documentaries.

Joe Hall, the president and creator of Ghetto Film School, came up with the idea when he was a student at USC Film School. Originally from New York, he acknowledged the opportunity that USC presented him and wished it was accessible to a wider range of students regardless of their background.

"When I came to USC, I really liked it," said Hall. "I also thought, 'This would be a great opportunity for all of the smart kids I know back in New York.' A lot of the kids at USC were children of the industry."

Since its birth in 2000, the Ghetto Film School has grown from a volunteer program in a Bronx storefront to an established academic institution, featuring a $3-million post-production facility. In 2009, it opened the Cinema School, a film-oriented high school in the Bronx.

The school has upgraded its board as well. One of its members is Oscar-nominated director David O. Russell ("American Hustle," "Silver Linings Playbook") who brings in guest lecturers like Steve McQueen ("12 Years a Slave") and Lee Daniels ("Precious").

To Russell, connecting actors, directors, and executives with the program gives students the chance to learn from accomplished professionals. Serving on the board and participating in the school allows him to reflect upon his good fortune.

"I think that it's good to never be cynical, to remember that we're all very fortunate to be working in the storytelling business and to treat it as a special thing," Russell said at the event.

21st Century Fox helps support the school, which offers tuition-free programs for many students.  Fox executives will also participate as guest lecturers and mentors.

Peter Rice, chairman and CEO of Fox Networks Groups, was present at the announcement Monday afternoon. He says this partnership is important not only for the students but for the industry.

"It's core to what we do. Ultimately, we're about creative storytelling. That's the engine that drives our company," said Rice. "It gives such an opportunity for hundreds of kids, ultimately thousands. At times, it's probably daunting thinking of what's the access into that. There's tons and tons of great jobs within the industry, and it feels like a place that can be crucial for young storytellers."

Update, Tuesday 10 a.m.: An earlier version listed 20th Century Fox as a partner. The partnership is with 21st Century Fox.