Students from the South Bronx are initiated into the Film Industry in an exclusive high-profile event hosted by their school.
On Tuesday, June 6th a group of young aspiring filmmakers from Ghetto Film School (the first ever registered film High School) raised the bar for new talent everywhere as two selected thesis scripts were read by legendary and emerging Hollywood talent, among them: Christian Slater, John Leguizamo, Robert Carlock, Olivia Washington, Paige Howard and many others.
These students are remarkably beyond their years at ages 16 and 17 as they presented themselves and their work with noteworthy professionalism and sophistication. Enrique Caballero (age 17), the director of “BE FREE” (2017), told us us that he was drawn to the script for its vivid illustrations of inequality and injustice which are ever constant in today’s world. He hopes that his movie, which will be shot entirely in Jerusalem this August (funded by GFS), will elicit motivation for its viewers to take part in the solution, “Anyone watching this story must reflect on their personal lives…and say [to themselves] what am I doing as a person to fix inequalities? What am I doing as an individual to help the collective?”
The screenwriter of “BE FREE,” (2017) Tommy Espinal (age 16), has courageously taken on a historical-fiction narrative of the Palestinian-Israeli conflict set during the British settlement of the 1940’s. His evocative historical epic, limited to a mere 15 pages, is carefully packed with an emotional intensity as that from a seasoned Hollywood writer. “It came to life tonight. This was better than I could have ever expected.” Espinal said after the table read with a strong sense of pride and honor in his eyes.
“Unfinished Piece” (2017) written by Alexis Aguilar (16), a poignant personal drama about alcohol abuse and irreversible mistakes, was also read and showed off Aguiliar’s deep understanding of this universal tragedy that is so familiar to the American narrative.
The sense that students are equipped with the tools and skills to make a name for themselves in this competitive industry became more obvious as the night went on. The display of their sharply crafted talent proved that Ghetto Film School (in partnership with 21st Century Fox) has gone above and beyond to deliver their promise: “to educate, develop and celebrate the next generation of great American storytellers.”
Both scripts received thorough and thoughtful personal feedback from these industry professionals including the distinguished Dr. Sheril Antonio of NYU, whose expert comments elevated the table read to that of a university level discussion with her impeccable quotes from Hitchcock and Jung. The critical feedback gave an unmatched depth and perspective to the projects, undoubtedly from which the students greatly benefited. They truly got it all.
“To see these kids doing things that they technically shouldn’t be doing at their age [writing and directing cinema] is an inspiration,” said actress Olivia Washington mentioning how the evening has moved and empowered her to continue creating her own art. Indeed, that was a sentiment that was shared throughout the whole room as all one hundred attendees sat in awe of these new and fresh creative talents. National Geographic North America CEO, Courteney Monroe – a host of the event – admits: “I want to start tapping these students now – we could certainly use them,” recognizing their refined voices, diverse points of view, and their strong sense of character.
This impressive event, which took place at the glorious Standard High Line in New York’s Meatpacking District, could have easily met the criteria of a prestigious Hollywood Red Carpet ceremony; instead it was to honor these high achieving, extremely talented High School students who now have a head start in the industry thanks to Ghetto Film School. “There really is no other school like this,” a faculty member who attended told us, “as storytelling is at the heart of the curriculum with an emphasis on team building and leadership.” The brilliant John Leguizamo echoed the importance of these types of institutions, saying: “Education is everything. I tell my kids that if they really want to be anyone, they’ve got to read. The best films have the best dialogue and structure…things like that you have to learn.”
By giving these students a taste of what the industry has in store for them, their cinematic passions were confirmed and a hope for the bright future was ignited. If this is one of the first successes of their careers, you can only imagine what will come next. That said, leave the imagining up to them…