A cast of Hollywood actors including Max Greenfield (“New Girl”), Grace Gealey (“Empire”), Dascha Polanco (“Joy”) and others gathered at the legendary Hilhaven Lodge in Beverly Hills to perform two short-film scripts written by the teenage students from Ghetto Film School. The May 25 table reading event, co-hosted by 21st Century Fox CEO and GFS board member James Murdoch, served as both a celebration of and a fundraiser for the organization, which teaches filmmaking to young people from communities traditionally underrepresented in Hollywood. 21CF is the founding sponsor of GFS Los Angeles, which opened its doors in June 2014.
The star-studded event featured appearances from Mariah Carey, “Pitch” executive producer Dan Fogelman, Jonathan Togo (“CSI: Miami”) and Elizabeth Whitson (“Awkward”), as well as Chairman and CEO of Twentieth Century Fox Jim Gianopulos, Co-Chairman of Twentieth Century Fox Stacey Snider and President of Fox 2000 Pictures Elizabeth Gabler.
Ghetto Film School operates at two locations, one in the South Bronx of New York City and another in the MacArthur Park neighborhood of Los Angeles. The table read event featured scripts written by students at both campuses. Actor Jamie Hector of “The Wire” and “Bosch” took the lead role in “Genesis,” a psychological horror-thriller written by Romeo Ortiz and directed by Kyra Peters, both from GFS New York. “Ghost of a Chance,” a comedy written by GFS LA student Gillian Lyons, featured Greenfield and Simon Helberg (“The Big Bang Theory”) in lead roles. “I’m here to give [the students] an opportunity to have semi-professional actors like myself butcher their words in front of really important people,” Helberg joked.
Following the read-throughs, a panel of filmmakers including directors and GFS Board Members David O. Russell and Lee Daniels, as well as director Brett Ratner and The Black List founder Franklin Leonard offered notes and spoke with the students about screenwriting and production. “This script is very funny. You had your audience laughing out loud, which is hard to do,” Russell commented to Lyons. “Considering you’re 17 years old, I’d go so far as to say you have a gift,” Franklin added, with Ratner recommending she get started right away on a feature-length version.
The experience of hearing their scripts read aloud by professional actors and receiving feedback from some of Hollywood’s top directors proved both exciting and valuable for the students. “[It was] incredible,” Lyons said afterward. The two student teams will shoot the scripts they presented at the event in London this summer.
21CF is a longtime supporter of Ghetto Film School, helping provide its students with an immersive education in both the craft and business of filmmaking. The company is the founding sponsor of GFS LA and consistently gives the students opportunities to gain hands-on experience in film and television. Recently, GFS NY students visited the Fox Studios Lot in Los Angeles for a day of workshops and masterclass conversation with several of the company’s top executives. In addition, students at GFS LA recently partnered with Fox Networks Group Global Marketing for their spring Industry 101 course, where they developed digital promos for new series premiering this summer.
Photos by Dan Steinberg for Invision.