Creativity & The Arts

Ghetto Film School in London

(L-R Barbara Broccoli, Kyra Peters, Ray Gurrola, Gillian Lyons, Emma Thompson, Stacey Snider, Keith Burrus)

On Tuesday, March 21, students from 21st Century Fox partner Ghetto Film School and South London creative non-profit Bold Tendencies held a special screening in London for Ghetto Film School’s 2016 Thesis Films, Ghost of a Chance and Genesis. The short films are the product of almost a year of cross-country and international collaboration between students in Los Angeles, New York, and London. The event brought out the good and the great from London’s film industry, including Academy Award-winning actress Emma Thompson, The Darjeeling Limited actress Amara Karan, actor Babou Ceesay, model and actress Lily Cole, and filmmakers Matthew Vaughn and Ol Parker. The night was hosted by Twentieth Century Fox Film Chairman and CEO, Stacey Snider, and producer Barbara Broccoli, best known for her work on the James Bond film series.

Founded in the South Bronx 17 years ago, Ghetto Film School (GFS) has since expanded to MacArthur Park in LA with the help of 21CF, and currently engages over 1,500 people annually through its two tracks: a pre-professional narrative filmmaking education program, and an early career support network for professional already working in the creative media industries. Every year, the GFS Fellows Program takes high school students from communities traditionally underrepresented in Hollywood through 30 months of intensive instruction from leading filmmakers, mentorship from industry experts, and exposure to the business behind film and television. The fellowship culminates in the Thesis Film Project, a six-month short film production experience in which students travel abroad to create a 15-minute movie in collaboration with a cast and mentoring crew local to that city.

As part of 21CF’s commitment to developing the next generation of creative talent around the world, the company has supported GFS for many years, funding the first program outpost in LA and providing curriculum support, mentors and access to resources, executives, and talent. 21CF is also funding all of GFS’ core costs for the next three years.

In 2016, GFS partnered with Hannah Barry and her Peckham-based non-profit, Bold Tendencies, to bring the Fellows Program to London. The partnership marked the first time GFS shared its curriculum with another organization to develop young filmmakers outside of the U.S., and the first time that the Bronx and LA fellows collaborated on their thesis projects abroad. The two organizations connected seamlessly and inspired Bold Tendencies to create Bold Filmmaking, a course offered to 14 to 18 year-olds from local state secondary schools in London. Seven students were selected for the inaugural 2016 Bold Filmmaking class, out of which one student secured an acting agent, two were selected to join the British Film Institute Future Film Academy, and the group’s short film Single Russian Ladies in your Area was screened at the 2017 London Short Film Festival.

The GFS Thesis Project began as a three-month writing contest in which all fellows completed and submitted a script, collectively picked the top script as a team, and then pitched themselves for the Director position as well as various other crew positions—camera operator, script supervisor, editor, sound designer, etc. Local London-based teens from Bold Tendencies’ new Bold Filmmaking program helped prepare for the visit and created original behind-the scenes content during the GFS Thesis Film productions. Bold Tendencies also helped with logistics, budget management, and supplies, and worked with Sky to provide first class equipment and a “mentorship crew” of industry professionals who gave guidance and technical advice to the students during production.

After scripts for the two films were chosen by the students in May 2016, a cast of Hollywood greats including Stacey Snider, Max Greenfield, Mariah Carey, Lee Daniels, and Simon Helberg gathered in LA for a table reading with the students. The event was co-hosted by 21CF CEO and GFS board member James Murdoch, and served as a celebration of the organization, as well as a chance for students to receive feedback from top Hollywood talent and directors.

"This script is very funny. You had your audience laughing out loud, which is hard to do," said filmmaker and GFS board member David O. Russell to high school student Gillian Lyons, who wrote one of the scripts.

The students presented their final films on March 21 at the BAFTA in London, with welcoming remarks from Stacey Snider and Joe Hall, Founder and President of Ghetto Film School. “The result [of GFS] is a group of young people that are not only empowered to think analytically and creatively, but also one that has acquired the skills necessary to succeed in any situation – they’ve practiced teamwork; they’ve learned to take contructive criticism from their peers; they’ve learned to take risks and push boundaries; they’ve even gone through writer’s block!” said Snider before the two films began.

Ghost of a Chance, written by Lyons and directed by Niko Baur, follows a failing playwright who finds and steals the last written work of William Shakespeare, whose ghost comes back to haunt him on opening night. Genesis, written by Romeo Ortiz and directed by Kyra Peters, unravels the story of what inspired a young Jack the Ripper, the disturbed man who became one of London’s most notorious serial killers in the late 1800’s.

Following the screenings, Hannah Barry of Bold Tendencies moderated a Q&A panel discussion with the GFS students involved in each film. “Ghetto Film School showed me exactly the path that I wanted to take. Prior to coming to GFS, I wanted to be an author but…they showed me there are so many more things you can do as a writer—you don’t have to just write a book, you can create a whole narrative piece that you can actually see before your eyes, and that was just amazing to me. It’s a lot of fun to make this movie magic,” remarked Keith Burrus, a GFS student who operated the cameras on Genesis.

“What makes it even more impactful is the fact that Ghetto Film School’s programs are embedded in specific local communities, so they earn the trust of both students and their parents and are truly part of the landscape of those local creative communities. It also ensures that the stories the students tell are diverse and authentic – two things the creative world needs to embrace now more than ever,” said Snider.

Watch Ghost of a Chance and Genesis today, and learn more about Ghetto Film School's visit to London below.


fox-writers-lab-diversity-hollywood-class

Photo by Saman Assefi Photography

For the sixth consecutive year, Fox has sought out some of Hollywood’s most exciting new voices to participate in the Fox Writers Lab, a fellowship program hosted by Fox Inclusion for young screenwriters with diverse perspectives, backgrounds and life experiences. The 13 finalists will work directly with Fox’s writers, directors, executives and more to hone their craft on the Fox Studios Lot in Los Angeles, with opportunities for staffing on the company’s film, television and digital productions. The Fox Writers Lab is one of several programs at 21st Century Fox designed to support the next generation of storytellers and create a pipeline of diverse talent into the industry.

"There's a deep well of untapped talent that deserves to be discovered, developed and empowered to tell their stories,” said Suzanna Makkos, head of comedy at the FOX network. “Fox Writers Lab is a great tool to open the door and create meaningful opportunities for these future writers, producers and creators, and I'm looking forward to working with the members of this year's class."

The finalists will spend 14 weeks on the Fox Lot, shadowing the company’s creatives, receiving feedback on their scripts, attending master classes with experienced writers and directors, and hearing from some of the industry’s most experienced figures through guest speaker sessions.

“Having been closely involved with Fox Writers Lab, it has been wonderful to see the impact its participants have made on a number of our dramas,” said Terence Carter, FOX’s head of drama. “While learning from the best auspices in the business, they bring new and fresh ideas to the writing room and bolster a creative process that thrives on diverse perspectives.”

The program has also partnered for a second year with the Young Storytellers, a nonprofit co-founded by Glee co-creator Brad Falchuk that is dedicated to helping young people discover the power of their own voices. The finalists will mentor elementary school students who are participating in the organization’s Script to Stage program, in which students write their own original short script, then see it performed live by professional actors.

At the conclusion of the program, one fellow will be named the 2017 Fox Writers Lab Fellow and awarded a purchase and development deal on his/her original script or a first-look deal with Fox network or any of its affiliated entities. All of this year’s finalists will receive staffing meetings for current Fox series and a first-look agreement to option their scripts. Participants from previous years have gone on to write for Fox shows such as Lucifer and Star.

“Lee Daniels and I wanted the Star writers' room to be as inclusive as possible,” said Tom Donaghy, co-creator and executive producer of Star. “We also wanted to find strong female voices who could write honestly for our young characters. When Jamila Daniel came to us through the Fox Writers Lab, we knew immediately how much she would bring to the project… We were lucky the Lab was there when we were hiring, and doubly lucky to hire Jamila.”

The Fox Writers Lab was initially launched in 2011 as the Fox Writers Intensive, and since then, it has become one of a growing slate of programs at 21CF that empower new voices in Hollywood. The Fox Filmmaker Lab, a partnership with the American Film Institute, is a mentoring program designed to increase the number of female directors working in the industry and recently announced its first class of 25 participants. In addition, the Fox Directors Lab last fall announced 16 Fellows to participate in its Comedy and Drama Apprenticeship Programs. Fox Inclusion is a department at Fox designed to identify programming and operational opportunities that reflect diverse perspectives across all of its entertainment platforms.

Learn more about 21CF’s diversity and inclusion initiatives, which include fellowship opportunities, filmmaking contests, professional training and more. 


Ghetto Film School, Industry 101 Pitch Day

Last month, longtime 21st Century Fox partner Ghetto Film School took its students to Fox Studios to pitch their ideas for short clips promoting FOX’s hot new show, Star. The students’ pitch presentations were part of GFS’ Industry 101 project, a semester-long class where high school students learn to create short video promos for a real client. The project gives them first-hand experience with the business behind film and television, teaches them the art of incorporating traditional storytelling strategies into 30-second promos, and helps them understand the process of working with clients.

Students prepared for their pitches by meeting with FOX’s on-air promotions team, and reviewing FOX’s research on their key audiences and marketing strategy for Star, a musical drama revolving around three talented young singers navigating the music business while trying to achieve their dreams. After developing their promo ideas, GFS students used the lessons learned from other GFS coursework and practiced presenting their pitches to each other in an engaging, concise manner. “Our students are very diligent about content brevity and accuracy, about formulating engaging hooks and demonstrating their visual vocabulary. They practice over and over again in front of their peers to make sure they’re pulling the audience into the emotional center of their pitch,” says Montea Robinson, LA Program Director and graduate of GFS’s program in the South Bronx.

On “Pitch Day”, students pitched their ideas for 30-second Star promos to a team from FOX—Scott Edwards, SVP of On-Air Promotions & Operations, Aaron Goldman, VP of Drama On-Air, Mamie Coleman, VP of Music and Production, and Karen McAllister, Director of On-Air Promos. Every student received in-depth feedback from the FOX team, giving them insight into both narrative storytelling and marketing techniques that will help strengthen their final products. Students are currently in production and will head back to the Fox lot later this spring for editing and revisions before final feedback.

Says GFS LA student Rosibel, age 16, “Prepping my pitch was nerve wracking! Although I had pitched before, I knew that getting feedback from FOX executives was an opportunity that many aspiring film-makers would love to have, so I wanted to take full advantage of the opportunity and give my best shot. I bounced different ideas off friends and practiced my pitch with them and took note of what seemed to land best with them."

The program offers a substantial insight into what future careers in film and television could look like, and inspires students to continue working towards their goals. With many students coming from communities underrepresented in Hollywood, GFS helps them nurture their creativity, build skills in collaborative work and public speaking, and develop a framework for understanding themselves and the world around them.

“The coolest thing was getting to stand in a room full of FOX executives and talk to them about my ideas and hearing what they had to say in return, and getting to see the Fox lot! That's somewhere that a lot of us Ghetto Film School students, including myself, want to be one day and getting the opportunity to be there and see where it all happens was amazing,” said Rosibel.

 


humanitas prize hidden figures birth nation this is us

At a ceremony in Los Angeles on February 22, the organization Humanitas announced the recipients of its 42nd Annual Humanitas Prize, recognizing the screenwriters behind two films and one television series from 21st Century Fox. Theodore Melfi and Allison Schroeder, who wrote Fox 2000’s Hidden Figures, tied with Robert Schenkkan of Hacksaw Ridge to win the Feature Film category, while Nate Parker and Dan Fogelman were honored for writing Fox Searchlight’s The Birth of a Nation and the 20th Century Fox Television production This Is Us, respectively. The Humanitas Prize celebrates onscreen stories that reflect a dedication to social progress and inspire compassion, hope and understanding.

“These were truly the best of the best, writers whose work engaged, illuminated, inspired and entertained, all while exploring the range of human experience from fresh and diverse perspectives,” said Humanitas executive director Cathleen Young. “Stories that inspire, engage and bring together are more important than ever in a world fractured along political and culture fault lines.”

The Humanitas Prize includes an award of $10,000 to each of the winners, many of whom announced their plans to donate the winnings to a nonprofit. Fogelman will donate his cash prize to the Motion Picture Television Fund, which provides health care services to those in the entertainment community. Parker will make his contribution to Together We Rise, which supports foster child programs across the United States.

“I write for my children,” Parker said during his acceptance speech. “As I write, I always ask myself, ‘What do I owe them?’ …This moment doesn’t belong to us, it belongs to the little kids.”

Hidden Figures continues to serve as the center of social impact campaigns encouraging young women and people of color to pursue careers in the science, technology, engineering and math. The film was the basis for the Search for Hidden Figures scholarship contest last fall, and 21CF recently partnered with AMC Theatres to host free screenings of the film in order to celebrate Black History Month in February and Women’s History Month in March, as well as build broader awareness of the film’s true story and inspire younger generations to follow their dreams.

Learn more about the 2017 Humanitas Prize, including the full list of this year’s winners.


Aamir Khan for Nayi Sochi, STAR India, 21st Century Fox

21st Century Fox’s STAR India and Bollywood star Aamir Khan have partnered again on a new brand film for STAR India’s ongoing Nayi Soch (“New Thinking’) campaign. Nayi Soch aims to spark conversation and social change through thought-provoking programming that highlights crucial social issues in India. The short film introduces Khan as a middle-class sweetshop owner who attributes his business success to his daughters’ talents. His shop is uniquely named “Gurdeep Singh & Daughters”, rather than the prevalent “— & Sons.”

''We at Star believe that daughters are equally capable to bring laurels to their families and society. Our latest Nayi Soch film reflects this confidence. It not only questions the gender discrimination that still exists, but also iterates our belief that it is time for fathers to step up and inspire their daughters with confidence and self-belief. Aamir Khan brings great credibility and empathy to the role of a father whose progressive thinking gives his daughters the freedom to flourish,” says Uday Shankar, CEO of STAR India.

With approximately 650 million monthly views and broadcasts across more than 50 channels, STAR India is one of the country’s largest media networks and consistently lauded for its emphasis on pro-social content, especially surrounding women’s empowerment and gender equality in India. After a nationwide study showed that Indian women were getting ahead with professional ambition but were still held back by negative social stereotypes, STAR started running shows with roles for stronger female leads and supportive male leads. And in anticipation of International Women’s Day in 2015, STAR Sports launched the #CheckOutMyGame campaign, which celebrated female athletes and their skills. These campaigns are all part of a more purpose-driven strategy, says Gayatri Yadav, president of consumer strategy and innovation at STAR India, acknowledging that “the measure is the impact on society, not brand equity scores.”

Beginning in 2012, Aamir Khan also hosted a groundbreaking show called Satyamev Jayate (“truth alone prevails”) on STAR’s networks which follows Khan’s conversations with experts, activists, and citizens on India’s most pressing social issues, from sexual assault to water scarcity to LGBT rights. "It deals with issues that India has tended to sweep under the carpet. It's unrelenting and very, very tough. And yet, the success of the show has been astonishing,” said journalist Bobby Ghosh in conversation with Shankar at the Paley Center for Media in New York.

STAR India programming reflects the network’s commitment to creative social responsibility, and Nayi Soch intends to add to the ripple effect of social change in the country. The film ends with the line, Kaamyabi na ladka dekhti hai na ladki. Kaamyabi sirf soch dekhti hai—“success does not consider whether one is a boy or girl; it only takes powerful thoughts into account.”

Watch Nayi Soch’s latest brand film below and join the conversation with #NayiSoch today.