East Coast, West Coast Film Programs Aim To Change Hollywood’s Diversity Problem

Viva

From the infamous #OscarsSoWhite hashtag to Hollywood’s problem with typecasting people of color into roles that fit their ascribed stereotypes, it’s no secret the film industry has a lot of work to do. In efforts to bring that inclusion into fruition, film programs in New York City and Southern California are aiming to bridge tinsel town’s race gap.

California’s Latino Film Institute Youth Cinema Project has created programs within 20 elementary schools and four junior high school districts, reports Remezcla. The institute was founded by Edward James Olmos, and hopes to incentivize children from all backgrounds to create stellar story telling.

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“We’re providing students of color away for them to find their voice, because we don’t tell them what to write, we just show them how to write,” LIF Executive Director Rafael Agustin explains. “We don’t tell them what films to produce, we show them how to produce films.”

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Though it’s not just catered for Latino students, LIF’s organizers want the Latinx influence to remain behind its initiative. “It’s a gift from the Latino community to all kids,” added board member Bonny Garcia.

On a more advanced graduate level, the CUNY Feirstein Graduate School of Cinema in Brooklyn is the first film school that offers low tuition, which caters to a diverse student body. It also doesn’t hurt that the school has some of Hollywood’s elite on board, with Steven Soderbergh and Ethan Hawke serving on the school’s advisory council—including indie director Jonathan Wacks as its founding director.

The new program started a year and half ago, and is expecting its first graduating MFA class in 2018. It’s refreshing to see how its graduates represent a melting pot of cultures; the institution’s current enrollment boasts a 45 percent “minority” student body. And this is probably the product of identifying the root of the problem.

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“There’s certainly enough blame to go around about why there aren’t more women and more people of color at the top level of the industry,” Wacks told the New York Times. “You also have to recognize that it begins with film school. I’ve been to many film schools where if women were 20 percent of the population, that was a lot.”