Ghetto Film School -- Los Angeles

GFS LA brings Ghetto Film School's award-winning Fellows Program to LA, working annually with 25 diverse young storytellers.


Please describe yourself.

Solo actor (just us on this project!)

In one sentence, please describe your idea or project.

GFS LA brings Ghetto Film School's award-winning Fellows Program to LA, working annually with 25 diverse young storytellers.

Does your project impact Los Angeles County?

Yes (benefits a region of LA County)

Which area(s) of LA does your project benefit?

Central LA

What is your idea/project in more detail?

GFS LA is an industry-wide creative education initiative in the MacArthur Park community of LA that brings Ghetto Film School's (GFS) educational model to the west coast. GFS is an independent film organization dedicated to the development of the next generation of great American storytellers.

The project cultivates a group of diverse young storytellers who will complete a free 30-month pre-professional immersion in cinematic storytelling and production training through the GFS Fellows Program. Fellows write, direct, and edit original short films, commercials, animations, and other creative content, studying under top filmmakers and industry experts.

What will you do to implement this idea/project?

Year 1 of GFS LA began in June 2014. GFS LA delivers 1000+ hours of direct instruction per student over a 30-month engagement, featuring 9 sequential courses in film production, creative writing & college/industry preparation. These courses include:


- 9-week immersion into narrative filmmaking (Jun-Aug; Mon-Thu, 10am-5pm)

- Includes daily workshops, screenings, production assignments and talks from top filmmakers

- Fellows create individual 6-minute no-dialogue shorts

- Culminates in a Public Screening for 300+ audience members at a prominent LA theater


- 3-month commercial project with partner Wieden+Kennedy (Oct-Dec; Sat 10am-5pm, select afterschool)

- Fellows produce original spots for W+K client brands, e.g. Levi’s, Jordan, Target


- 6-week partner film project (Jan-Feb; Sat 10am-5pm, select afterschool)

- Fellows work in teams of 2 to create 2-minute shorts with dialogue

- Guest instructors include top screenwriters and TV showrunners


- 3-month real-world collaborative film production (Apr-Jun; Sat 10am-5pm, select afterschool)

- Fellows write 15-page scripts and select the winning script for production, then compete for crew positions (e.g. director, cinematographer, editor) while receiving specialized training in these areas

- Thesis Film is shot in a foreign location (e.g. South Africa, China, Uganda, Brazil) and premieres at a major LA venue


- 4-week on-campus immersion at partner Loyola-Marymount University (Jul; Sun-Sat, all-day)

- Fellows attend writing & film studies courses, plus financial aid and essay support

- College Residential concludes with a campus showcase of Fellows’ top creative work


- 3-month training in digital animation (Oct-Dec; Sat 10am-1pm, select afterschool)

- Fellows create animated shorts using stop-motion techniques and Flash software

- Guest instructors include animators/writers from partner Studio Ghibli


- 6-month college prep course (Oct-Mar; Sat 2pm-5pm, select afterschool)

- SAT and essay workshops, group campus visits, and financial aid classes


- Millennial-powered production company led by top Fellows Program graduates

- DB creates custom media content (e.g. Commercials, Branded, Research)


- 3-month showcase competition for Fellows graduates (Oct-Nov; screening in Dec)

How will your idea/project help make LA the best place to CREATE today? In 2050?


There is no program currently operating in LA that delivers the kind of service that GFS LA does: free, rigorous, high-quality creative education for diverse teenage storytellers, grounded in cinema studies and real-world production training.

Our commitment is to deliver programming to our community in MacArthur Park (the most densely populated region in the US west of the Mississippi), and to students throughout all of LA County, and to connect homegrown talent in LA to lifelong creative and professional opportunities in the film, media and entertainment industries that are based here.


The current industry-wide lack of diversity is a root problem both for the creative industries and for underrepresented groups seeking authentic access to professional opportunities in a wide variety of creative fields, particularly in Los Angeles.

We believe that the quality of our student work and the quality of our programming enables substantive change by connecting two populations that lack the ability to connect with each other: a vast pool of eager creative talent throughout Los Angeles and film and media businesses that are eager to recruit new voices from underrepresented backgrounds.

Whom will your project benefit?

Over the course of its first three years, GFS LA will work with 75 diverse young storytellers, each completing a 30-month college-level pre-professional immersion in cinematic storytelling and production training. GFS LA annually works with 25 young filmmakers, ages 14-19.

Without exception, no GFS student has had the experience, training, family connections or financial ability to independently pursue a career in filmmaking. Enrollment is free for all students.

Ghetto Film School is the only creative education organization in LA with the stated goal of connecting emerging filmmakers of color to careers in film, media and creative industries.

Please identify any partners or collaborators who will work with you on this project.


Heart of Los Angeles (HOLA) is GFS’ key local partner, an acclaimed

nonprofit with a 25-year history in MacArthur Park delivering exceptional programs in academics, arts and athletics to 2400 youth annually. HOLA's knowledge of Los Angeles and experience working with young people in MacArthur Park is critical for GFS LA's first season in Los Angeles, as Ghetto Film School brings 15 years of experience in the South Bronx to the west coast for the first time.

Specific to GFS LA, HOLA provides the following:

- Direct referrals to 70+ feeder schools for student recruitment

- Marketing support through digital/social media and PR channels

- Classroom and computer lab space for daily instruction

- Access to 4 major facilities and neighboring Lafayette Park for

production exercises, screenings and guest speaker visits.


Collaboration with 21st Century Fox, along with other LA based film studios and partners in the film industry, is essential to the success of GFS LA. GFS LA students will participate in regular site visits to studio lots, development offices and post houses, weekly trips to top LA cinemas, museums and art galleries, and an international production trip during the annual GFS LA Thesis Project.

How will your project impact the LA2050 CREATE metrics?

Employment in creative industries

Arts establishments per capita

Measures of cultural and global economic influence (“soft power”) (Dream Metric)

Recruiting and retention rates at local higher education institutions (Dream Metric)

Please elaborate on how your project will impact the above metrics.


GFS LA is a creative education initiative with the purpose of engaging young people in Los Angeles with an immersive and demanding curriculum. The Ghetto Film School Fellows Program brings rigorous arts training to young people and areas not typically targeted with such training, fostering a relationship between a diverse group of young filmmakers and the film and creative industries.


As the historic emphasis on industrial and purely analytical skill-sets fades, the United States’ public education system is in serious need of an infusion of innovation to remain globally competitive in the 21st Century.

Filmmaking serves as a powerful vehicle for delivering this outcome. It is a collaborative, industrial art form that requires the ability to conceive, design, communicate, plan, execute and evaluate. Such an education broadens perspectives and provides a strong foundation for the successful pursuit of aspirations in any field. The ability to think creatively – to use versatile, innovative, and expressive skill-sets – is crucial in creating the kind of products and projects that will flourish in the 21st Century.

GFS is a pioneer in the field of creative education, building an award-winning, replicable model for all participants in the American education system.

Please explain how you will evaluate your project.


GFS evaluates its programs and correlative student performance on the basis of students’ creative work. GFS is a Product Focused organization; while we acknowledge the importance of Process, we place emphasis on the final outcome of a project rather than the effort demonstrated in the process of creating it.

This encourages our students to understand that advancing in creative industries is a direct reflection of the “job well done” and not just the work involved. This approach is meritocratic, and emphasizes meeting deadlines, problem solving and accountability – a radical departure from the way teens are educated today.


GFS uses the following to evaluate the success of GFS LA:

- All 25 students create 6-minute non-dialogue shorts

- All 25 students produce original commercial spots

- All 25 students create 2-minute dialogue shorts (in teams of 2)

- All 25 students write a 15-page script

- All 25 students create animated shorts

- All 25 students complete 6-month SAT Prep Course


GFS also uses the following metrics to measure the success of GFS LA:

- 100% of GFS LA Fellows graduate from high school

- 100% of GFS LA Fellows are accepted to college

A 2012 study found that students who attend GFS’ programs graduate from high school at double the rate of their peers and more than 80% of GFS alumni go on to enroll in college. Students have been accepted to prominent universities and colleges (recent examples include Columbia University, NYU/Tisch School of the Arts, and Oberlin College).

What two lessons have informed your solution or project?

1) 21st Century Skills: Ghetto Film School aims to prepare its students for the workforce and industries of the 21st Century. According to recent research and writing like that of Daniel Pink ("Drive"), knowledge-based competencies are quickly becoming obsolete. We do not know what kind of innovation the 21st Century will bring, but we do know that creativity is immune to obsolescence. It is imperative to teach creative skills such as writing, storytelling, graphics, design and presentation in order to help participants better navigate future opportunities across a broader range of creative industries.

2) High Expectations: Over the past fifteen years, Ghetto Film School has developed a culture and theory of change grounded in High Expectations for our students, which mirrors the realities of creative industries. We have learned that this is essential to the efficacy of creative education, and that no curriculum is complete without a culture that sustains it. One cannot exist without the other, and the GFS ethos is as essential to the study of film as the films themselves. Learning a skill set cannot be accomplished through content alone, and students must also acquire the necessary attitude and behavioral skills that accompany the technical and critical thinking skills.

Explain how implementing your project within the next twelve months is an achievable goal.

Year 1 of GFS LA began June 16, 2014. Ghetto Film School's Los Angeles office is run by a dedicated staff committed to overseeing the implementation of the Fellows Program in Los Angeles.

GFS LA is run by Executive Director Stosh Mintek, who has over 10 years experience leading GFS programs & development. Mr. Mintek oversaw the launch of GFS LA, and is currently in charge of its design, publicity, & fundraising.

The GFSLA Program Coordinator, Alvy Johnson, is a GFS alumna with over six years of experience leading GFS classes & Thesis Trips abroad. She oversees recruitment, instruction, and pedagogy.

The Program is also assisted by Teaching Artists, Filmmakers in Residence, and an Industry and College Coordinator. Essential to instruction are the many visiting Guest Artists --- working directors, producers screenwriters, cinematographers, and editors working in the industry (2014 Guest Artists include David O. Russell, Catherine Hardwicke, Ken Ziffren, among many others).

With support from industry partners and professionals, GFS LA has unprecedented access to the film industry in Los Angeles. Using the award-winning curriculum developed over the past fifteen years in New York City, GFS LA will continue to serve 25 young Los Angeles filmmakers annually.

Please list at least two major barriers/challenges you anticipate. What is your strategy for ensuring a successful implementation?

1) New Location: Ghetto Film School has been operating in the South Bronx section of New York City for the past fifteen years, and our MacArthur Park location is an expansion of our operation to the west coast. In order to make sure that we develop roots in the community, we have connected with community leaders -- including Heart of Los Angeles (HOLA), an acclaimed non-profit organization that empowers thousands of local youth. By partnering with HOLA, GFS hopes to develop lasting relationships with other artistic groups and non-profits, as well as expand our outreach to the youth in Los Angeles.

2) Sustainability of Culture: As we expand, it is crucial that Ghetto Film School maintain the same culture and model that has been so successful for the past fifteen years. If our curriculum is to be truly replicable, we need to ensure that all elements of the model are maintained and implemented by all new teachers and administrators. In order to accomplish this, GFS is establishing a new series of orientation and staff training sessions that will work to establish and generate in all GFS staff the culture that makes Ghetto Film School's creative education model unique and effective.