2022 Grants Challenge

Urban Scholar Film Academy

The Urban Scholar Film Academy (USFA) promotes diversity in film and television by teaching LA’s high school students the value of community and collaboration through the process of film-making. USFA will use the grant funds to cover first & second-year cohort classes' before/during/and after production costs, associated with the weekly curriculum over the course of the 10-month program.


What is the primary issue area that your application will impact?

Access to Creative Industry Employment (sponsored by Snap Foundation)

In which areas of Los Angeles will you be directly working?

South LA

West LA

In what stage of innovation is this project, program, or initiative?

Expand existing project, program, or initiative

What is your understanding of the issue that you are seeking to address?

Students from the entertainment industry’s historically underrepresented communities lack career-building access to skills, experience, and creative portfolios leading to audiences with industry influencers. According to the March 2022 Hollywood Diversity Report (UCLA), white males comprise most of the industry, with women directors at 22% and 33% respectively. People of color (male and female) make up a disproportionate 30% and 32%, respectively. An opportunity exists now to right an equitable solution while the industry recognizes needed change. The Motion Picture Academy recently released a statement that in part said, “[We believe that] arts and sciences, including the arts and sciences of filmmaking, thrive from diversity. This belief, coupled with our mission to recognize and uphold excellence in the motion picture arts and sciences, inspire imagination, and connect the world through the medium of motion pictures, requires a commitment to representation, inclusion, and equity.”

Describe the project, program, or initiative this grant will support to address the issue.

The USFA will prepare urban youth, ages 15-18 who reside in Ingleside and surrounding communities, for scriptwriting/filmmaking careers. The 12-15 student cohorts (35% female) are from communities of color and can improve the entertainment industry’s gender, racial, and ethnic diversity goals. They attend Title 1 schools, indicating many come from families experiencing economic hardship. Founded in 2021, the two-year program is an industry entre for the youth, allowing easy access through their home proximity to the Inglewood location at 8473 S Van Ness Ave, and affordable tuition through complementary revenue resources. In Year 1, students will participate in 3-hour classes on Saturdays (90-minute instruction/90-minute hands-on group activity); assist industry professionals with the production of a short film, commercial, public service announcement (PSA), and music video; take enrichment field trips to film/television sets, movie theaters and film festivals; and journal an individual learning profession by creating a weekly confessional documentary. In Year 2, they will curate a film portfolio of a PSA, commercial, music video and short film. Project leaders will facilitate students’ portfolio showcases at an organizational film festival, in partnership with the City of Inglewood. At program completion and through the project director’s vast industry network, scholars will use the film portfolio to gain internship/apprenticeship access at a local studio/production company.

Describe how Los Angeles County will be different if your work is successful.

Los Angeles County will be different because the program will drive a catalyst for change in the urban youth community. A gap currently exists within the spirit of creative collaboration. In the core urban youth community, talent is competitively exported versus imported. For many years, LA youth have been taught to compete AGAINST each other versus collaboratively WITH each other. The proposed program teaches creative and communal processes to urban youth through the art of filmmaking, an inherently collaborative creative process. Filmmaking presents a unique opportunity for high school students to work together, both individually and collectively, embarking on a 2-year transformational process. Scholars will learn how to make commercials, short films, music videos, and public service announcements IN their community but also FOR their community. The model concepts gained can drive change within community youth, individually and as a whole.

What evidence do you have that this project, program, or initiative is or will be successful, and how will you define and measure success?

Starting in fall 2021, USFA is classified as an early-stage program with evolving student impact measures. The scholars themselves serve as qualitative program success measures, as they build a curated content library through personal testimonials; their active, engaged participation ( consistent Saturday attendance); pre- and post- program-assessments with a 40% increase; and their growing film career pursuits/interests as indicated in their phase three reflection reports. A goal for the coming year is to enlist external film professionals to critique student work through quantifiable project rubrics as measurable feedback tools. Although the scores cannot be individual in nature, the students will receive more constructive feedback to inform measured group improvement. Leaders propose four third-party measurement benchmarks/cohort: Mid-year & Post-year to measure an increase of 25% proficiency at each benchmark for the variables of the four phases of filmmaking.

Approximately how many people will be impacted by this project, program, or initiative?

Direct Impact: 30

Indirect Impact: 300