CELEBRATING 20 YEARS
Honoring Ghetto Film School's 20th anniversary by presenting stories and art that reflect our evolution as an organization
GFS AT 20
2018/17: THE LONDON PILOT PROGRAMME AND ISRAEL THESIS FILMS
The 2018 GFS International Thesis Team in Israel
We asked Class of 2018 GFS Fellows, Mya Dodson,
Luna Garcia, and Julia Song (pictured clockwise) about
their GFS stories, and how they approach making art now.
What’s the best thing you’ve learned from being a Fellow at Ghetto Film School?
Mya, GFS LA Alum: People want you to compromise your integrity as you work in the industry, but GFS taught me to stand up for myself, be vocal about suggestions without undermine myself. On set in Israel, I went from finding my voice to advocating for my voice. With on-set mentors, I balanced standing up for my vision and still learning from more experienced mentors.
Fear has always kept me from making things, but at the Fellows Program, I learned to not be so precious, that you should have fun in the creative process. Fear disappears in collaboration, when you're working with artists and artistry that you respect. A last minute change before the Israel Thesis Film shoot meant that I was suddenly the Director of Photography. I was very nervous, but all my peers were going through the same thing, and we helped support each other. I rebuilt the shot-list with help from Luna and Montea (Robinson, Executive Director, GFS LA). Self-doubt feels easy to overcome, when you're surrounded by a creative community.
Luna, GFS LA Alum: GFS and everyone there really helped me push myself and rise to challenges. When my script was chosen by my peers to be filmed in Israel, Montea Robinson (Executive Director, GFS LA) suggested that I also consider pitching myself as director, because I seemed to have a clear vision for the story. When I hesitated because of my lack of experience with directing actors, she pointed out, "Well, this is how you learn." And she was absolutely right, and I'm so thankful for that.
Since we were shooting in Israel, in addition to learning how to run a crew of 20 people I also had to learn about political history. I'm Jewish, and I really wanted to get deep into the research and present something honest and nuanced. GFS holds your hand through the process, but no one is doing the work for you. Since my movie was about the DIY punk scene, I connected directly with Israeli punk-rockers on Facebook and was so thrilled to see how punk was the same everywhere. Everyone is rebelling against the system, and punk is part of that.
I'm currently at Yale University, studying American Studies, Race and Media. I think a huge reason why I have this opportunity now, is the work I did at GFS and the fact that the Fellows Program allowed me to write and shoot a professional, high-budget film in Israel, when I was still in high school. GFS never treated us as if it we were in an "extracurricular program". They treat you like actual film students, and you automatically develop a work ethic that matches your responsibilities. Click here to watch Luna's Israel International Thesis Film Project, "Charley Horse")
Julia, GFS LA Alum: As someone who grew up in majority-white spaces including my neighborhood and school, having peers and friends who were POC at GFS, helped me advocate for myself. I began to speak up for myself and others more, and began advocating for mental health through PSA filmmaking with Directing Change Suicide Prevention, and spoke on a panel for the National Alliance of Mental Illness, and LA County Mental Health Advocacy.
The College Residency we had at NYU was such a terrific experience, and I just got accepted to NYU Tisch. I've currently deferred my admission for a year, and am working as a PA for the Netflix show, Nailed It, but I'm beyond excited to start college very soon. No one gave me exact answers at GFS. I was pushed and challenged to figure out things myself, and I"m so thankful I could build that skill.
What does it mean to be an artist right now?
Mya: Artists create work to heal themselves and for personal development. It can be exposing and tough to look inward like that, and challenge, confront, accept and evolve who you are. But it’s important to do. Right now I have had to step away from creating because of all the obstacles. But I want the work I do to still have tangible impact, which is why I work in the intersection of art and activism. I want to do something similar for my community, like what GFS did for me. Measurable impact like having a creative house that advocates for community artists, and finds them funding, is irreplaceable work.
Luna: Being an artist is a privilege. We get the privilege to tell stories which are impactful and resonate with our communities. Art is a way in which we can both process and escape from trauma. So, right now being an artist is really hard, but I wouldn't want to be anything else.
Julia: It means pushing our creativity even more, pushing ourselves to reach our goals more than ever. There is collective suffering around us now, but also collective protest and movements that are inspiring. Change is happening, and it is our job to tell stories about that. I want to tell the stories I haven’t been told, and wish I had been, while pushing the standards that have been established.
The GFS London Pilot Programme and Israel Thesis Films Premiere
GFS NY Fellows during the Israel International Thesis Film Premiere in 2018
In 2016, when the GFS visited London to film the International Thesis Film Project, it was obvious that there was a huge local pool of talented and accomplished young filmmakers, who could benefit from free film education and training opportunities.
In the summer of 2017, the GFS London Pilot Programme was born. GFS adapted its nine-week program to a six-week program in order to fit the local schooling system. Through the year, the 15 students in the Pilot Programme attended classes led by GFS Teaching Artist, Alvy Johnson, and guest speakers who were industry leaders, visited Sky UK on several informational trips ,and produced four non-dialogue shorts.
GFS London Fellows during Pilot Programme's Thesis Shoot
In 2018, the Programme moved into a mix of virtual and in-person classes, allowing London students to receive instruction from teachers at GFS LA and GFS NY. Students completed a residency at the National Film and Television School (NFTS) where they filmed short dialogue scenes. When the decision was made to film the first GFS London International Thesis Film in Los Angeles, GFS Founder, Joe Hall and now Executive Director of GFS NY, Derrick Cameron, came to London to help the students prepare for the shoot. The pilot Programme ended with a Table Read for the chosen script in New York, a successful shoot in Los Angeles, and a screening in London.
While the London pilot programme was in full swing, GFS NY and GFS LA students were filming their International Thesis Film Project in Israel, shot entirely in Hebrew. This shoot was largely possible only with the help of our longtime supporters Arnon and Yariv Milchan, and New Regency Films. In addition to being major funders, they were instrumental in connecting us to our local crew, DNA, and our local guide, Nati Dinar.
After months of post-production, both films premiered in New York and Los Angeles in April 2018, followed by Q&A sessions with the student filmmakers.
GFS LA Fellows at The Israel Thesis Premiere at Landmark Theaters, with Q&A Moderator, Dakota Johnson
Our longtime supporter, and then-CEO of Landmark Theaters, Ted Mundorff, (currently President and COO of Arclight Theaters) generously arranged for The Landmark Theater Company to donate their facilities to us for both events. The LA and NY Q&A sessions were moderated by incredible GFS supporters, Dakota Johnson (Suspiria, Fifty Shades Trilogy) and Peter Becker (President, Criterion Collection). The events drew a combined audience of over 400 young filmmakers, family members, and industry leaders, showcasing the amazing work accomplished by our 2018 Fellows.
GFS NY Fellows at The Israel Thesis Premiere at Landmark Theaters, with Q&A Moderator, Peter Becker.
GFS Film Highlights
by Luna Garcia
(2018 Israel International Thesis Film Project, GFS LA)
"Alone With You"
by Añes Ollivier-Yamin
(2018, Non-Dialogue Short)
"Fool Me Twice"
by Victoria Arraez
(2017, Non-Dialogue Short)