Honoring Ghetto Film School's 20th anniversary by presenting stories and art that reflect our evolution as an organization




The 2020 GFS International Thesis Team

Elisabeth Viel, Andrew Oh, Olivia Anton, and Yeneca Kim (pictured clockwise) 

are writing, directing, and producing the 2020 Los Angeles

and New York International Thesis Projects.


We asked them 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? 

Elisabeth, 18, GFS NY: I became a much stronger writer. My organization and communication skills have also grown, and transferred over to the way I learn other things. This year especially, with so many things changing, and our International Thesis shoot in South Korea being cancelled, I fully understood how everything doesn’t go as planned on a film shoot. The main goal is to make accommodations without losing the essence of the film. This has been an incredible learning experience about how to adapt when things are shifting so quickly.

Andrew, 17, GFS LA: I think I’m generally pretty punctual and a good communicator, but after GFS, I really understand the value of these skills. I feel more prepared to enter the professional film industry, and respect other people’s time - both with how effectively I communicate, and how I show up for others. I’m so grateful I got to be in an environment where teachers and filmmakers encouraged us to think, question, and speak up about everything. I also did the IRIS IN program with the Erika Film Foundation, and I’m so glad I got to delve into the production and distribution side of filmmaking. Sam, Tanja, and the entire team at EFF made it such an affirming and informative program.

Yeneca, 18, GFS LA: The most important lesson I’ve learned is ceding control in my creative projects. I used to want to control every single aspect of a film I was making, but I think collaborating with my peers and learning from more experienced artists, has made me fully understand and appreciate how collaborative filmmaking is, and how that is precisely what makes filmmaking is exciting. I was really looking forward to shooting a film in South Korea, my  country of origin. But when that didn’t happen, I’ve been able to process all my experiences, both good and bad through the films I make, and GFS has been vital in helping me achieve that.

Click here to watch Yeneca’s short “Happy Birthday”


Olivia, 16, GFS NY: I met my closest friends and collaborators at GFS. They’ve given me such a strong sense of identity and confidence in my skills as a storyteller. I joined when I was still in middle school, so being surrounded by older, more experienced artists, helped my thinking mature faster, and  taught me how to collaborate, and articulate my opinions while still being supportive of other filmmakers, as they make their own art.  I also applied and was accepted into the IRIS IN program with the Erika Film Foundation. Erika, Sam, Tanja and the EFF team always gave us honest advice, as well as incredible insight and transparency into how production works. I got a taste of being in the actual film industry, and learned to keep a level head no matter how stressful things got. 

What does it mean to be an artist right now? 

Elisabeth: We use art as a form of expression and storytelling. Our job is to capture the truth, or at least the artist’s truth, and if that connects at least with one person, that's enough. For instance, the artists and photographers who are documenting the Black Lives Matter protests are capturing change, powerful perspectives, and history. They're telling a story that will endure and live on. We’re still working the same way, but the things we are saying have become more important. The methods may have changed, but the job hasn’t. 

Andrew: Films and my filmmaking process—listening to others’ stories, reading, writing, and the empathy that is at the center of it all—are my way of making sense of the world, and ultimately, my way of helping shape it. I want to create films that make people feel and ultimately impact the world for the better. That is the true power of storytelling.

Yeneca: It's hard when the only thing that can help you process your feelings, is creating art. But finding the motivation to create now, has been tough but necessary. I'm trying my best to maintain my motivation, and finding the drive to keep telling stories. 

Olivia: I've been thinking about my place in filmmaking right now, and want to use my voice to uplift artists of color and their work. I want to make sure that I am being proactive in my support, and actively listening and learning. 

Celebrating Our Partnership with

the Erika Film Foundation

The Erika Film Foundation (EFF) was founded by producer Erika Olde, to help aspiring filmmakers from under-represented communities by providing them with the education, tools and networks needed to pursue successful careers in the film industry. EFF's partnership with Ghetto Film School (GFS) started in 2015, with the creation of the Iris In program. The mentorship program is open to all GFS students and has become the hallmark program of the Erika Film Foundation.​ The program provides students with hands-on workshops, one-on-one mentoring, unique field trips and presentations by notable keynote speakers.

In 2019 EFF announced a new annual grant program that would provide one talented Iris In student or alum with $500,000 to make their first feature film. The Foundation will give other Iris In students the opportunity to work on the production and will provide on-set mentorship during the filmmaking process. 


In November 2019, EFF announced the Erika Film Foundation International Thesis Project partnership with Ghetto Film School.


GFS International Thesis Films provide valuable, real world production experience for our Fellows, where they get the opportunity to write, shoot, and edit a short Thesis Film inspired by, and set in an international location. Past years have featured Thesis Films shot in over 15 countries, including Mexico, France, Uganda, Brazil, China, Rome, South Africa, Sweden, Italy and more. 


Our NY & LA Fellows were scheduled to shoot their 2020 Thesis Films in South Korea in August 2020. However, due to the coronavirus pandemic and corresponding health/safety restrictions, on-location production in South Korea is not an option. And so, staying true to the core of the Thesis Project -- which involves learning how to think on your feet and find creative solutions to real world problems -- our students have quickly adapted their plans for these shoots to take place in domestic US locations, and to follow industry-standard protocols that ensure the safety of all participants.

With The Erika Film Foundation's support, we were also able to plan and execute two, live, Virtual Table events with participation and feedback from industry luminaries from across the world. 


This project marks the 6th consecutive year of GFS's partnership with EFF in our combined mission to educate and empower young filmmakers. We're so grateful for this vital and transformational partnership. 

GFS Film Highlights

This June, with the help of the Erika Film Foundation, we took our Table Read events virtual. The talent and industry leaders who showed up to support our young storytellers, and the scripts that were read, led up to a stellar evening. Here are some highlights from the 2020 GFS + EFF Virtual Table Reads!

"The Men From Afar"

by Roman Cuba Brown,

GFS LA Fellow

(April 2020, Spring Video Challenge)

"Happy Birthday"

by Yeneca Kim,

GFS LA Fellow

(2019, GFS 101 Non- Dialogue Film) 

Relationship with GFS


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Bronx, NY 10454


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info@ghettofilm.org or call 


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