Ghetto Film School Trains Its Lens on Hollywood’s Diversity Problem


Mr. Fernandes, for example, wrote the script he directed in Los Angeles: a story about a young male actor trying to get cast in a movie. In June, while he was in London, he used a video link to join a table read in New York attended by Academy Award-nominated directors and actors, who debated the movie’s premise. James Ivory, the writer and producer of “Call Me by Your Name,” warned that the story was a tragedy. The director of “Blindspotting,” Carlos López Estrada, said it was a comedy.

“It depends on how it’s shot,” said Sheril Antonio, a G.F.S. board member and senior associate dean for strategic initiatives at New York University. “The world has to be created.” (For the record, Mr. Fernandes said it was a comedy.)

G.F.S. has thrived with generous benefactors. In 2013, Mr. Hall asked Mr. Murdoch to speak to the June graduating class of the Cinema School, a Bronx high school founded by G.F.S. in 2009. Months later, the two men ran into each other at a party at the Monkey Bar for the premiere of David O. Russell’s “American Hustle.” Mr. Murdoch had a question for Mr. Hall: Why wasn’t G.F.S. in Los Angeles?

“James then made a donation to us that covered the cost to do a full research and evaluation,” Mr. Mintek said. “It was a personal donation.” (Neither G.F.S. nor Mr. Murdoch will say how much was donated, except that it totaled in the six figures.)

For six months, Mr. Hall and Mr. Mintek explored the feasibility of a Los Angeles program. “And somewhere in the middle of all that,” Mr. Mintek recalled, “Joe said, ‘Hey, by the way, if this thing actually happens, would you like to run it?’” Mr. Mintek said yes. In the spring of 2014, he and his wife, Dana, settled into a duplex in the Miracle Mile district.

The move was fortuitous. In January 2015, the controversy over #OscarsSoWhite roiled the entertainment industry after a majority of the Academy Award nominees that year were white. “It’s hard to know if it was a moment or a movement,” April Reign, who started the hashtag on Twitter, said in a recent interview. “But I obviously hope it is the latter.”

Suddenly, every studio executive was talking about how to bring underrepresented voices into the television and movie industry. G.F.S., for its part, already had a network of graduates. And because of Mr. Mintek’s proximity to Hollywood studios, he had established close relationships with corporate decision makers.


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