Ghetto Film School Students Premiere Thesis Film at LA Screening Hosted by David O. Russell and Fox's Jim Gianopulos

Ghetto Film School Students Premiere Thesis Film at LA Screening Hosted by David O. Russell and Fox's Jim Gianopulos

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Thursday, October 29, 2015 - 7:00am

CAMPAIGN: Creativity & the Arts at 21st Century Fox

CONTENT: Article

Jim Gianopulos, 20th Century Fox Chairman and CEO, along with Academy Award-nominated director David O. Russell, hosted a special screening at the Hammer Museum in Los Angeles on October 26 for Demon's Gate, the thesis film from the first class of student fellows at Ghetto Film School LA. The MacArthur Park-based nonprofit teaches filmmaking to young people from traditionally underserved neighborhoods and was co-founded by 21st Century Fox in 2014, bringing the acclaimed Ghetto Film School curriculum to Los Angeles for the first time.

The event was the culmination of many months of work for the students, who started the project in January when they were first challenged to write 15-page scripts for films set in Tokyo. The class selected the script for Demon's Gate, by 19-year-old Alexi Gonzalez, and then spent 5 months researching, rewriting, and training for the week-long location shoot. Once shooting wrapped in Tokyo, they returned to LA to complete post-production with support from professional editors and artists.

The film is a nearly twenty-minute art house thriller, which Gonzalez says was influenced by Asian cinema such as Akira Kurosawa's Rashômon and Park Chan-wook's Oldboy. Russell described the film as "wildly imaginative, visual, tight, succinct, elegant, emotional, well scored, well-acted - extraordinary." He added, "I wasn't even on the starting block at your age."

Russell went on to describe the value that GFS provides for its students. Joe Hall founded the program in New York City's South Bronx in 2000, and since then, the organization has offered thousands of students from diverse backgrounds a means to gain hands on experience in film production and has given them a unique platform for creative expression.

"It's a wonderful gateway for everyone," said Russell, a board member at GFS and an active participant in many of the programs it offers. "It's a gateway for us to learn about the community these kids live in, and it's a gateway for them to start telling all of us their stories to bring everything they know into cinema."

Gonzalez, who is the first GFS student in history to serve as both writer and director of the thesis film, elaborated during an interview with Vice.

"My family comes from a Hispanic background--from Cuba and Ecuador on my mother's side, Columbia on my fathers," Gonzalez said. "I want to be a director for many reasons, but one of them is giving representation [to characters who are not] the stereotyped, sexualized Hispanic women of American movies."

After years of supporting the original GFS campus in the South Bronx, 21st Century Fox co-founded GFS LA in June 2014 and has dedicated its resources to enriching the students' film education, including offering private tours and visits to live sets on the Fox Studios Lot, inviting the students to insider screenings of Fox film premieres, and providing access to executives and creatives from across the Fox film and television businesses.

"If you want to become a storytellers, [GFS is] definitely your place," Gonzalez said. "You have to work harder than you've ever worked before, but there's so much respect and trust in the GFS family. It gave me so many opportunities."

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