We couldn’t root for any minority actors on Oscar night, because for the second year in a row, none are nominated. Black directors were also left out.
This red carpet mitote may seem like it has nothing to do with us. But it does. Los Angeles is the worldwide center of cinema, TV and video production. Plenty of our kids want to be part of it.
The Oscars are a symptom of a bigger problem: the movies don’t reflect us. That affects how our kids feel about themselves, their place in the world and their chances.
Remember “Akeelah and the Bee?” It was a hit movie back in 2006. It’s about an 11-year-old black girl from South LA who becomes a spelling champ.
“At first, Akeelah looks at the spelling bee and doesn’t see anybody who looks like her. So she thinks, ‘that’s not for me.’ It was a signal she wasn’t invited,” says Doug Atchison, the film’s writer and director. Atchison, who is white, believes kids of color continue to be excluded from film, partly because they don’t learn about the arts in school.
“An absence of arts programs is exclusion. The arts, music, film, those are a language. Kids are bursting with stories to tell, but they need the language to tell it.”
Right now, there’s a big push at LAUSD to change that.
Alyson Reed, an actress known for her role as Mrs. Darbus in “High School Musical,” is part of it. Reed matches up schools and movie studios.
“We’re putting together mentorships for every part of the industry, including craft services, wardrobe, makeup. We want to show kids there are a range of opportunities in the industry. Most kids only see the stars and think that’s it.”
27 year old Roberto Alejandro never wanted to be a star, but he did want to work in TV and film — and he made it. Roberto, who went to LAUSD’s Alexander Hamilton High, got started at Inner City Filmmakers, a non-profit that teaches kids about cinema for free.
“I had to write, shoot and edit a three-minute film,” he said. “I wasn’t the most motivated person in school, but that film made me think ‘maybe I could do something.’”
First, Roberto had to overcome a family obstacle. He needed to build film credits, but he had to start with projects that didn’t pay. He didn’t want his parents to know that.
“My parents are immigrants. They were like ‘Don’t do it if you’re not getting anything in return.’ They’re from a completely different world. So I didn’t always tell them about the film projects that weren’t paying.”
Parental skepticism about arts and entertainment careers is natural. But don’t let that caution get in the way of your kids education.
“Your kid doesn’t have to be a conductor or a violinist, but arts education will prepare them for the complexities in the coming decades,” says Jonathan Zeichner, Executive Director of A Place Called Home. APCH provides a long list of services to families in some of LA’s most crowded, low-income zip codes.
There’s a waiting list of 700 kids to get into APCH. But there are hundreds of off-campus programs in LA that provide arts education, many at reduced or no cost. To find the right program for your son or daughter, you’ll have to do the legwork yourself. There’s no website, hotline or office that provides a complete, comprehensive list or a searchable database. Here are a few online resources that can help you get started:
LA County Arts Commission
Los Angeles Cultural Affairs Department
William Grant Stills Arts Center
Watts Towers Arts Center
Inner City Arts
Mobile Film Classroom
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