As part of an ongoing partnership with the Ghetto Film School (GFS), an award-winning nonprofit with locations in New York City, Los Angeles and London, the 2021 Summer Residency program offered two one-week sessions that provided a diverse group of high schoolers with aspirations to work in film or television the opportunity to learn more about directing while also offering them the chance to experience what it’s like to be a residential student on Montclair State’s scenic campus.
This year’s residency, led by School of Communication and Media Professor Stuart MacLelland, helped the high school students to become more confident and experienced directors through extensive training and producing a range of scenes as final projects. A signature component of this program was its collaboration with the University’s Theatre program, as a cohort of current Theatre students served as the actors for these scenes, giving high school students the opportunity to work with exceptional talent and share ideas through the creative process. Montclair film and television students also worked with this program as teaching assistants, aiding both in scene work as well as providing mentorship on their experiences as college students and aspiring media professionals. At the end of each week-long session, GFS student directors presented and screened their work for an audience of their peers and actors as well as faculty, staff and supporters of the program.
One of those supporters is Matthew Hiltzik, president/CEO of Hiltzik Strategies and an advisory board member for both the School of Communication and Media and Ghetto Film School. Hiltzik has long supported these two organizations and the opportunity for them to work together to create more opportunities to grow diversity in the film and entertainment industry.
“I saw that there was this opportunity to marry this incredible program for high school students with a program at the university level that has world-class facilities and faculty with such great experience, all in a wonderful community like Montclair,” Hiltzik says.
Karen Horne ’85, senior vice president of Enterprise Inclusion for WarnerMedia and a member of the School’s advisory board, saw the clear opportunity to help support the residency’s critical mission of diversity and inclusion in film and television through this collaboration. Because of that, she spearheaded WarnerMedia’s financial support of this residency, fiscal support that allowed the program to provide a fully residential and comprehensive academic experience.
“My support of Ghetto Film School is very much in line with my role at WarnerMedia, which is to provide pathways for those traditionally underrepresented voices to have a voice in our industry,” notes Horne. “My goal is to make sure that people recognize that Montclair State is amongst the best film and media schools in the country.”
Ghetto Film School equips students for top universities and careers in the creative industries through two tracks: an introductory education program for high school students and early-career support for alumni and young professionals. It partners with leaders in arts, education and business to push the culture forward on issues of inclusion and creativity. According to its website, some 55% of its students are Hispanic, 35% are Black and 92% of its students attend college on schedule with 78% pursuing creative professions upon graduation.
“The Montclair State staff has done a great job of creating a curriculum that really responds to our students’ education level, their ambitions as storytellers but most specifically as directors,” says Ghetto Film School Los Angeles Executive Director Montea Robinson.
School of Communication and Media Director Keith Strudler says the Summer Residency program is “an example of the potential of education to be transformative to individuals while also achieving broader, societal goals.”
“The work being done by talented professionals both at Montclair State and Ghetto Film School has made this program the success that it is,” says Strudler. “It’s not only ensuring this group of talented, diverse, aspiring storytellers continue their journeys, but it also helps the future of film and television to become a brighter, better version of itself.”