Hollywood and the education system have been intertwined for years, with celebrities and industry companies long writing checks and forming philanthropic partnerships to pass on to the next generation. However, later this year, Hollywood took a new step in changing the school system: creating its own school system.
The Roybal School of Film and Television Production, whose board includes George Clooney, Grant Heslov, Don Cheadle, Kerry Washington, Mindy Kaling, Nicole Avant, Eva Longoria, Tim Bevan and Eric Fellner of Working Title, and Bryan Lourd of CAA, is announced in June, with plans to welcome high school students starting next fall.
And Jimmy Iovine and Dr. Dre – who founded USC Jimmy Iovine and Andre Young Academy for Arts, Technology and Business of Innovation (IYA) in 2013 – will open a public high school in South LA in 2022. LeBron James also has his own school in Ohio, Sean Combs is behind three Capital Preparatory schools in New York, and Pharrell Williams has plans to open one in Virginia.
Clooney and production partner Heslov pitched the idea to Roybal after a conversation with Fellner and Lourd about ways to bring better diversity to lower Hollywood jobs. “There are a lot of kids in Los Angeles, the heart of Hollywood, who don’t even realize that a visual effects job exists because they weren’t given the opportunity,” says Clooney. As a result, his team worked with the Los Angeles Unified School District to design a specialized school (starting with students in grades 9 and 10 before expanding into grades 11 and 12) for students in communities Underserved have a path to work in the manufacturing sector through education, internships and valuable industry connections.
“We didn’t want this to be a gimmicky version of this, we didn’t want it necessarily to be acting, writing, or directing,” Clooney said of Hollywood’s focus on the behind-the-scenes “but you really do a really good life at. And if it goes well, he has the idea of bringing the same model to other major filming cities like New York, Atlanta, and New Orleans.
With so many projects in production these days, Clooney says, “There’s a lot of work in editing, visual effects, makeup and hairdressing that we can approach. Why not approach it with all this young talent we have in our own backyard? It’s ridiculous that we don’t.”
Clooney and Heslov are helping design the curriculum and spearhead fundraising, and are talking to every studio, streamer, network and union involved – as Clooney jokes, “I’m really good at bribery everyone”. On a more serious note, “They want to be able to say they are part of the solution to this kind of #OscarsSoWhite argument; they want to be part of the solution,” added the star. Clooney and Heslov are also interested in teaching, and other names (such as Joel Coen) have expressed similar interest. “It was one of the things we were most excited about, being able to come and be able to spend time with the kids,” says Heslov.
The school is also part of LAUSD’s larger mission to focus on real-world jobs and career readiness. “When it comes to the nuances of film and television, we don’t have any knowledge of that,” and ultimately, they don’t, said senior director of general manager’s office Jared DuPree. can tell us about graduation requirements as it relates to A to G readiness. So we both need each other”.
Iovine and Dre’s IYA has played a similar role in the community, providing innovative education at USC through undergraduate and graduate programs that build on the skills they both have learned in their careers. their music and the Beats By Dre collaboration.
“It’s really a big solution, as far as we’re concerned,” Iovine said. “We are doing the right foundation, which is helping our children get better education and be healthier overall. It’s also an area we’re passionate about, it’s a combination of art and technology, which we feel is the future of the workforce. And we feel like we owe the inner city a lot and we want to do the right thing there.”
That mission will soon be expanded with the upcoming high school, a Leimert Park magnet temporarily called Zone 1 High School — also in partnership with LAUSD — that will utilize a curriculum of design, business, and technology. their integration to teach the next generation of innovators. And over the next few years, Iovine hopes to continue to grow their educational model, both in and out of LA.
“We are old fashioned record producers. We focus on what you’re doing at the time, and you get it right, and then you can make the rest of it,” said the longtime music director. “It took us eight to nine years to build the right academy, and now we are ready to move on to a high school, and then we want to scale up the high school, and we also are looking at other cities. We just want to do the right model.”
And while not everyone can start school, other Hollywood figures are prominent donors to existing institutions. Chuck Lorre has donated millions of dollars to STEM education through the Big Bang Scholars program at UCLA and the Young Sheldon initiatives in LA and Texas, and in 2020, providing food scarcity grants to LA public schools and local charities totaling more than $1.5 million. Will.i.am’s i.am Angel Foundation also partnered with LAUSD to bring robotics learning to 12,000 Boyle Heights students. And in 2019, the CAA partnered with LAUSD to help further public education initiatives.
As LAUSD charter schools, Iovine and Dre and Roybal Highs represent a shift in Hollywood’s support for education, which in recent years has tended to focus on advocating for charter schools. create. (Netflix’s Reed Hastings has donated millions to support regulators.) That’s important, said public education advocate and former producer Tracy Abbott. “I am relieved to see that Dre, Iovine and Clooney did not choose the path of an investor-driven charter school, funded with public dollars but privately managed. I’m pretty sure a charter school executive with inflated salaries would be counterproductive to their goals,” said Abbott. “Then there is the fact that teachers and charter staff mostly do not have collective bargaining. In an important era of equity and social justice, magnets make even more sense.”
As IYA dean Thanassis Rikakis said: “The Hollywood saying, ‘We can do better, and we have the knowledge, we have the resources, we have the partners to do better, ‘ is a saying that really brings out the best in society because it creates aspiration. They don’t just go out and give speeches and then go home; [they’re saying,] ‘We are putting everything we have – our knowledge, our time, our money – to not let too many people fail in education.’ “
This story first appeared in the November 22 issue of The Hollywood Reporter. Click here to subscribe.