create / 2014

Mobilize LA’s Youth: Eco-friendly digital media bus equips kids to be the creative workforce in LA

Idea submitted in the My LA2050 Maker Challenge by Mobile Film Classroom

Mobilize the diverse creativity of LA’s youth with a new eco-friendly digital media bus to sustain LA as the creative capital of the world.


Please describe yourself.

Collaboration (partners are signed up and ready to hit the ground running!)

In one sentence, please describe your idea or project.

Mobilize the diverse creativity of LA’s youth with a new eco-friendly digital media bus to sustain LA as the creative capital of the world.

Which area(s) of LA does your project benefit?

  • Central LA
  • East LA
  • South LA
  • San Gabriel Valley
  • San Fernando Valley
  • South Bay
  • Westside
  • LA Area Probation Camps

What is your idea/project in more detail?

In one year, with only one bus, the Mobile Film Classroom got 350 kids on board to learn how to work in teams to write, shoot and edit their stories using digital media. Imagine a Los Angeles in 2050 where every kid is the creator of their own story, no matter their gender, ethnicity or socio-economic status. To double our impact, we’ll equip a second, eco-friendly production studio-on-wheels that travels into under-resourced LA communities to serve kids who don’t have access to technology or industry mentors, to help them build the critical thinking, collaboration, listening, time management and problem solving skills that they’ll need to be the innovative leaders who will sustain Los Angeles as the creative capital of the world.

What will you do to implement this idea/project?

We will work with an industry partner to purchase and retrofit an RV into an eco-friendly digital media classroom that runs on biodiesel and has a solar powered generator. This will allow us to more than double the number of kids we serve in a year and expand our geographical reach. Our programs are well tested and beyond the pilot stage so having the physical resource a new, cost effective vehicle will shift us into high gear on our mission to use this LA program as a model and incubator for digital media programs across the country.

How will your idea/project help make LA the best place to CREATE today? In 2050?

A more creative LA happens when all our kids get to work on a project that is their own idea, one that they write, film and edit and see through to completion. It happens when they get positive feed back and recognition from an audience when their finished film is screened. It happens when kids realize they have something to offer. A new eco-friendly production studio-on-wheels that brings media arts instruction to at risk and under-resourced youth will help Los Angeles be the best place to create by making sure this happens in every corner of LA. As the second largest city and school system in the US, LA serves as a microcosm of the challenges faced across the country, its demographic changes represent the changing face of America. Hispanics and African Americans make up over 80% of the school age population but have the least access to the technology and skills required to thrive in a diverse and creative workforce. It’s commonplace to find in local high schools, one laptop cart with 20 computers per 600 students. In this city of over 268,000 millionaires, the entertainment capital of the world, the disparity between neighborhoods that are 15 miles south of the Hollywood sign and the ones just north, is a waste of human capital we can’t afford. LA is losing good paying creative jobs to states like Georgia, Louisiana, New York and New Mexico. Film Industry professionals and their Guilds are answering the State’s call to diversify their membership if they want to see an increase in film incentives by reaching out to programs like ours who help develop the next generation of the creative workforce. Using our up-to-date equipment and software, industry mentors encourage students to express themselves through the process of making a film. Kids engage in a way that fosters creativity and requires critical thinking, collaboration, listening, time management and creative problem-solving skills. A 2006 Ready to Work Study found 72% of employers said that creativity is the number one skill they seek when hiring. Los Angeles can be a leader and a model for a the rest of the country by investing in all our kids, no matter what their zip code, to prepare them to think creatively and to imagine things that have yet to come into existence. Our youth are our greatest resource and we need to foster their talent and celebrate the diversity their voices bring to our media landscape if we want to sustain Los Angeles as the creative media capital in 2050.

Whom will your project benefit?

Because our program challenges students to create stories around issues in their community, it will benefit all of Los Angeles. They’re not just making a fun movie, they’re making a fun movie with a message. It opens kids up to the world around them and helps them find their voice and discover ways to engage and affect change within their own communities. It also benefits foster and incarcerated teens like Ebony and Kamonie. Abandoned by her mother and shoved into foster care, Ebony hid under a hoodie. But when asked on camera what she wanted to be, she whispered “a poet.” The poem she wrote for her mom became the basis of her film, “Need You”. Ebony’s counselor said that in the month she’d worked on the bus, she’d finally begun to speak up in therapy. Through the medium of film, Ebony found her voice.

The Mobile Film Classroom doesn’t just give kids a voice, it also gives them life skills and job training. The process of making a film fosters creativity and requires critical thinking, collaboration, listening, time management and problem solving skills. In a world where video is employed more and more by businesses, giving marketable job skills to kids that often have trouble finding employment, benefits our greater economy. As director, our student Kamonie, collaborated with his team to write and shoot a film about growing up around gangs and making mistakes; with the message their past should not predict their future. But when got to editing, Kamonie said, “I can’t do this.” We showed him how. His team finished a day early so he had time to teach other kids how to edit. He went from “I can’t” to “let me show you how.”

Kids like Ebony and Kamonie, have gone on to re-engage in school and in their future. A twenty-twelve study by the National Endowment for the Arts, found that kids who participate in the arts are five times more likely to graduate from high school than their peers who don’t. Less dropouts and more kids that feel they have worth benefits themselves, their families and communities.

Please identify any partners or collaborators who will work with you on this project.

This year we are partnering with the County of Los Angeles Public library at 4 libraries in East Los Angeles to provide afterschool filmmaking workshops. We’ve worked with the County Library since 2011. Another ongoing partnership is with the non profit Hollywood Heart, that provides arts training to LA area at risk youth, including a Summer arts camp for teens impacted by HIV/AIDS. This August we’ll be leading our 5 documentary film workshop with them since 2012. We’ve partnered with Green Dot Public Schools, leading two workshops at their Animo South LA High School campus, The City of Los Angeles Public Library, LA’s Best, The Geena Davis Institute for Gender in Media, LACOE Juvenile Court Schools at Pacific Lodge and Camp David Gonzales, Aviva Center, LAUSD, Malibu Boys and Girls Club. We have been in discussion with industry partners to help us purchase, customize and equip a new eco friendly digital media bus. We’ve had support of a leading production vehicle company as they supplied parking and maintenance support for our current vehicle since 2012. These potential partners bring expertise in designing production vehicles, state of the art video and editing equipment and software and entertainment professionals that mentor our students in the most current trends in the industry. What has made these collaborations work is our flexibility in programming (we customize the projects to fit the interests of that organization), our mobility to provide access to technology and a shared belief in the need to help all LA kids express their creativity as a way of strengthening communities.

How will your project impact the LA2050 “Create” metrics?

  • Employment in creative industries
  • Minority- and women-owned firms
  • Gini coefficient
  • Measures of cultural and global economic influence (“soft power”) (Dream Metric)
  • Recruiting and retention rates at local higher education institutions (Dream Metric)
  • Percentage of graduates from local higher education institutions that remain in LA County 5 years after graduating (Dream Metric)
  • Unemployment rates (and opportunities) for the formerly incarcerated (Dream Metric)

Please elaborate on how your project will impact the above metrics.

As the second largest city and school system in the US, LA serves as a microcosm of the challenges faced across the country, its demographic changes represent the changing face of America. Hispanics and African Americans make up over 80% of the school age population but have the least access to the technology and skills required to thrive in a diverse and creative workforce. It’s commonplace to find in local high schools, one laptop cart with 20 computers per 600 students. In this city of over 268,000 millionaires, the entertainment capital of the world, the disparity between neighborhoods that are 15 miles south of the Hollywood sign and the ones just north, is a waste of human capital we can’t afford. LA is losing good paying creative jobs to states like Georgia, Louisiana, New York and New Mexico. Film Industry professionals and their Guilds are answering the State’s call to diversify their membership if they want to see an increase in film incentives by reaching out to programs like ours who help develop the next generation of the creative workforce. Using our up-to-date equipment and software, industry mentors encourage students to express themselves through the process of making a film. Kids engage in a way that fosters creativity and requires critical thinking, collaboration, listening, time management and creative problem-solving skills. A 2006 Ready to Work Study found 72% of employers said that creativity is the number one skill they seek when hiring. Los Angeles can be a leader and a model for a the rest of the country by investing in all our kids, no matter what their zip code, to prepare them to think creatively and to imagine things that have yet to come into existence. Our youth are our greatest resource and we need to foster their talent and celebrate the diversity their voices bring to our media landscape if we want to sustain Los Angeles as the creative media capital in 2050.

Please explain how you will evaluate your project.

We will use pre and post surveys to measure student interest and acquisition of skills and knowledge. We will also document the process on film and conduct on camera testimonials. We track our students after they graduate and enter local community colleges. Several recent MFC students who have gone on to study film at UCLA, El Camino and Santa Monica Community Colleges have come back to us to mentor youth. We will work with local universities and also the industry guilds to track employment within the industry.

What two lessons have informed your solution or project?

  1. Schools are under-resourced when it comes to technology, the ability to keep it up to date and arts teachers to foster student creativity. Our production vehicle with up to date technology and gifted mentors provides a cost effective and flexible way to reach kids that often are left behind.

  2. trusting that every kid is creative and can succeed if given the right tools and instruction.

Explain how implementing your project within the next twelve months is an achievable goal.

We have been in discussion with all the relevant partners and many of the sponsors over the course of this past year. Our experience with running our existing MFC will streamline the process of determining the best way to meet the needs of the kids we serve, which equipment and software to lease or buy. To purchase, customize and equip a new eco friendly RV will only take a few months and, with the help of $100,000 from LA2050, would be ready to hit the road by Summer 2015 to serve our expanding list of clients.

Please list at least two major barriers/challenges you anticipate. What is your strategy for ensuring a successful implementation?

With one bus we were able to introduce the world of technology, collaboration and storytelling to 350 kids last year. With a 2nd bus we could double that number. To do so we need to find the resources and the money to fund this $150,000 project. This would not be any ordinary bus; it would be the calling card to our organization. It would be eco-friendly, running on bio-diesel when in motion and solar-powered when stationary. Inside would be state of the art technology for our budding young filmmakers. This bus would be unique to our organization and generate excitement and interest and significantly raise our PR profile. Its environmental impact would be minimal, but our social impact would be huge.

The board of directors has made this goal its number one priority. We are seeking out and speaking with organizations within the LA entertainment community that have the resources to assist in outfitting such a vehicle. We are organizing fund-raisers and we set aside money from the fees we generate for our services. We are also writing grant applications. No doubt we will succeed. It is just a function of time and resources. With an immediate monetary gain such as LA 2050 can provide that time frame would be greatly reduced and make it easier to raise additional funds, enabling us to start working with more kids that much sooner.

Our 2nd challenge is managing our limited resources and growing our staff. We must deftly prioritize our efforts. By expanding the Board of Directors, establish relationships with corporations, grow our list of volunteers and find more partner organizations we will see growth. We will continue to reach out and grow our volunteer base. We are spearheading an effort to tie our program into the new common-core educational standards, making us more viable to LAUSD arts expansion. We are working with a partner organization called Hollywood Heart. They have been instrumental in not only using our services but also introducing us to other organizations, helping us become a larger part of the LA arts scene and not-for profit community. Working with more partner organizations should, in the near term, pay the biggest dividends and allowing us to slowly expand and add to our capabilities. This recalls the old adage: Which came first the chicken or the egg? In our case we will continue to juggle both the chicken and the egg at the same time.

What resources does your project need?

  • Network/relationship support
  • Money (financial capital)
  • Volunteers/staff (human capital)
  • Publicity/awareness (social capital)
  • Infrastructure (building/space/vehicles, etc.)
  • Technical infrastructure (computers, etc.)
  • Community outreach
  • Quality improvement research