When Loren Bouchard mentions his job to a small crowd of high school students, their applause is thunderous. He's the creator of Bob's Burgers, Fox's hit animated series about a family that runs a hamburger restaurant. On a Wednesday afternoon in Playa Vista, Bouchard is sitting on a panel of film and television professionals explaining their jobs and how they got them to the handful of teens who are part of this summer's Film2Future program. He dropped out of high school, he tells them, and was working as a bartender when he ran into an old teacher who offered him a job at his new company. “I was lost and I got really lucky,” says Bouchard. Through that job, he worked on the early-’90s cult TV series Dr. Katz: Professional Therapist. Then he kept working on different shows through different networks until Bob's Burgers became a reality.
Throughout this panel session, the students hear not just from the hit TV series creator but from people who work behind the scenes, in areas such as development and marketing. They're learning that there's more to entertainment than writing, directing and acting, and that there are job opportunities to suit their myriad talents.
It may seem like kids in Los Angeles have a leg up on the competition for Hollywood jobs, but that's not the case. The road to any kind of film career may be filled with obstacles. How do you make connections when you can't afford to be an intern? How do you build a portfolio or reel when you don't have computer access? If the steps needed to break into entertainment aren't accessible, how can you even try to climb toward the summit?
“Hollywood, let's be honest, is a system for wealthy white kids,” Rachel Miller, founder of Film2Future, says by phone prior to the start of the summer session. “If there's no pipeline, there's no way in.”
Miller grew up in Los Angeles and fell for film as a teenager. “It changed my life,” she says. Ultimately, she became a founding partner at the management/production company Haven Entertainment. One of the goals of the nonprofit Film2Future is to take a proactive approach to combating Hollywood's frequently reported diversity problem with an intensive summer program for local youth.
Samata Narra, senior VP of comedy development and programming at Fox and a board member of Film2Future, echoes Miller's sentiments. “There's just not a pipeline for these unique and diverse voices,” she says by phone. “If you create a pipeline, they will come.”
Film2Future is working to build the “pipeline” for young people to find work in entertainment. Part of that is through the structure of the program. While there are events for the students at various times throughout the year, the crux of Film2Future is the summer session, which lasts two weeks. That gives the students an opportunity to learn without interfering too much with their other responsibilities, whether they're getting summer jobs or watching younger siblings. Film2Future provides transportation, a necessity for a group of teens who live across the county (one even commutes in from Riverside), as well as lunch. It also lends a hand to the students after the session ends by helping out with college essays and résumés. They link the students to professional mentors, who are there for the young people when the program is done. Plus, they work to get the 18-year-old students into paid internship programs. “That's part of the pipeline problem,” Miller says. “If you can't afford an internship to work for free, how are you going to get your foot in the door?”
“There's just not a pipeline for these unique and diverse voices … If you create a pipeline
This year's program is focused on animation, but the teens don't have to be aspiring visual artists to partake in it. Film2Future brings together all of the aspects necessary to bring a film or television series to life. “Animation, it takes an army. It's a huge, huge group of people that's required and so there are a lot of roles,” Bouchard says. That's everyone from the storyboard artist to the animator to the recording engineer and mixer.
Film2Future is now in its second summer and Miller notes that 90 percent of the students who attended last summer to learn about narrative filmmaking returned this summer to learn about animation. There are also eight new students. The goal is to make Film2Future a four-year program, essentially taking the students through their high school summers with courses on narrative filmmaking, animation, video games and VR/AR entertainment, and concluding with an internship. They'll finish each summer not just with knowledge but with work that they can show to college admissions departments and potential employers. In the first year, when narrative film was the focus, the students made live-action shorts. This time around, they'll produce their own animatics.
Jenna Flores is an 18-year-old Film2Future student from South El Monte. Last year, her drama teacher suggested she try out Film2Future. “I jumped in and fell in love with it, so I'm back,” she says.
Flores is interested in voice acting and directing animation, but she also wants to take in the various parts of the entertainment-making process. “I always knew that I wanted to do something in the film world, but I didn't know what,” she says. “I want to be very well-rounded.” Flores graduated high school the week before this year's Film2Future session started. She's set to start an internship before heading back to school.