The Academy of Motion Picture Arts & Sciences hosted its third annual careers in film summit on Saturday in Beverly Hills in an effort to inspire and educate the next generation of filmmakers.
“It is the beginning for a lot of dreams and clarity for students; today is both a reality check and a day of inspiration,” Randy Haberkamp, the managing director of preservation and foundation programs for the Academy, told Variety.
“The important part is seeing audience reactions and hearing the buzz of their ideas in the hall,” he went on, smiling. “To see people sitting all day with stars in their eyes it makes you stop thinking about bad news and start thinking about possibilities.”
Haberkamp acknowledged the current tension in Hollywood regarding Harvey Weinstein and said that in times like these, stories are necessary “to measure whether we feel we’re being true to ourselves or whether we’re challenging ourselves.” He continued, “When you step into someone else’s shoes, you realize what humanity really means, as opposed to what it ends up looking like across the front page of a newspaper.”
Bettina Fisher, director of education initiatives at the Academy, added that the goal of the summit is not only to encourage aspiring directors, writers, actors, and producers, but to introduce students interested in the film industry to “under the radar” careers and spark a passion in those who didn’t realize that a place for them exists in Hollywood.
“The light has been shown on a very dark subject,” Fisher told Variety, referencing sexual misconduct in Hollywood. “I believe, now that people are more aware and people are being brave, that this generation will stand up for its rights and that this will not be something that’s the norm. I always felt that film takes you away from darkness. You’re able to learn something and be transported into another space.”
“We need people to come and feel like the film industry is something that is obtainable for those who may have not thought that they could get in to the film industry,” Fisher continued.
Eva Longoria, who was on the first panel of the day, “Working Above the Line,” told Variety that directing is her greatest passion. “I love putting together the entire project, not just being one part of it,” she said. Longoria is currently directing an episode of “The Mick” in addition to an episode of “Black-ish,” which she has helmed in the past. “Now that I’m behind the camera and above the line,” she said, “I’m just as much learning from [other participants on my panel] as I am speaking to these kids today.”
Longoria joined writer-director Haifaa al-Mansour (“Wadjda”), actress Wendi McLendon-Covey (“The Goldbergs”), writer-director Matt Reeves (“War for the Planet of the Apes”), writer John Ridley (“12 Years a Slave”), director Patricia Riggen (“The 33”), and producer Nina Yang Bongiovi (“Fruitvale Station”) to answer questions from panel moderator Mike Muse, millennial entrepreneur champion of the U.S. Small Business Administration’s My Brother’s Keeper initiative.
When the floor opened for an audience Q&A, students eagerly lined up to gain firsthand advice from some of their heroes.
“I wish I went to things like this [growing up],” Longoria told Variety. “I just learned on the job and navigated my own way. Had I heard or seen women like me doing what I wanted to do, maybe I would have done it quicker.”