The fund honors Rucker, the former producer and development executive at Madison Wells who was committed to inclusivity in the industry. Rucker passed away late last year after nurturing the careers and stories of playwrights Minhal Baig and Molly Smith Metzler, directors Haifaa al-Mansour and Tina Mabry, novelist Emma Straub and several others. She’s credited with advocating for new talent, especially creatives from underrepresented backgrounds.
The organizations will hold the first-ever New Voices: The Melissa Rucker Conversations on Thursday to raise money for the Ghetto Film School Melissa Rucker Fellows Fund. Madison Wells’ founder Gigi Pritzker will moderate with writer-artist Ricardo Gamboa, Karen Horne (WarnerMedia) and Rishi Rajani (Hillman Grad Productions) as they discuss ways to support and encourage young filmmakers. Access to the panel is invitation only.
The Melissa Rucker Fellows Fund aims to raise $60,000, which will cover the cost of the three-year Ghetto Film School Fellow Program for two students. Students in the program receive more than 1,000 hours of immersive, college-level cinematic storytelling training and mentoring in preparation to advance their education at elite universities. Madison Wells will match donations up to $30,000, through Nov. 26.
“The light Melissa shined was incredibly bright, and she was particularly passionate about nurturing young talent. This partnership perfectly encapsulates what she was dedicated to achieving and it is an honor to partner with Madison Wells in order to keep her memory alive. Our students are incredibly lucky to have supporters that continually show their dedication to enhancing the voices of diverse and young artists,” said Montea Robinson, Ghetto Film School executive director.
“After Melissa passed away, so many friends, colleagues and family came together to figure out how we could make sure that her memory and legacy lived on,” said Madison Wells executive Abby Pucker. “When collectively thinking about what was important to Melissa, personally and professionally, supporting diverse, emerging talent was the common thread between all of our collective experiences of Melissa. We couldn’t think of a better partner than Ghetto Film School in the pursuit of honoring Melissa’s memory and supporting the next generation of storytellers.”
Ghetto Film School was founded in 2000 to educate, develop and celebrate the next generation of great American storytellers. It operates in New York City, Los Angeles and London, offering a free education to all of its students. Madison Wells partners with creatives to bring underrepresented stories to life, including Broadway musicals “Million Dollar Quartet” and “Hadestown,” National Geographic’s limited series “Genius” and Chicago-based immersive art experience “Nevermore Park.”