David O. Russell, the director of the popular films The Fighter, Silver Linings Playbook, American Hustle, and Joy, is a major force behind The Ghetto Film School, an institution in Harlem dedicated to filmmaking. This year, under the tutelage of Joe Hill, the Ghetto Film School teamed up with Glenholme School in Washington, Connecticut to teach the craft of filmmaking to special needs students. Said David O. Russell, a Glenholme boardmember, this collaboration came as a surprise. Last week at Glenholme's annual gala, at the Bryant Park Grill, Russell presented a special award to Joe Hill, founder of Ghetto Film School. The night reflecting something of a bromance of these two men dedicated to nurturing young talent and celebrating the next generation of great American storytellers.
Here's how Joe Hill explained his experience: "We've been friends for 14 years; I met Maryann Campbell, Glenholme's Executive Director. Last year we cooked up this idea. Glenholme has a great arts program. They weren't doing a whole lot with film and video so it seemed natural. I am always looking to partner.
"Parents always talk about this school changing their kids' lives. It's important for teenagers to see their work on the big screen and understand the decisions they made on all details involving their film. People say, 'David is the wind in our sails. Well no, he's also the boat.' He's benefitted thousands of kids in South Bronx and now in Los Angeles, opened in 2014.
"The way I hold him in my esteem is that he gave me a position and a job to do something meaningful. He built the big time supporters that we needed. For him to roll up his sleeves, in Hollywood this is rare. He brought in other filmmakers like Spike Jonze. And now factor into that the second organization, Glenholme--you re talking about two philanthropic endeavors that he has dramatically transformed."
Diners saw two short films, "Lemonade Stand" and "Security Camera." Digital Bodega (the production company run by Ghetto Film School alumnis) worked with Glenholme instructors on the curriculum that led to the development of the films. David O. Russell, who, for the record would not say a word about his current film projects, says about his work with students at these schools, "At the end of the day, all you want is your kid to be happy."
A version of this post also appears on Gossip Central.