Above: Bernstein High School senior Jonathon Castorena shakes hands with Mayor Eric Garcetti during his third visit to the Hollywood campus.
In effort to grow the next generation of entertainment industry movers and shakers, Netflx has agreed to “adopt” Helen Bernstein High School, the relatively young campus in the heart of Hollywood, just across the 101 Freeway from the digital media powerhouse.
Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti approached the company about opening its doors and creating learning opportunities for promising students who are already right at their doorstep.
“We are making history,” the mayor said during a visit to the school. “Given the wealth of talent right here in this room – only steps away from Netflix headquarters – there is no better high school in America for this partnership to begin.”
Garcetti joined Ted Sarandos, Neflix chief content officer, in a “fireside chat” for an audience of 80 Bernstein students, many of whom aspire to work in entertainment. They highlighted the benefits of a partnership joining the District, city and the entertainment industry.
“We are grateful to industry leaders like Ted for their commitment to continue production right here in Hollywood,” Garcetti said. “After all, this is the birthplace of movies and television. It’s where the magic always happens and will continue to happen.”
Senior Wendy Rangel, who has dreams of becoming a screenwriter, was excited about the new opportunity.
“This is a huge step for Bernstein to be able to work with someone like Neflix,” Rangel said. “It gives us more incentive to pursue learning and practice with the kinds of things we are already passionate about.”
Like many high school seniors, Rangel is eager to hear whether she will be accepted by universities to which she applied. The chance to meet and work with people in her industry of choice is only heightening her excitement.
“A lot of students in Bernstein’s Cinematic Arts Pathway really want to learn about production, directing and screenwriting,” she said. “Having the chance to work with someone huge like Netflix … it just creates so many new opportunities and really motivates us to succeed.”
Students also viewed a “sizzle reel” of popular films and television shows produced and streamed by Netflix, and met with top-level Netflix employees, who explained what it took to bring those productions to the screen.
“We are thrilled to play a part in helping to grow the next generation of great storytellers,” Sarandos said. “We are always looking for ways to build bridges to our communities right here at home and and tap into the incredible talent that is right next door. These students have absolutely amazing potential and will be able to create new and better content than we ever could.”
Also in attendance was Interim Superintendent Vivian Ekchian, who expressed support for the partnership.
“As the cradle of the entertainment industry, Hollywood is such an appropriate arena to grow the next generation of professionals,” she said. “This partnership will bring new learning opportunities for our students and allow them to get hands-on preparation for a host of new and exciting career pathways.”
Derek Werthwein, who teaches video production at Bernstein, said the partnership will give a great boost to the school’s cinematic and visual arts program.
“Today, our students are already getting a sense of how production really works in the real world,” he said. “They are getting the chance to interact with the professionals who do the work they would love to be doing as a career.”
Werthwein said the partnership with Neflix will play a major role in expanding the hands-on learning model already in place at Bernstein.
“We already promote project-based learning, in which students are applying the concepts and skills they’re acquiring in real-world settings,” he said. “And, to have a sponsor like Netflix backing our program will help accelerate a lot of the exciting things we’re aiming to do.”
The cinematic arts pathway has been shifting more and more toward production of original content, Werthwein said. They are planning to hold a film festival later in the year that will showcase student work.
Bernstein will also open a new magnet in the fall, focusing on cinematic arts.
“I am almost sorry I am going to miss out on a lot of what is coming, because I am graduating soon,” Rangel said, smiling. “But I am really excited for my cousins who will be attending Bernstein next year, as they will be able to apply for the new magnet program and take advantage of the amazing things happening with Netflix.”
Werthwein added that he believes the partnership will benefit by tapping into the uniqueness of the community Bernstein serves.
“These students represent the next generation of storytelling,” he said. “This is a great example of a very urban community that needs a stronger voice in the world. This is a community that we need to hear more from. And, leveraging the power of Hollywood to get these authentic stories out there will take the industry to places it’s never been before.”
Garcetti noted that his administration this week launched the Evolve Entertainment Fund, an effort to promote diversity in the entertainment industry.
“Everyone has a unique story to tell, and we want more storytellers to come from this community,” he said. “We want to hear from more storytellers who look like the students in this room. We want the stories of our families to be heard.”