David O. Russell, director of “The Fighter,” organized some other shout-outs while he was being honored at the Ghetto Film School’s Seventh Annual Spring Benefit.
Russell, a board member and guest lecturer at the school, which trains young people in narrative filmmaking, accepted the GFS Champion Award while standing under the trees in the Standard Hotel’s Biergarten last night.
Then he asked Blake Lively and Melissa Leo to read aloud the names of more than 50 others associated with the school.
Lively, in a short Marchesa skirt, began with board chairman Greg D’Alba, CNN executive vice president and chief operating officer for advertising sales. Leo noted Mark Wahlberg, her co-star in “The Fighter,” which earned her an Oscar for best supporting actress. Lively ended with Andres Santiago, program coordinator for the Cinema School, the public high school the Ghetto Film School opened two years ago.
“Now we’re going to read the names of every student who ever went to a Ghetto Film School program,” Russell joked, as waiters in plaid vests quietly served steak and branzino paired with Andre Balazs Sunset Beach Reserve Rose.
Several students had already come up to the lectern to accept scholarships from celebrities including Marisa Tomei, Luis Guzman and Sanaa Lathan. The school seeks to increase the representation of blacks and Latinos in the film and advertising industries. Two alumni were recently hired by the advertising firm Wieden+Kennedy.
“We learn from them,” said the managing director of Wieden+Kennedy’s New York office, Neal Arthur.
The school runs a 15-month program that culminates with a filmmaking trip abroad; this year the students are going to Shanghai. At the Cinema School, students take all the regular high-school subjects as well as a film class.
Awaiting Next ‘Transformers’
The gala’s guests had plenty of time to do what so many Biergarten customers do on a typical night: hang out and talk about movies. Russell said he’s looking forward to the next “Transformers” as well as “Bad Teacher” with Cameron Diaz and Justin Timberlake. He also had some viewing suggestions for Ghetto Film School students including “Heaven Can Wait” and “French Connection.”
As for his contributions to the school, “Here’s what I do,” Russell explained. “I say to people, ‘Bring it! Tell me your movie.’ I tell the whole class, let’s do it right now, and let’s not be precious about it.
“I call it ‘spitball without shame.’ We get the ideas on the table and then I tell them what I think. It’s about storytelling and craft, that’s where the rubber meets the road.”
(Amanda Gordon is a writer and photographer for Muse, the arts and leisure section of Bloomberg News. Any opinions expressed are her own.)