Hollywood veterans Cheryl Boone Isaacs and Peter Murrieta are optimistic that “so much is possible” in the future as Hollywood and the entertainment industry at large expand, making room for more diverse stories and perspectives across the board.
Murrieta and Boone Isaacs spoke at an event Thursday to announce the recent launch of Arizona State University’s Sidney Poitier New American Film School, a program that opened earlier this year in downtown Los Angeles in the iconic former Los Angeles Herald Examiner building was launched on Broadway and 11th Street. Boone Isaacs is Founding Director of the Poitier School while Murrieta serves as Associate Director and Professor of Practice. The two joined several other faculty members to discuss how Hollywood can grow its business and audience base by making strides in inclusion and representation during a panel on the future of film education.
Boone Isaacs and Murrieta emphasized the importance of providing film education with enough hands-on experience to prepare students to break into production and related entry-level positions.
“It’s no longer enough to take a student from a high school to a community college to try and pass the baton to a four-year degree. You need to answer the question, how does this help me get a job? How is that supposed to help?” said Murrieta.
Before becoming the showrunner of popular shows like Disney’s Wizards of Waverly Place and Netflix’s Mr. Iglesias,” Murrieta worked her way up as a writer on numerous TV shows. He landed his first shot in 2002 to create his own show “Greetings From Tucson” for the now-defunct WB Network. The air in the industry was different at the time, he told the crowd.
Hispanic representation was suddenly on the rise at this time, Murrieta recalled. “Tucson” was inspired by his life in Arizona. Showtime had the drama series Resurrection Boulevard while George Lopez had a family comedy sitcom on ABC. It finally seemed like a change was on the horizon.
“In 2002-2003 there was this real feeling of ‘this is about to happen,'” Murrieta recalled. “We waited, we gathered strength and speed. We are about to do it.”
The sentiment was short-lived, however, as the shows aired within the next year or so — all with the exception of “George Lopez,” which ran for six seasons through 2007.
“It was for a while. Then another wave came and then it went away. And at some point it occurred to me that even though we’re attacking the business in a way to get representation, there must be another way,” Murrieta said.
The lack of representation led to what Poitier’s school leaders are calling a “cultural emergency”. Professors Alex Rivera and Christina Ibarra cited a recent study by the Latino Donor Collaborative showing that Latinos make up less than 4% of the industry’s showrunners. For directors, the figure is less than 3%. On the cable side, Latino representation is even lower — nearly 0% across all categories.
Murrieta’s work, which also includes writing and producing on shows like ABC’s short-lived Cristela and the Netflix/pop-TV revival One Day at a Time. Most recently, he is developing a project close to his lineage, Blood & Gold: The Legend of Joaquin Murrieta, which he co-wrote as part of his first-look deal with Universal Television. Murrieta’s desire to give other filmmakers access to the same springboard opportunities is also what inspired him to join the team at ASU alongside his busy career as a sought-after showrunner.
“This idea that if we’re not going to be able to take over Hollywood in this other way — well, that’s fine. Then I go somewhere and just raise an army that keeps coming as hundreds and hundreds come,” Murrieta said.
ASU’s plan begins first by expanding the curriculum to include instruction in all areas of filmmaking, including music and design, and to allow more people to access a four-year degree in film. In addition to building a close relationship with ASU’s Herberger Institute for Design and the Arts and the music school, students are offered several other paths to success.
“The film has great composers and great songs, many of which we remember,” said Boone Isaacs, a former top executive at Paramount Pictures and past president of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences. “Most young people think, ‘Oh, I love music. i love noises I’m going to go into the music business, which is so great and wonderful. But we want to train them for many professions within the sound.”
In addition to expanding the curriculum, Boone Isaacs shared that the school is partnering with several community colleges to create a program that will give more community college graduates the opportunity to earn a bachelor’s degree.
“We all know that there are many curves in life. There are many situations where you turn right when you thought you were going to turn left. We love showing our students the industry experts who talk about the obstacles they’ve been through, the challenges they’ve had,” said Boone Isaacs. “But at the end of the day, it’s the determination, the passion, the love for what you want to do and learn that drives you. and [students] become successful — their own definition of successful, not someone else’s.”
(Picture above: Cheryl Boone Isaacs)
https://variety.com/2022/biz/news/asu-sidney-poitier-school-cheryl-boone-isaacs-peter-murrieta-1235396464/ The leaders of the ASU Sidney Poitier Film School describe the offerings of the LA program