A sophomore at the Roybal Film and Television Production Magnet records a scene for a group project.

Freshman Aiyanna Randolph wants to be a screenwriter, inspired by her neighbor who was a producer for the ABC show “Black-ish.” That’s why she’s chosen to commute eight miles from her Los Angeles neighborhood to attend the Roybal Film and Television Production Magnet high school in downtown Los Angeles.

“I really enjoy writing stories, creating scenarios and stories for us to film,” Randolph said about her experience at the school so far. She also hopes the magnet — part of Los Angeles Unified — will provide as much access as possible to the industry where she wants to work in the future. 

The Roybal magnet teaches students hands-on how to work as screenwriters, producers, directors, camera operators and more through the school’s classes and its partnerships with big names in Hollywood. The magnet program is in its first year, having pivoted from a prior focus that also included music to one now solely focused on the film industry. So far, it has 140 students enrolled in 9th and 10th grades with intentions of extending to 12th.


A student reviews his group’s storyboard before they film a scene for a class.

Born out of a pitch from the Creative Artists Agency and actor George Clooney, the Roybal magnet is also meant to help diversify Hollywood away from its past as a predominantly white and male industry. Building a pipeline of mainly Latino and Black young talent that will better reflect the city’s demographic has been a focus of the magnet founder Clooney alongside such advisory board members as Don Cheadle and Mindy Kaling. The school is located mere miles from some of the entertainment industry’s major studios.

“We want to change the complexion of our sets,” Clooney told U.S. Secretary of Education Miguel Cardona and second gentleman Doug Emhoff during their visit to the school in January. “There’s 60,000 jobs that aren’t writing, directing and acting in our industry in Los Angeles. There’s a lot of work out there, and we want to change the way the sets work.”

While the magnet is not the only one in Los Angeles focused on film, the level of industry involvement and backing are said to be unique.   

The school has built partnerships with the likes of Disney, Warner Bros., film crew union IATSE and beyond to expose students to the range of opportunities within the industry. Students have been taken on studio tours, and professionals across various crafts visit the school. For example, students in the makeup class received lessons from experts on facial contouring last semester as they worked toward building their foundational skills.

“It’s been nothing but a very positive experience,” Principal Blanca Cruz said. She said it’s important that leaders of the industry and experts in various film fields are “part of that responsibility of helping prepare our future.”


Three students in a Roybal magnet sophomore film class review footage they shot.

Any student from across LAUSD is able to apply to the film and television magnet as they would any other magnet in the district. When the program first opened under the wider curriculum of music and film production, most students were from the school’s local area, but that’s been changing, Cruz said. She expects the program to grow to 200 students next year as it expands and for that trend to continue in the following years, in contrast to the district’s declining enrollment.

For Emhoff, the spouse of Vice President Kamala Harris, the school’s partnership model is one all industries should follow. He visited the school with Cardona to talk about how the federal government could help as the industry pushes to expand the initiative to other parts of the country.

“We can do this with nurses, we can do this with tech. We can do this with so many different things all across the country,” he told the school’s founders and officials. “Not only are you helping the community here, our production community, but you’re going to really set the stage for helping this entire country.”

As Cardona and Emhoff toured the classrooms alongside the school’s stakeholders, short films played on computers, showing off student work from the school’s first semester.

Alongside movie posters that line the walls of classrooms are lists naming dozens of positions that exist in film. They’re there to serve as a reminder to students of the possibilities they have ahead of them.


Posters line the walls of film teacher John Paul Green’s classroom.

In their initial film classes, students get a taste of everything within the industry. Students started with film history and creating their own small video projects. Students created a horror adaptation of “The Wizard of Oz,” for example, in teacher Brittany Hilgers’ introductory film class. Students acted in it and directed and produced it after studying the original film.

This semester, Hilgers’ students are focused on writing, with the goal of completing a short film by the end of the year. Writing is a vital foundational skill for the industry, according to Hilgers, who was a writer in the film industry herself before pivoting to teaching English a few years ago. She hopes to eventually be able to teach an intensive television writing class.

“I just want to give my students opportunities, and that’s what this place is for: exposure and direct connection to the entertainment industry,” she said. “I never got that when I was in high school or even in college, so this is a really unique opportunity.”

The first two years at the magnet are intended to give students as much exposure as possible to the industry so that they can choose a more focused learning pathway for their last two years. Craft pathways will allow them to delve into art direction, hair and makeup and costume design, while post-production pathways will focus on editing, special effects and animation. Technical pathways concentrate on camera, lighting and sound. 

For sophomore William Grandberry, special effects have caught his eye. He said he’s enjoyed learning film basics and found it fun to experiment with different types of shots, ranging from wide shots to tight shots to high angles. He wants to create sculptures to be used in films.

“It’s a good environment,” he said. “The community is good around the school, especially the teachers and the staff members. They always check in on you to make sure you’re on task.”

In the program, film also mixes with standard high school subjects. First semester, teacher Manuel Gochez introduced a documentary project to his 11th grade U.S. history class. Students used the production and editing skills they learned in their film class to create a film on the Roaring ‘20s. Documentary experts at the History Channel, one of the school’s partners, visited the class to give students a rundown on everything from brainstorming to editing.

“There are a lot of research skills that they’re taking from it, whether it’s the historical research they’re doing or how it is to find, for the documentary, these images and videos,” Gochez said. “They’re learning that in my class, and then they can apply that outside of my class when they go into college.”

This semester, he’ll be working with students to produce 30-second mini-documentaries on lesser-known historical figures each month. February will focus on Black history month and April likely on climate awareness to coincide with Earth Day, for example.


Mike Miller, vice president of the International Alliance of Theatrical Stage Employees, chats with students at LAUSD’s film and television magnet school. The union is one of the school’s partners.

Right now, the school is also working on getting students connected to the industry through summer jobs, according to Cruz. So far, students have visited production studios and heard from speakers who work on stage sets and behind the camera, but summer internships will be an opportunity for true immersion, she said.

“We have access to knowing what’s a job opening available at a nearby studio for a high school student,” Cruz said. “Maybe an assistant to the assistant, right? Those are some small examples, but they’re very significant. Our kids now have access to be able to do that.”

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  1. Lika Dozier 2 months ago2 months ago

    This is fantastic to read about! While I certainly love this model especially for LAUSD schools, I wonder if/how standard curriculum requirements are folded into the day-to-day operations and teachings of this school. Will these students be prepared for the A-G college requirements upon graduation, should they choose to go the college route? I understand that college isn't necessarily required for many jobs in the entertainment industry, but should a student choose that route, will … Read More

    This is fantastic to read about! While I certainly love this model especially for LAUSD schools, I wonder if/how standard curriculum requirements are folded into the day-to-day operations and teachings of this school. Will these students be prepared for the A-G college requirements upon graduation, should they choose to go the college route?

    I understand that college isn’t necessarily required for many jobs in the entertainment industry, but should a student choose that route, will they be adequately prepared with the academic rigor in standard subjects in addition to their industry exposure?