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Youth Cinema Project

Youth Cinema Project

The Youth Cinema Project (YCP) is project-based learning that impacts its participants in life-changing ways. Graduates of the YCP are resilient, real-world problem solvers. They are budding artists who learn the skills needed to bridge achievement and opportunity gaps – they are passionate, lifelong students catapulting towards the entertainment industry’s multicultural future.

Every student has a story to tell. And every student is going to tell their story in their voice. The YCP curriculum – which is aligned with English and VAPA standards – rigorously underscores the value of each voice. It teaches students that their voice and their ideas matter. At the heart of our project-based learning program is not the film – it’s the student.

Stanford University’s Stanford Center of Assessment, Learning, and Equity (SCALE) sees the YCP as a curricular and instructional program that has great potential in making progress toward closing student performance gaps, building socially and emotionally competent students, and changing the trajectory of diverse students’ lives in ways we can only imagine.


YCP students respond to the stress of filmmaking in a safe environment, learning to become more self-aware and manage their emotions. Their interpersonal skills grow and their empathy expands as they discover that they have to build a team to make a film. Due to this social emotional empowerment, we’ve received a Commendation from Los Angeles County Supervisor Hilda Solis, for providing a public health benefit to our most at-risk youth in the state.


To close the Achievement Gap, our curriculum is aligned with English and VAPA Standards. Every student, no matter his or her academic background, writes from experience, learns the value of their voice and promotes their ideas, verbally and in writing. Our young filmmakers learn graduate-level concepts and decide how to apply them to their films, while collaborating and problem solving with their peers. YCP is not a classroom exercise in which students pretend to be filmmakers. Every Youth Cinema Project student is a filmmaker.


YCP students are taken to specially designed industry field trips where the curriculum is enhanced by our studio partnerships. Similarly, Hollywood professionals are brought into the classroom to teach specific, skilled workshops. In the fall, as students develop their scripts, they have a Hollywood screening of a major motion picture, followed by a Q&A with the studio and film’s screenwriter, giving students direct access to working writers. At the end of the year, all of the students have their final screenings in a professional Hollywood setting. In Southern California, students screen their films at The Academy of Motion Picture Arts & Sciences and CAA (Creative Artist Agency). In Northern California, students screen their films at Pixar.


Hollywood shapes culture and the development of societal norms, but it does not reflect the diversity of our society. Equity and access issues have kept minorities from telling their stories on Hollywood screens. These issues have limited the dispersal of cultural knowledge and a better acceptance of our diverse world. YCP builds the skills, portfolio, and social connections that young filmmakers need to work in the industry. Our organization secures internships and fellowships for those talented content creators who want to continue working in the entertainment industry.

Similarly, #OscarsSoWhite highlighted a major issue in Hollywood, but did not focus on the next generation of content creators. YCP is pushing children through school and graduating them to college. Entire cohorts, who have been making films since 4th grade, are better able to compete, because they have been training with industry professionals since the age of nine.

Because of our groundbreaking work with Santa Ana Unified, Chapman University has committed to give ten full-ride scholarships for the next three years to our Santa Ana Unified School District YCP students. We plan to establish similar partnerships with other universities and school districts around the state. The idea is to dramatically increase the number of artists from emerging communities who are excellently trained in the audio visual language, thereby making them better prepared to compete in the entertainment industry. YCP aspires to empower emerging communities and to create pathways to opportunity for their children.


We bring industry professionals to the most at-risk classrooms around the state and collaborate with school districts to implement our curriculum in 4th-12th grade public schools. Each class meets twice a week for ninety-minute blocks throughout the entire school year. This is not an after school program. This is an in-class, push-in program. What makes YCP different from any other film education program in the nation is that we believe our children will rise to the level of expectation, so we guide our students though the entire filmmaking process, starting with story development, continuing with production and postproduction, all the way until their end-of-year industry screenings.

This is a 100% student led, student run program. There are no adults writing, holding the cameras, or deciding on the shots. The ultimate goal is for our students to become self-directed learners, while finding their voices, and creating social emotional empowerment. In our project based learning, the films are not the project, the students themselves are.