West New York partners with HBO, NYC filmmakers to mentor film students

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West New York Mayor Gabriel Rodriguez announced a joint effort today between premier movie channel HBO and a film and arts media education institute to mentor high school students in film making.

Memorial High School offers video production and video journalism classes, so students already have the opportunity to learn how to produce quality footage.

In that vein they get to showcase their skills by contributing to “Tiger TV”, the school’s half-hour TV show where students discuss issues important to them and their peers.

Now, a group of 15 students will have a chance to produce a film that could hit the big screen.

The film and arts media education institute, LPZ Cinetech, teaches students the art and craft of film making, but more importantly, it connects classrooms with the film industry, such as HBO. A mentor from HBO will advise the 15 students during the course of the school year to make sure it is completed for a premiere to the entire school body in June of 2020.

As it turns out, LPZ Cinetech’s founder, Kevin Lopez, is a friend of West New York Mayor Gabriel Rodriguez.

“I’m very fortunate to have friends in all types of places. Kevin had been building his company for some time, and then he approached me to say that it would be a great opportunity for the town, the Board of Education, but most importantly, the students,” began Rodriguez.

“The main focus of Kevin’s program is to teach inner city kids the art of film making. But I think the main message is exposure to the arts … I think that is the important takeaway: exposing our kids to bigger and better things outside of the town of West New York, right across the river where HBO and many of these big companies are located.”

Lopez and his mentors recently worked with the Yonkers Public Schools to have students produce a variety of films in the narrative, experimental and non-fiction genres.

We asked Lopez what kinds of stories is he expecting the 15 students from Memorial High School to produce.

“The stories from West New York are unique to West New York. We really want to capture those very specific stories that affect their daily lives. We want to be able to internalize them, brainstorm and figure out a way to turn those stories into cinematic stories,” said Lopez.

He explained that the goal will be to produce a narrative film whereby the students are behind the cameras and cast young people as actors.

“We also want to produce documentaries about stories that affect their daily lives, it can be stories about their families or stories about their neighborhoods. The idea is to leverage their own interests, leverage their stories, galvanize that momentum and make the best possible film you can possibly make,” said Lopez.

One of the 15 students selected, Vanessa Lopez, is thrilled about the opportunity and told us the type of story she’d like to tell.

“I would like to tell a story for everybody to relate to, like the community. I want to make a video that speaks out and makes people want to take an interest in film.”

Gavin Webb is the HBO mentor that’ll be guiding the students during the school year and he told us that he’ll visit the school a couple of times so that he can provide hands-on help with everything from production assistant to directing.

The students will also be able to email him so that he can provide feedback remotely.

“It’s all about support, and letting them know that there are options out there and that there’s people in the industry that really care about the work they are doing,” added Webb.

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