By MICHAEL HINMAN
When Jackson Van Horn first presented his cinematic work to his classmates at Riverdale / Kingsbridge Academy for the first time, he got a response that made the eighth grader feel that all his work in putting the project together in worth it.
“I think the audience liked it, because they applauded,” Van Horn said The Riverdale press in 2017.
“I just hope I have taught the public more about this issue.”
This problem was about using social media to post inappropriate photos online, and how that could shut the doors of someone’s future. “Footprints” featured a main character the public never sees, and Van Horn’s parents as school administrators – refusing him to enter his next school because a photo was posted on showing drinking alcohol.
The students loved it, as did the teachers at RKA, awarding Van Horn a trophy and $ 50.
Van Horn took this lesson to heart, and no photos cost him his future. In fact, as the teenager prepares to graduate from RKA in a few weeks, he’s ready for that next big step. He moved to Hollywood – to go to film school.
But not just any film school. Instead, it’s one of the best in the country. This is the School of Cinematic Arts at the University of Southern California at Los Angeles. Its alumni are a who’s who of cinema from Shonda Rhimes to Judd Apatow, from George Lucas to Robert Zemeckis.
The campus is practically a movie studio, and Van Horn – who continued to create short films throughout his high school years – can’t wait to make USC his new home.
“It’s definitely a boost of confidence coming into this school,” he said, “but I’ll say this. The race is never over. I’m going to have to prove myself to teachers and, one day, employers, and there are certainly nerves that come with that.
Being of legal age behind the camera
Her shorts range from the funny – like the video game rivalry of “Fortnite Feud” – to the poignant, like “Sofia”, taking us on the journey of a young woman discovering who she is. Lately he’s been working on a documentary – a project he partnered with Riverdale Neighborhood House and Ghetto Film School to end up focusing on a small Asian-led textile company here in the city, and why it’s important to return to the community.
In fact, it’s a community Van Horn hopes to find in Hollywood – where the competition is friendly and, ultimately, where the filmmakers just want to make the world a better place. And Van Horn is excited because this community isn’t just about people who have access to expensive movie equipment, but a community today where anyone who owns a smartphone could become the next Steven Spielberg.
“The fact that anyone in the world is able to make a movie, I think that’s great,” Van Horn said. “We’re really going to start to see that when Gen Z enters the industry, there will be a more economically diverse range of filmmakers, as well as more racially diverse filmmakers.”
Diversity is important to Van Horn, to the point where he made it an essential part of his film work, right down to the very first images he made. A 2020 UCLA survey found that only 1 in 10 directors are people of color and fewer still identify as LGBTQ.
For this reason, Van Horn has created its own equity and sustainability plan, committing by next year to have at least a third of its film crew positions – and key positions film crew – be women, people of color and LGBTQ people. That a quarter of the characters represent these communities, and that any film addressing themes related to race, sexuality or gender, that at least a quarter of the key positions on its productions will include representatives of those affected by these themes .
“We’re seeing more people of color standing in front of the camera, so it’s better. But it was behind the camera that was the problem, ”said Van Horn. “Especially when you reach the more executive levels. You rarely find a person of color or an LGBT person up there. “
But those who try to break down those barriers are working hard on it and should be recognized, Van Horn added. People like YouTuber-turned-filmmaker Issa Rae of HBO’s “Insecure”, or “American Horror Story” and “Pose” co-creator Ryan Murphy.
“The Murphy’s shows were the ones that for the first time featured a wide range of stories and actors, including some you saw for the first time that weren’t used for comedic effect,” he said. Van Horn said. “You had trans characters, who brought representation to actors with mental or physical disabilities, in a way that uplifted them and treated them like the human beings that they are.”
And then there is the aspect of sustainability in what Van Horn plans to incorporate into his future production work. Reuse costumes and sets, donate unused food to homeless people or community refrigerators, and only allow product placement or endorsement of businesses that have clear ethical practices and positive outlook toward black people, Indigenous and people of color, as well as the LGBTQ community.
Work from a solid foundation
Many don’t get the support they need to stay on track for the future, but Van Horn says he’s lucky because his parents have supported him every step of the way. And they’re no strangers to what their son plans to do anyway. Her father, Tom Van Horn, is a comedian and writer. His mother, Lynn Van Horn, is an executive assistant who is sad to see her son move across the country – but certainly not sad to know where he ends up.
“It’s a Trojan horse,” he says. “She didn’t go to film school, but she’s a USC alumnus and worked in the entertainment industry. My father? He is still shocked. I asked him the other day how he felt about it all, and he said he still can’t believe I’m going.
But the first lesson any aspiring film student learns before even arriving on campus is that even with a strong family, strong values, great skills, and a good education – there are no guarantees in life. , and there are certainly no promises when it comes to Hollywood. . Only a handful succeed, and even fewer become household names.
It’s no wonder Jackson Van Horn though.
Not at all.
“I keep an open mind because I know that none of this is easy,” Van Horn said. “I’ve spoken to enough people in the industry to know what it looks like, and I’m up for anything.”
Still, there’s a reason Hollywood is often described as “magical,” and Van Horn can’t wait to be a part of it.
“I would love to continue with creative production after college, being kind of the wrestler who brings all the creative forces into a creative project,” he said.
“And, yes, I see directing as a profession. I really love storytelling, and whether I do it as a writer, director or producer, I would be happy to do it.