Amazon Studios Partners with Edward James Olmos' Latino Film Institute and Youth Cinema Project

Olmos and Gillespie made the announcement during an event honoring Latino Heritage and Culture in Los Angeles. The event also featured a panel discussion about the current state of Latino representation with showrunner Gloria Calderon Kellett (Amazon’s With Love), Director of the Entertainment and Media Research Initiative at UCLA, author of the UCLA Hollywood Diversity Report and LFI  board member Dr Ana Christina-Ramón, and Amazon Studios Sr. Executive Lorenza Munoz as well as performances from rising Chicana songstress Doris Anahi and Latin electronica project Jguero. 

During the announcement, Olmos expressed emotion and gratitude for Amazon's involvement in the passion project he started two decades ago. He brought on stage some of the student alumni from YCP. YCP is currently in 13 districts across California with 1600 young minds each year in the program. The students through the program produce 160 films a year which go on to premiere in Olmos' film festival, The Los Angeles Latino International Film Festival (LALIFF).

"We started out at Hollywood High for free," Olmos told us backstage after the presentation. "We’re in the schools. It's not an afternoon special. It changes their attitude towards school. It’s helped so many children. You can’t really understand it until you see it.”

The Academy Award-nominated actor's goal isn't to make them future directors, writers or producers but to provide them with the tools necessary to succeed in life through storytelling. “We don’t try to make them filmmakers, Olmos clarified. "What we try is to make is life-long learners. How do you do that? By making learning fun.” By putting the students through the various phases of production, he hopes to instill in them self-confidence, self-respect and self-esteem and above all how to communicate in a group setting. The students collaborate on one project chosen by the group and then take on a role on the crew from make-up artist, cinematographer, assistant director, and so on. They get no assistance in the filmmaking process so they must rely on each other, but there are mentors overseeing the work.

Olmos believes shaping young minds starts at an early age which is why YCP begins in fourth-grade classrooms. Olmos feels the current student classrooms are not set up for success with teachers merely talking at "bored" students at their desks. "When we get in there, we break up the room," he said. "We play games. We play trust games and learn to communicate and relate to one another.” He says the production-like environment invites active participation.

“Man, they’re so strong," he said about the YCP students. "They’re so good. The stories that come out are just wonderful."

Amazon will be the exclusive sponsor of the YCI Alumni Program for the 2022-2023 school year which will connect over 300 program graduates from low-income, under-resourced public schools to hands-on access and learning opportunities across the industry, including mentoring and assistance with college applications. 

“What we hope is that someday they’ll have this program in every single 4th grade in public schools in America.”

Amazon Studios is also funding the inaugural YCP Fellowship, which will provide 15 college-bound students with resources to make a high-quality short film as a team to strengthen their film school applications and scholarship opportunities. The film will then screen at The Los Angeles Latino International Film Festival in 2023.

The new initiatives will certainly make a few students' dreams come true, but Olmos also has a bigger goal in mind. “What we hope is that someday they’ll have this program in every single 4th grade in public schools in America.”

Amazon Studios is also expanding their reach into the Latino community by continuing to support local non-profit LA Collab's smart tech platform, LTX Match, a new service that matches Latino talent at scale with jobs, mentorship, boards, capital, and community, at all levels of the Hollywood ecosystem. “It is time to put the incredible tech innovation that exists today to help fix the broken bridge between Hollywood and our Latino creative community not finding each other, with LTX Match, we aim to connect our community with access to make sure we have equal opportunity to thrive in Hollywood,” said Beatriz Acevedo, Co-founder of LA Collab.

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