Oscar Nominated Teacher J. Todd Harris
Shares Real World Lessons at LA Film School
By Cassandra M. Bellantoni
The LA Film School offers award-winning instructors that produce top notch graduates to work in the film industry. A recent addition to the list of stellar instructors is the Oscar-nominated Executive Producer, J. Todd Harris, who brings 25 years of real-world experience to students. LA Film School’s Vice President of Marketing, Albert S. Villalta stated, “Having Todd on board is a tremendous advantage because he is well respected in the industry and helps set a high level of expectation with our students demonstrating what’s possible with hard work and dedication.” Harris, CEO/founder of Branded Pictures Entertainment received his first Academy Award nomination this year as the executive producer of, The Kids Are All Right, starring Julianne Moore, Annette Bening and Mark Ruffalo. According to his IMDb page, Harris has produced 37 films, including five Sundance Film Festival entries and two films have appeared in the Toronto Film Festival.
He also just recently produced, Bottle Shock, a film starring Alan Rickman and Chris Pine. Harris said that being a nominee at the Academy Awards this year was inspiring and the experience reignited the idea that he can find another The Kids Are All Right or King’s Speech… pointing to the fact that it could come from one his students at the School.
According to Harris, he and his investors made a significant contribution to the $4.5 million budget of The Kids Are All Right, and although he loved the script, the actors and took great pride in the film—he didn’t predict it would be this big. “I like the business, most of the people, not everybody. I showed the students the ‘Kids’ trailer and told a few [Oscar] war stories—you do elevate a little in their eyes. But that’s the business. The Oscars on Sunday night and Monday morning I’m teaching at the school, talking about the less-glamorous nuts and bolts,” he said. “It’s very rewarding for us as educators and working professionals to see our alumni live their dreams and experience the ‘firsts’ we all hope to have at one time or another,” Villalta said. Harris said he loves teaching but was always a guest speaker in the past, and sees the student’s open minds as vessels waiting to be filled. “They don’t all want to produce movies, but they have to understand what it takes to produce a movie,” said Harris. A Stanford School Of Business graduate, Harris told us you don’t have to be educated to be a producer, but you do have to find and develop the material, plus get the financing—and hustle! “I tell the students, you have a 15-month pass and you gotta work it. You are in the aorta of the film business— the center of it. Prove to me you really care about
it and I’m here for you. I know a dozen cinematographers— I’ll introduce you,” stated Harris. And also said that the most important thing students can do in Hollywood is to network. When he first started working in LA, he read 50 screenplays and saw 50 movies, soon after, got “a little job at Tri-Star.” Those original contacts he made 25 years ago, still pay off because they are people well-placed throughout the industry. “We are committed to providing students with a world-class education. This is a commitment we hold in very high esteem because parents, families and loved ones commit their financial and emotional support to the students,” Villalta told everyone. Harris also wants his students to learn from his mistakes as well as his successes, and talked about a film he produced called, 29 Palms, where he faced near financial ruin, and became physically ill from the stress. “The movie got made, but I lost perspective. I come to the class with a lot of war stories—in retrospect it’s fun to talk about. I’ve been through some mind blowing, hair-raising experiences,” Harris said. “The students are like a sponge and that energizes me. I’m always open to finding a great project I want to do, and I may find it at the school,” he stated. The Los Angeles Film School (LAFS) is an accredited college with a campus located in the heart of Hollywood that includes the historic RCA Building at 6363 Sunset Boulevard. The private, post-secondary degree-granting college, has quickly become a leading academic center for aspiring filmmakers, animators, game producers and recording engineers. It boasts Academy Awards winners along with Grammy Award winners, and nominees alike. The school campus is comprised of four buildings with over 250,000 square feet dedicated to labs, studios and theaters equipped with the latest technology including, Avid, ProTools and Digidesign. Its production facilities have previously been used by legendary artists such as Elvis Presley, The Rolling Stones, Henry Mancini and John Williams—who recorded the orchestral score to Star Wars: Return of the Jedi there in 1983.
A highlight of its recent expansion is a new Hollywood set, which is a two-story, 3,000 square foot Victorian house located in the main stage area that utilizes age-old industry techniques including green screen, painted backgrounds and a back-lit illuminated trans-light. The school campus also includes the 8,000 square foot Ivar Theater, which has held many significant performances, including Lord Buckley, The Grateful Dead and The Doors.
Additionally, The Hollywood Reporter named LAFS “One of the best-equipped private learning centers in the country.”
For further information about LAFS, please visit: www.lafilm.edu or call (323) 860-0789.