Santa Ana Unified School District was the first public school system to embrace actor and director Edward James Olmos’ Youth Cinema Project, bringing industry professionals to help young filmmakers create their dreams on the big screen.
Three years later, Olmos, on Saturday, June 3, will see an educational institution named in honor of him for the first time – Santa Ana High School’s film school.
“For me, it’s probably one of the most humbling experiences that you could have, to be placed in a situation where they say, ‘We would like to name something after you,’” Olmos said Thursday, June 1, when it was announced. “I’m very moved, to say the least.”
Olmos, who was nominated for an Academy Award for his portrayal of teacher Jaime Escalante in the 1988 film “Stand and Deliver,” will be flying into town from Utah for a 5 p.m. invitation-only ceremony at The Frida Cinema.
Besides the naming of the Edward James Olmos School of Film and Cinematic Arts, school district officials will name the high school’s law academy after Orange County Superior Court Judge Elizabeth Macias.
Edward James Olmos and Santa Ana Unified School District students at the Creative Artists Agency last year. (Photo Courtesy of Rafael Agustin, executive director of the Latino Film Institute Youth Cinema Project.)
“In both cases, there was a desire to create a unique identity for the academies within the school and those were two individuals that the school wanted to recognize for their efforts in getting the academies started,” said David Haglund, deputy superintendent and chief academic officer for the school district.
The academies offer pathways that provide students with specialized curriculums toward particular careers. The high school’s law pathway already links students to Santa Ana College’s paralegal program.
At the ceremony Saturday, Chapman University is expected to announce a pathway into its Dodge College of Film and Media Arts, a partnership that Olmos was a key player in facilitating, Haglund said.
Since Olmos and his Latino Film Institute began working with the school district, the project has expanded from two fourth-grade classes at Heninger Elementary to five classes there and at the high school. Next week, some students will showcase their films to industry professionals with the Academy of Motion Pictures Arts and Sciences.
“As you can imagine, those are not the type of experiences kids from Santa Ana often get, so that’s where a person like Olmos or Macias come in,” Haglund said. “They can create opportunities that aren’t easy for districts to create on their own.”
The project in Santa Ana served as a model for districts across the state. Eleven California school districts participate, and the number soon will expand to 26, Olmos said.
“Santa Ana and I in our group project have had a love affair that has been overwhelming throughout the last three years because it was the first district to officially implement the cinema project,” he said.
Following the naming ceremony, The Frida in downtown Santa Ana will show the films made by project participants.
Naming the school after Olmos, Haglund said, “cements the relationship so it will continue going on for years.”