Founded in 1999, the Film School took over an RCA recording studio. In 2001, Diana Derycz-Kessler took over as CEO.
Since then, the school has expanded greatly, offering courses in cinematography, directing, editing, producing, production design, screenwriting and sound design. A former Elite model, how did Derycz-Kessler end up managing an influential film school?
“[Modeling] got me intrigued about the filmmaking side,” states Derycz-Kessler. “Being a model is basically just standing in front of a camera and posing; I would see actors and actresses and all they had to do, and I became intrigued … filmmaking just seemed cool.”
“The most fascinating thing about film is that feeling you get when you watch a movie,” Derycz-Kessler adds. “It’s immediate transportation.”
Getting to film wasn’t quite so immediate, though. Having first obtained a master’s degree from Stanford University and then a law degree from Harvard Law School, Derycz-Kessler originally set out to be a lawyer.
She worked in a law firm in New York, but wanted to explore her artistic side. She took NYU Extension courses in filmmaking while continuing her work in law. Eventually, she invested in the L.A. Film School as a way to bridge her practical business sense with her artistic aspirations.
From there, Derycz-Kessler made sure the Los Angeles Film School did things a little differently than other film schools. When asked about the greatest strength of the school, Derycz-Kessler replies, “Hands on, hands on, hands on.”
“Students get a camera in their hands in the first week,” Derycz-Kessler outlines. “The school is located in the heart of Hollywood – we get access to great teachers.”
The students have a large selection of cameras available to them, as well as sound studios and post-production facilities to aid them in making films. Right from the start, they’re immersed in actual filmmaking instead of theory.
“We want to train our graduates efficiently well,” asserts Derycz-Kessler. “We want them to go out and become somebody.”
To expand on the training students receive, new programs are in the works, including degrees in animation and game development, as well as the Associate Degree Program, in which students go through a two-year course in just one year.
Of course, having an emphatically hands-on film school brings some challenges.
“We have growing pains,” explains Derycz-Kessler. “Technology constantly changes, and we have to keep up with the real world, which means buying more equipment.”
But keeping up with technology becomes a small price to pay for the gratification of seeing the students off.
“Graduation is rewarding,” Derycz-Kessler reflects. “When students graduate, I see a lot of kids the way I was – concerned about making money, but still having the passion to follow their dreams [of working in film].”
With the Los Angeles Film School providing plenty of practical experience for work in the entertainment industry, students are well prepared to tackle the obstacles ahead of them in competitive and not-always-forgiving Hollywood. Thanks to the efforts of CEO Diana Derycz-Kessler and the rest of the faculty at the school, you can expect some quality films to emerge in the near future.
For more information, visit www.lafilm.com.