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SOUTH-CENTRAL : Bridging the Gap to Hollywood Dreams

February 28, 1993|MARY HELEN BERG

Emanuel Brady had dreams of being the next John Singleton, but until recently the budding filmmaker's trip from South-Central to Hollywood seemed further than any freeway could take him.

Then last summer the 16-year-old discovered the L.A. Bridge Conservatory, an informal arts program at Bethel A.M.E. Church that rose from the ashes of last spring's riots.

Now E, as his friends call him, has a documentary in the works, a screenplay percolating, and a potential apprenticeship at the Directors Guild of America. He talks of creating the first film studio in South-Central.

The L.A. Bridge Conservatory--part instruction, part mentor program--is a project between the church and volunteers from the entertainment industry who, after distributing food in South-Central during the riots, agreed they could build a bridge between the two communities.

The Hollywood professionals, some of them struggling screenwriters and actors, offer free weekly classes in piano, art, dance and acting for children and instruction in directing, production and screenwriting for adults.

"It's a very difficult thing to even imagine bridging communities or people, but I think that the arts are a better vehicle to carry that message than anything else," said Domingo Rambo, 68, conservatory co-founder and a director of the Bethel A.M.E. Church drama guild.

The conservatory's organizers have lofty goals for the program: a theater production based on oral histories gathered in South-Central; an exchange program that would introduce South-Central youths to Hollywood resources and bring Hollywood students to the conservatory; a college fund to help students such as Brady achieve their goals and an opportunity for film students to make Hollywood contacts.

So far, students are soaking up dance and drum classes "as if they were waiting for this chance," said dance instructor Jennifer George-Alford, 43, a Bethel church member.

Susie Santilena, 10, attends the conservatory most Saturdays to take a full day of karate, acting, dance and art. She proudly showed off her new picture of a rainbow-colored sun setting over a lake, but said her favorite class is karate.

"It's stuff you can really use," she said, demonstrating some of the sharp moves she has learned.

For older students, classes such as screenwriting provide guidance from industry professionals and perhaps a chance to make industry contacts.

Recently, Hollywood script guru Linda Seger, whose appearances usually demand a $1,500 fee, made a guest appearance in the class.

"I'd love to be able to inspire the screenwriting class (to realize) that they have stories to tell," said Seger, author of the highly regarded, "Making a Good Script Great." "They have experiences and perceptions that are in some cases more valuable than the people that are telling those stories now."

Brady agrees, but until he joined the conservatory, he saw few venues for his ideas.

"I was skeptical when I first came here because nothing in life is free," he recalled. "But it became apparent to me that after coming that dreams can become a reality."

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