Building on its mission to bring the film industry to students and students to the industry, Brooklyn College’s Feirstein Graduate School of Cinema welcomed film and television producer, entrepreneur, and Feirstein Advisory Council member Franklin Leonard for a masterclass on May 3.

Leonard is the founder and CEO of The Black List, which supports screenwriters through film production, an annual survey of best-unproduced screenplays, its online marketplace, as well as screenwriter labs. More than 400 scripts from the annual Black List survey have been produced as feature films earning 250 Academy Award nominations and 50 wins including four Best Pictures—including Spotlight, Slumdog Millionaire, The King’s Speech, and Argo—and nearly half of the last 15 years’ screenwriting Academy Awards. Franklin has worked in feature film development at Universal Pictures and the production companies of Will Smith, Sydney Pollack, Anthony Minghella, and Leonardo DiCaprio.

(From left) Franklin Leonard and Richard N. Gladstein address students at the masterclass seminar.

“Feirstein provides a unique and practical experience that fosters success, particularly when you consider the location on the Steiner Studios lot and a tuition that runs one-third of other leading film schools,” Feirstein’s Executive Director Richard N. Gladstein said. “Demystifying the industry through our various mentoring offerings is another part of what makes us special.”

The masterclass was the latest in a series launched by Gladstein. Other guest lecturers have included actor and director John Turturro; Steven Speilberg’s cinematographer Janusz Kamiński; screenwriter, director, and producer Reginald Hudlin; cinematographer and director Rachel Morrison; and director and producer Gus Van Sant.

An accomplished film producer in his own right whose work has earned 27 Academy-Award nominations, including two for producing Best Picture nominees The Cider House Rules and Finding Neverland, Gladstein helped build an Advisory Council that includes many other film veterans. But the mentoring does not stop there, as the school also boasts an unrivaled Mentorship Program that offers a team of more than 20 standout film veterans who offer guidance and counsel to students as they prepare, shoot, and edit their thesis films.

The latest addition to the Mentorship Program includes producer and President of Narrative Production at Archer Gray, Anne Carey. Carey prides herself on supporting incredibly personally authored stories across a variety of genres. She worked with award-winning filmmakers, and her recent credits include the Academy Award-nominated and Golden Globe-nominated film Can You Ever Forgive Me? and Academy Award-nominated 20th Century Women.

Joe Amon is a student at Feirstein who attended most of the seminars. Born in Ohio and raised in Colorado, he chose Feirstein because it checked a lot of boxes and offered a unique learning experience.

“I had been working in production management for about 10 years and decided it was time to make my films,” Amon said. “I was also working at Steiner Studios when I learned about the program. The fact that you can make multiple films, not just a thesis film, was something that I felt set Feirstein apart.”

Amon added no matter who the teachers were, the master class experiences helped demystify the industry and build his confidence.

“The main takeaway for me in just about every class was that they all talked about dealing with the same issues making films as we do,” said Amon. “We learn that we are all working through the same process and fighting the same battles, whether you are working on a $100 million film or a $100 film. It really helps when you hear that same message from so many different people who have done so much in the film industry.”

Aliyah Bynoe studied screenwriting at Feirstein and graduated in Spring 2023. She is planning to move to Los Angeles in the next year or two to pursue her film career.

The Queens native, who is passionate about science fiction and comics, learned a lot about the film industry as a whole from Leonard’s masterclass, including what she can expect and how she can best navigate it moving forward.

“One of the biggest takeaways for me was that the film Industry does not always reflect the audience, and it is the audience you are going to target,” Bynoe said. “He also told us to step out of what is expected, and I appreciated that. Since there are not a lot of people of color working on science fiction projects, that advice was extremely valuable.”

She also attended the first masterclass with Hudlin and said that helped confirmed that choosing Feirstein was the right decision.

“Hearing directly from Reggie Hudlin was a big deal for me,” Bynoe said. “That was a name that I heard frequently in my house and he has had a big impact on me. I knew after that I had picked the right school.”

You can watch a clip from Leonard’s lecture here.