About

Our Mission

To inspire youths in under-resourced areas through the processes of film making, while teaching them industry-level skills and providing the means for their expressions. We aim to empower these individuals as artists and collaborators in order to advance them beyond the limitations of their social and financial situations by helping them gain admission into institutions of higher education, and ultimately employment in the film making industry.

Literacy Through Cinema believes that because of the social climate many urban youths face today it is crucial for them to know how to express themselves not only through the written word, but through the culturally pertinent language of cinema. Therefore, it is our aim to teach children how to thoughtfully articulate their ideas and emotions, as a child’s expressive outlet ought not to be limited to the written word, but expanded as far as their curiosity, courage and imagination might take them.

Our Program

Literacy Through Cinema is a ten-week film making course for under-privileged middle school kids at the progressive charter school MS 233 The Laboratory School for Finance and Technology in the South Bronx, NY. Each semester ten kids are given the opportunity to receive training in the primary fields of film making, which culminates in their creation of a film written by them, directed by them, starring them.

Our Vision

To create a series of two to three courses per location in four to six of the poorest cities in the United States. Government recognized schools will serve as the primary locations for the courses until independent spaces can be solidified. Promising film makers will be recruited from top graduate-level film programs and hired for each location as instructors. This will ensure that students are given the finest training available and the program is given a chance to network with that film maker, both institutionally and professionally.

A central aspect of our vision is to develop professional networks in the industries of film and television production in order to solidify opportunities for mentorship, creation, and employment.

Who We Are

Literacy Through Cinema, Inc. was formed in 2008 by a group of boyhood friends from Camp Dudley Y.M.C.A. in Westport, NY who felt the ideals of the camp motto “The Other Fellow First” had real-world applicability and sought to make a social difference in New York City. Today the team consists of the following individuals.

  • DAN LEONARD
    Raised in Vermont, Dan graduated from Hamilton College with a B.A. in Theatre. He moved to New York in 2005 and has acted in 30 Rock, Law & Order, Homework and others  in addition to writing and producing films. He brings his passion for volunteer work and love of kids to LTC, and is thrilled to watch the impact that film making has on kids and communities both.
  • JOHN BOURNE
    Raised on Long Island, John graduated from Brown University with a B.A. in Modern Culture & Media. John recently completed his M.B.A. in Strategy & Finance from the Yale School of Management and has been living in New York on and off for eight years. He currently works at Patriarch Partners as a Credit Associate on their media and entertainment platform. John is so pleased to see LTC making an impact on inner city youth.
  • DAN GEIGER
    Dan hails from New Canaan, Connecticut and graduated from Hamilton College in 2004 with a B.A. in American History. As the former head coach of Columbine High School varsity lacrosse in Colorado and the current assistant varsity lacrosse coach in New Canaan, Dan brings his passion for working with kids to LTC and is honored to be a part of program seeking to instill the values he learned as a camper at Dudley.
  • BARRET HELMS
    Barret grew up in Topeka, Kansas and Dallas Texas and has been living in New York City seven years after attending Boston College. Barret is a veteran of the film industry, having played a featured role in the movie ‘Precious’, which garnered a Best Picture Nomination in the 82nd Academy Awards in 2009 and many others. Barret believes in what Literacy Through Cinema is doing, and is humbled to be part of an organization seeking to offer prosperity to underprivileged communities.
    • BILLY OHL
      Bill Ohl is originally from Upstate, NY. After graduating from Cornell University Bill was a founding teacher at MS 223, The Lab School in the South Bronx. He has been working there for the last 8 years and has seen first hand the lasting positive impact that engaging arts programs can have on kids in poverty. He is excited to be a part of LTC.
    • MARA MINDELL
      Mara Mindell graduated from Knox College in 2001 with a B.A. in Music and began working for Teach For America in Los Angeles teaching 2nd Grade Students as Chair of the Musical Performance Committee. In New York City, Mara helped found Excellence Charter School of Bedford-Stuyvesant, NY and has since worked for Edwards Angell Palmer & Dodge LLP, a law firm in Manhattan. Mara is a veteran of the stage, including tours with TheatreWorks, and looks forward to combining her interests through her work with Literacy Through Cinema.
  • “A child’s expressive outlet ought to be expanded as far as their curiosity, courage, and imagination might take them.”

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