A staple in the Los Angeles entertainment industry, Ryan Kavanaugh provides significant support for organizations dedicated to helping professionals in the industry or in mobilizing artists to create change. One of the organizations that he has supported is The Art of Elysium, which allows artists to give back to the community using the skills that they have developed throughout their careers. The Art of Elysium sees art as a primary tool for social change, and it works diligently to create programs that facilitate a better future.
At the core of the program are five initiatives that aim to connect people in need with volunteer artists and provide opportunities for dedicated artists to bring their work to a larger audience. These initiatives focus on fashion design, visual art, music, and theater. One of the key offerings is Elysium Esteem, which brings joy and art to the lives of youth with acute or chronic diseases. Since these young people often face significant social isolation, The Art of Elysium has created a number of arts-based programs that connect children to other people and provide an outlet for complex emotions under the Elysium Esteem umbrella. Other programs pair artists with elderly individuals and those in need. Moreover, the organization will soon undertake initiatives to connect artists with individuals in prisons and veterans.
The Unique Elysium Bandini Studios Collaboration
The programs at The Art of Elysium largely rely on the support of philanthropists and volunteers, but a unique partnership between the organization and Rabbit Bandini Productions has created a new form of revenue while also supporting the art of emerging film professionals. The recent partnership was kindled by James Franco, the owner of Rabbit Bandini Productions and a frequent volunteer and supporter of The Art of Elysium. The resulting Elysium Bandini Studios is a nonprofit production house that works with both students and rising professionals to make films, the proceeds of which go directly back into The Art of Elysium to keep its programming alive. As of earlier this year, the studio had completed 14 films with several more still in production. Most of the films have been directed by students from nearby universities where Franco teaches. He hopes that the model will soon expand with other teachers and industry leaders becoming involved.
Franco and his producing partner, Vince Jolivette, joined forces more than 20 years ago after they met in an acting class. The pair started volunteering with The Art of Elysium in 2005 by helping to produce Christmas plays at children’s hospitals. Since then, the pair has focused on helping students to realize their cinematic vision. The pair met with the founder and chief executive officer of The Art of Elysium, Jennifer Howell, in 2012 to discuss their work and figure out how it could possibly further the organization’s mission. Together, the three developed a nonprofit film studio that would provide young, talented filmmakers with a platform and support the community in the process. The Elysium Bandini Studios was born.
The Work Coming out of Elysium Bandini Studios
The student directors for the films produced by Elysium Bandini Studios have come from the University of Southern California, Cal Arts, and the University of California, Los Angeles, as well as New York University, where Franco also teaches. Some of the projects have included notable stars such as Kristen Wiig, Jimmy Kimmel, Natalie Portman, Whoopi Goldberg, and Franco himself. Working with such accomplished stars gives these young filmmakers confidence and provides them with incredible opportunities to learn as they make their vision a reality.
One of the most successful films so far was Yosemite, directed by Gabrielle Demeestere, which starred Franco and told the story of a group of young friends growing up in the San Francisco Bay Area. The film received some measure of critical acclaim and even had a brief theatrical release. This year, the production company released Actors Anonymous, the film adaptation of Franco’s novel about actors struggling trying to make it in Hollywood. The project provided a unique opportunity for student directors to bring the novel to life. Already, two films are slated for release next year. The Heyday of the Insensitive Bastards includes seven vignettes based on Robert Boswell short stories, and Black Dog, Red Dog follows the life of a man transitioning from journalism to poetry and the ripples that this move creates in his personal life. The latter film is directed by Adriana Cepeda Espinosa and stars Franco and Chloe Sevigny.
At present, Jolivette, Howell, and Franco are collectively running the studio, although they plan to one day find an executive to assume this responsibility. Funding for the project has come from many sources, including an Indiegogo campaign that raised nearly $700,000 to fund the studio’s first three films. Since almost all of the cast and crew donate their time, the films typically cost less than $200,000, and the studio will soon achieve positive cash flow that will allow The Art of Elysium to continue expanding its reach.