For a more diverse Oscars, Hollywood must go back to high school

For a more diverse Oscars, Hollywood must go back to high school

With a few flicks of a makeup brush, a few dabs of red, a swirl of brown, Donald Mowat transforms the young man from a student into a victim.

“It looks like something happened to him and he’s just now going home to tell his momma about it,” jokes a student, one of the dozen or so in the class crowded around Mowat.

“Can I give you a couple of little abrasions?” Mowat asks. The answer is, of course, “yes.” The high school students watch as Mowat gives his “victim” cuts, then bruises, then a bloody nose, all within the space of two minutes.

“You’re so fast with that!” exclaims another student. “That’s incredible!”

Mowat’s so fast because he’s one of the best. Normally you’d find the Montreal-born makeup artist on a Hollywood set, creating award-winning makeup effects for actors like Jake Gyllenhaal and Daniel Craig. But today he’s sharing his craft with students at George Washington Preparatory High School in South L.A. Most of the students live in the poor and often violent neighbourhoods between Inglewood and Compton. Hollywood’s only about 25 kilometres away, but it might as well be in Mexico.

That’s why Mowat and a handful of other industry experts visit a couple of times a month to mentor kids at several inner-city schools like Washington Prep. To convince them they belong in Hollywood.

“I think some kids need a little bit more help,” Mowat says. “And the ones that want to help, you can’t not give it to them.”

Over the last two years, much of the talk around Oscar season has been about the lack of diversity. The American Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, now headed by an African-American woman, has made several high-profile moves to increase the number of diverse Academy members. But to truly transform the industry, Mowat says, Hollywood has to go back to high school.

Read the rest of For a more diverse Oscars, Hollywood must go back to high school via CBC’s website.

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