Ron Howard Supports Jacob Burns Film Center To Further Media Literacy

By Karen Bliss 9/24/13 |

(L to R) Jacob Burns Film Center board member Ron Howard, 2011 Vision Award recipient Steven Spielberg and JBFC executive director Steve Apkon — photo credit: Lynda Shenkman Curtis
Oscar-winner Ron Howard’s own Ron and Cheryl Howard Family Foundation is in a “nascent phase” says the famed filmmaker, but he is happy to talk about his long-time support of New York’s Jacob Burns Film Center (JBFC), a nonprofit institution with “a dual mission of independent film exhibition and 21st century education.”

Howard — whose films include Cinderella Man, A Beautiful Mind, Apollo 13, The Da Vinci Code, Frost/Nixon and forthcoming Rush — has been a member since it opened in 2001 and on the board since 2011, in fine company alongside fellow directors Steven Spielberg and Jonathan Demme.  He was the recipient of JBFC’s first Vision Award in 2005 and has also participated in Q&As following screenings of his films.

“It’s a program in Westchester County that not only is a film society, but they try to draw filmmakers, especially documentary filmmakers, from all over the world,” Howard told Samaritanmag, while in Toronto promoting his first documentary, Made In America, about Jay Z’s Budweiser-owned music festival in Philadelphia.

Howard even wore the Jacob Burns Film Center cap at the recent Toronto International Film Festival which premiered the film and has made it the star of a couple of his Tweets, posting photos of it and calling it his “trusty but road weary” cap and his “fav.”

The JBFC just earned a 4-star rating (out of 4) from highly regarded evaluator Charity Navigator, for sound fiscal management practices and commitment to accountability and transparency.

“They have these educational outreach programs that are just fantastic for media literacy from first grade on,” says Howard. “They’re just trying to make sure that this next generation understands the grammar of visual media.”

To date, the education programs have reached over 100,000 students, over 55 percent of which have come from under resourced school districts, social service agencies, and community organizations.  Those 55,000 students have been able to participate for free and have their transportation covered thanks to funds from the JBFC’s donors and members.

“A central tenant of the JBFC’s education mission is to facilitate access to media making and cultivate the voices of the silenced,” according to the Center.

Founded by Stephen Apkon, the nonprofit cultural arts organization is dedicated to presenting the best of independent, documentary, and world cinema; promoting 21st century literacy, and making film a vibrant part of the community, it states on its web site.

Located on a 47,500 sq. foot, three-building campus in the center of Pleasantville — a village in Westchester County just 30 miles outside of New York City — more than 2 million people have seen over 5,400 films from more than 40 countries. The campus includes a theater complex, a residence for international filmmakers, and the 27,000 sq. foot Media Arts Lab, a state-of-the-art education center offering one-time workshops, intensive courses, and weekend programs for children and adults.

“They’re developing educational programs and just making a tremendous amount of headway and I have a lot of appreciation for what they’re doing,” Howard adds.

When Howard joined the board of directors in 2011, he said in a press statement, “I remember years ago sitting in a room discussing with Steve and several faculty members the relevance of JBFC’s approach to education given the world we live in today. I believe in the guiding principles behind both their education and film programs and I want to help explore new partnerships that broaden their reach.”

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