African Americans currently make up only 3 percent of Academy of Motion Pictures members, but one young screenwriter hopes to change that by using his voice to shed a necessary light on diverse narratives.
Growing up in South Los Angeles, Jonathan Curtiss saw his life as a movie. "It was like an escape," he says in the video above. "All the problems … in my community didn't exist." Now that he's older, however, Curtiss realizes he can't ignore the issues that face his community. Instead, he plans to use his art to become "part of the solution."
His love for screenwriting stems from his desire to tell stories from his perspective that someone from a completely different background can still relate to. "A lot of the time, society looks at South Central, and they don't see people. They see what they see in the media … the gun violence, police brutality," he explains. "But good things come out of South Central."
Curtiss would know — he’s one of them.
While he once tried to shy away from his artistic calling, Curtiss' faith — in himself and God — now gives him the courage every day to pursue his "bigger purpose." As an active member of his local church, he believes, "Even when I may feel like, 'Can I really make it?' I have faith, so that's what gives me that push to keep going."
In discovering his purpose, Curtiss also found his place in the world.
With the help of Taco Bell's' Live Màs scholarship, he's attending graduate school at the University of Southern California's School of Cinematic Arts. By providing financial assistance to promising innovative and creative youth who often are ineligible for most other academic or athletic scholarships, this program has given Curtiss a unique opportunity to go after his big screen dreams.
"I'm just glad to be in an environment where everybody's creative, everybody wants to be the best in their field, so we all push each other to be better," he says. "I think we owe it to ourselves to follow our passion because when we follow our passion, we're our best version of ourselves."