Presented and instructed by Joseph A. Halsey, founder of The James R. Halsey Foundation of the Arts, is the new “Let’s Film” The Art of Independent Filmmaking program. Entering its fourth season, this intense program intends to refine the skills of aspiring film students through the creation of a full-fledge production.

The “Let’s Film” program is an independent film making course that has been funded by local grants and is free to all participants. Eligible students should currently be attending a Trenton or Hamilton High School and have an interest in film making, acting, writing, producing or directing. Students will learn all aspects of film making from start to finish and no experience is needed.

“There’s multiple aspects to independent film making,” said founder Halsey. “There’s the writing, the acting, learning how to use the cameras for film, learning how to use the sound equipment for audio; there’s editing, post production, making posters and pretty much all of your marketing stuff after that. I like to expose everybody to everything.”

After receiving degrees from the Florida School of the Arts and The Acting Studio of New York City, Halsey went on to land regular spots on The Cosby Show, Guiding Light and Law & Order. Halsey, a native of Trenton, NJ, has spent the last few years as an independent film producer and a documentarian with a particular emphasis on high-risk teenagers, community relationships with law enforcement and educating local students on all facets of the film making business.

This year’s program will last 53 weeks and will be conducted once a week for 2 hours. Current sessions are completely virtual, but in-person sessions will resume when allowed at the new Hamilton, NJ location.

“This year we are going to start virtually teaching acting and teaching writing. Then, when everything starts to open up, we’re going to come in two or three at a time and start really teaching kids about the process of independent filmmaking from conception to finish.”

According to Halsey, the “Let’s Film” program can be taxing for students. Many result to dropping out due to the amount of effort required to produce a complete short film. However, the tedious work brings strong pay-offs in the long run.

“You will be rewarded if you make it through this,” said Halsey. “It’s a long time getting there, but when you get there, it’s so good!”

In previous years, students who power through until the final red carpet premier event have stayed in contact with The James R. Halsey Foundation of the Arts. Determined to help students reach their full potential in the film industry, Halsey and his team continue to aid former students with whatever needed to succeed.

“We help them apply for colleges, we help them apply for student aid, we do the whole thing,” said Halsey. “It becomes one big family.”

In fact, last December, one of the Foundation’s students, Eric Vasquez, was accepted into Harvard University. Vasquez, who had been a Foundation student for several years, gained valuable production experience working on the short film, Common Grounds, in 2020.

Although The James R. Halsey Foundation of the Arts worked with Vasquez on his career path in the film industry, founder Halsey takes no credit in Vasquez’s academic success. For Halsey, it all boils down to student commitment.

“[For] Eric, who got into Harvard, I’m not going to take credit for that. Eric did all the work,” said Halsey. “Eric was the one who put in all that time and all that hard work to get into Harvard. What we did for Eric was we opened him up.”

This year, Halsey and the Foundation hope to encourage a new era of students to challenge themselves through the means of film production. Halsey said, “If you make it through one year, you’ll make it through the rest and you’re never going to leave us.”

Interested students should complete the application found at JRHfoundation.org. After an application is complete, students can attend one of the offered virtual information sessions, which will be held via zoom on March 9 at 3:00 p.m., March 11 at 6:00 p.m. and March 24 at 6:00 p.m.

Further information regarding the program will be given as well as a question/answer opportunity. The James R. Halsey Foundation asks applicants to please specify your preferred info session on your application, you will receive an email confirmation. Parents are welcome to join the information sessions as well.