When Francis Pollara, producer, founder and chief executive of Ladeson Productions, walks into a meeting, most people can't guess how young he is, or how much he's accomplished with a company he formed to help his fellow students.
"I have a beard and most people think I'm between 25 and 28, so when I walk in the door people probably think, 'This guy is out of school and probably has his stuff together,'" Pollara said. "I do have my stuff together, but I'm not 28."
Pollara does look like he's pushing 30; but at 21, he's just old enough to order a drink. Yet despite his youth, he has accomplished a great deal. In just one year, he has won a best-music-video award at South by Southwest (an annual music and film festival in Austin, Texas), a College Television Emmy Award, a Clio Award and a Cannes Lions Young Filmmaker Award.
His current brainstorm, Ladeson Productions, serves as a facilitator for young talent in the film industry, attempting to build bridges between student filmmakers and larger production companies.
"My idea as a facilitator is to bring together a set of directors that can all benefit from each other; when one does well, they all elevate themselves to a certain degree," Pollara said.
Most of Ladeson's 15 clients are "A-list student directors" from the Art Center College of Design in Pasadena, where Pollara also is a student. Pollara and his company push each person to succeed, attempting to mold each into a well-rounded professional.
One of Ladeson's clients is Elizabeth Bayne, a writer, director and student who is pursuing a master's degree in fine arts at Art Center.
Currently, her short film, "A Better Place," is in the early stages of production. Pollara is managing the budget and producing the film.
"I wanted the film to be a metaphor for some type of issue in society," Bayne said. "In addition, I wanted to be a filmmaker because I wanted to be different and do things that haven't been seen before."
Bayne decided to blend urban and fantasy genres, something she said no one has done.
"I thought about how in many urban neighborhoods it's not safe for children to play outside or walk home from school because of the elements in their neighborhood," Bayne said. "I always wondered, what if they actually had some place they could go? What if they did have an outlet not of this world? That's where the idea sparked."
Once the project is wrapped, Bayne hopes to submit "A Better Place" and have it accepted by a few film festivals. She hopes the film will hit the festival circuit in early 2011.
Pollara is helping Bayne reach her goals in any way he can. He noticed how reluctant she was to self-promote, something he's been pushing her to do.
"Francis has really pushed me to engage with the Internet and social-networking world," Bayne said. "I wasn't comfortable with that before, but I see what a valuable tool it is now."
Pollara submitted the film to IndieGoGo, a website that allows people to donate to worthy projects for a small amount of time. Currently, they have raised $1,870 of their $12,000 goal with 20 days to go.
Pollara says he would like to team his company up with a production company that simultaneously entertains and calls audiences to action. He has been working on projects dealing with social issues, like Bayne's "A Better Place" and a short public-service announcement on HIV, with that in mind.
For more information on the film visit their website.