Red-carpet treatment: Students in starring roles as Inclusion Films returns to Lodi

·3 min read

Dec. 10—The red carpet, limos, and Lodi Unified School District students decked out in tuxedos and evening gowns returned to Hutchins Street Square Thursday night for an evening that could rival the best awards shows.

Joey Travolta's latest Inclusion Films camp debuted the film "Lost Luggage," a one-hour picture filmed at McNair High School in October and created with Lodi Unified students.

"I'm always excited about one of these events," Travolta said. "The guys get dressed up in their best tuxedos, the girls are in their favorite dresses, and they get to see their film on the big screen with their family and friends."

The film, Travolta said, is comprised of a series of shorts based on the premise on what kinds of objects are found in a lost piece of luggage.

He said the film took two weeks — at five hours a day — to create, starting with creating a theme, then writing a script and ultimately acting it out on camera.

"We're creating a one-hour piece of content within 50 hours," he said.

"Which is pretty cool. I bring in a crew of 14, and half of them are always students we have trained. We pair them up with students in the district, and each group had about day and a half to create a short film."

Travolta is hoping the film will help his company launch a television series with Cox Communications, the Atlanta-based telecommunications service.

"Lost Luggage" will not be part of that series, Travolta said, but it will hopefully encourage Cox to consider partnering with Inclusion Films to create and develop the show.

Thursday's premiere, as well as the two-week camp at McNair High School, were some of the first event Inclusion Films has hosted since the pandemic began.

"We did a couple of virtual camps (last year)," Travolta said. "It was tough because I like the in-person camps and the interaction with the crews and students. So this year we were able to do four full camps in Solano County and Livermore. Everything about filmmaking goes into working together in-person."

Travolta first brought Inclusion Films to Lodi in 2016 at the request of LUSD program coordinator Liz Zastrow, who helps set up career and vocational training for special education students.

Thursday's premier was the fourth Travolta and Inclusion Films had hosted in Lodi. In 2019, the company produced and screened "Carol of the Bells," a film about a woman who tries to bring her husband and his long-lost mother together, the latter of whom was born with a developmental disability.

The older brother of John Travolta, Joey Travolta earned a degree in special education from William Paterson University in New Jersey.

He founded Inclusion Films in Bakersfield in 2007 with the mission to teach filmmaking to individuals with developmental disabilities.

The company has since expanded to studios in Sacramento, Livermore, San Diego, San Bernadino, San Jose and Stockton.

"I love this community," he said of Lodi. "And with Dr. (Cathy Nichols) Washer and LUSD, we have a great relationship. They love what we do, and they love the idea that we've integrated some of their students into the community with what we are doing."

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