A Look Back—The Early Days At LAFS

Joe Byron LAFS

In Honor of The Los Angeles Film School’s 20TH Birthday

The Los Angeles Film School is celebrating its 20th anniversary in 2019 and we’re marking the milestone with our #LAFSTURNS20 campaign all year long. Over the past two decades, we’ve welcomed eager students excited for their first day, hosted top Hollywood filmmakers, expanded our program offerings with new degrees—all while honoring our mission to inspire students to find their own creative voice.

But we can’t talk about the past 20 years without highlighting one of our most venerable staff members. If you are a graduate of The L.A. Film School, there’s a good chance you’ve met Joe Byron. As one of the first few employees hired at the school, Joe is our current alumni relations director and seasoned orator. He hasn’t missed a graduation speech in almost 20 years!

So, who better to kick off the year-long celebration than Joe himself? Today, we asked Joe to look back at the last 20 years of LAFS, share some of his memories and the school’s humble beginnings.

Wake up every day and love what you do. —Joe Byron

I’m proud to have been employed at The Los Angeles Film School for nearly 20 years, and shamelessly tell anyone within earshot that I taught the first class back in September 1999.

The original headquarters was across from the La Brea Tar Pits. We were there briefly before moving to a shared office space in Culver City. In Spring of 1999, we outgrew the space, packed up and moved to our current campus on Sunset Blvd. As the previous Hollywood Headquarters for RCA Records, the building was in bad repair and needed improvements, and remodeling began right away. The first tour of campus started in August 1999 and even required staff and visitors to wear hard hats.

If you can believe it, the first official class at The L.A. Film School had only 15 students. By the second week, we were down to 14 after one student scored a production assistant gig on King of the Hill, which was in its third season at the time. Other talented and noteworthy instructors rounded out our small staff, including the cinematographer from Rosemary’s Baby, the editor from Easy Rider, and the production designer for Blade Runner and Back to the Future. I felt a little out of my league but honored to be surrounded by experienced industry professionals. A standard that has carried on throughout the years.

Meanwhile, in another part of town (and 14 years earlier), The Los Angeles Recording Workshop was founded in 1985. In 2006, The Los Angeles Film School wanted to expand its program offerings to include audio and recording arts.  The school purchased The Los Angeles Recording Workshop and changed the name to The Los Angeles Recording School, which officially became a division of The L.A. Film School.

With two locations in Hollywood, right down the street from each other, many of us on the original faculty recognized the school’s potential early on. It’s Hollywood location, the building’s iconic history, the amazing students and faculty, all created a fervent excitement. Looking back on those early years, no one could have predicted that 20 years later we’d be where we are today. We’ve grown up together, creating a community here in Hollywood for students and alumni to share their passion for entertainment arts. A place for them to flourish and absorb the inner workings of an industry in a town revered around the world.

Throughout the year, we will share stories of collaboration, passion and persistence. I’ve been keeping careful notes on the impact and successes of our graduates, memorable classes throughout my tenure, current events happening in and outside of Hollywood, and, of course, our growing alumni network who are making their mark in Hollywood. There are many anecdotes, stories and treasures from the past two decades. I look forward to sharing them with you. I have a lot of serious bragging to do!

I feel the success of The Los Angeles Film School can only be measured by the success of its alumni, and people who know me, know I love to brag and tell stories of the great work the LAFS Alumni have produced. I especially love entertainment awards, as they are a published metric of the best and brightest.

After nominations are announced, I pour through the trades, IMDb and other Industry Databases, as well as social media pinpointing nominations and contributions to nominees made by our past students. Over the years, I’ve kept detailed lists and update them whenever I make a new discovery. I know there are many I have not yet found.

For The Emmys, Golden Globes and Oscars over the last 19 years:

  • More than 400 alumni have worked on… 
  • over 700 productions
  • that have received over 2,000 nominations
  • and over 400 wins!

The ever-growing number of RIAA gold and platinum certifications is over 120 artists and 300 singles and albums.

Happy 20th Anniversary year to The Los Angeles Film School.


Join us in celebrating 20 Years! We would love to hear your memories and experiences at LAFS. Let’s get together and chat. Email us at social@lafilm.edu and be sure to follow along with us throughout the year!