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Nosotros Youth Program

September 20, 2018

What is the future of filmmaking? If the Nosotros Youth Program has any say in it, it will look more like inclusion.

The program is partnering with East Los Angeles Family Rising, formerly known as the Boys and Girls Club, this month for a four-week program where youth will learn the process of filmmaking from start to finish.

This is the first year for the program after it was made clear that such a program was needed but wasn’t available for the youths.

“I had a meeting with them, and I asked what was missing,” Natalia Ochoa, Nosotros Board Secretary and actress and producer, tells Final Draft. “It was mentioned how celebrities come in sometimes and they do these film courses and then they leave, and the kids are left asking, ‘Now what?’ So they thought it would be a great thing to have a full program that had follow-through.”

The idea of follow through is something that Ochoa believes is important for the kids to experience, especially in a city as finicky as Los Angeles, where one hot idea is immediately replaced by the next.  

“We don’t see enough follow-through in L.A.,” she says. “People flake a lot of the time. There are so many great ideas that just don’t get executed. And I think it’s really important to teach kids that ideas can be executed. At the start of the day, there’s not even an idea yet. But by the end of the day, there is a script. I think it’s important to teach kids to finish what you start.”

During four weekends, twelve kids will undergo a complete hands-on learning process. The first weekend will have the kids in the writers’ room, learning how to write a script from beginning to end, including story structure and character development. The second week is pre-production in which they’ll learn breakdowns of scenes and setting up shot-lists. The next weekend will have them shooting their script, going through the whole process of principal photography. On the fourth weekend the kids will edit, prepare, and learn how to distribute and market their film.

Joaquin F. Palma and Marco Diaz are on board throughout the entire project as mentors, while other mentors and volunteers from different departments within the industry will lend a hand when needed. 

“When we talk about movies and TV, we’d ask them how many times do they feel represented, and their responses were literally, ‘Once in a blue moon,’” says Ochoa. “Kids are very influenced by what they see, so if kids don’t see themselves being represented somewhere, such as on TV, then they automatically assume that’s not for them. So a program like this is bringing it into their awareness, so they know this industry is for them too.”

As the oldest National Latino Arts Advocacy non-profit it’s been the mission of Nosotros to provide opportunities for Latinos in front of and behind the camera for the past 48 years. Now with its youth program and its film initiative, it strives to instill within Latino youth that they can change the course of the industry – simply by telling their own stories.

“For so long there hasn’t been a place for Latinos and people of color in the industry. It’s important for us to show inclusion,” says Reko Moreno, Nosotros Vice Chairman and filmmaker. “We want to support and empower everyone. We want them to know that what they are doing, and the stories they tell, matter.”

He adds, “One of the things we are doing with this program is that the stories they are telling, are coming from them. So these are very personal stories. We are just helping them guide them, but they are telling what they want to say.”

One group has chosen a story dealing with bullying, and another is doing a horror story “because they wanted to show how to overcome a fear,” says Ochoa.

The kids are already excited about their roles, pre-selecting the positions they’ll try, like directing, acting, and writing, and inquiring about YouTube.

“The kids want to put the film on YouTube,” says Ochoa. “They are already feeling part of the community of people who are putting content out there.”

At the end of the month, the films created by the youth will be screened at a golf tournament and dinner, where they’ll watch the finished projects with their families. Tickets are also available to the public.

Ochoa and Moreno plan to continue with the program annually. They see it not only as a stepping stone for those kids who wish to pursue a career in entertainment, but also as a life lesson that they can work towards a goal as big of a film, and make it into reality. 

“We want them to know that what they can see in their mind, they can achieve,” says Moreno. “Including something like this that they have never done something before. For them to write a script, shoot it, and then have a finished product, for me, I was blown away when I did my first project. It’s important for them to know at any age that if they want it, they can achieve it.”

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