Three years ago, Amy Quarcelino began having her seventh- and eighth-grade grade videography class at Barbara Worth Junior High School in Brawley participate in the Latino Film Institute’s Youth Cinema Project.
The project was established by actor Edward James Olmos and teaches those in underprivileged and minority communities the art of filmmaking. It was so successful at Barbara Worth that Quarcelino has continued it since and it is now in its fourth year.
“Two mentors from Hollywood come (each year) to teach students,” Quarcelino explained.
For the 2018-19 school year it was actress Joanna Nava-Goldsmith and director Louis Gavala assisting students weekly during film production.
“They worked with students teaching them the entire process of filmmaking, including brainstorming, writing stories, writing script and selling script," she said.
The course is run as a movie in Hollywood would be produced. As such, students have to apply to the school principal for permission to shoot scenes at specific locations around campus.
After students edited their films the next obvious thing to do was make a poster and have them screened.
“The seventh and eighth grades (each) produced three movies each last year,” Quarcelino said. “As part of the program students take a field trip to L.A. to screen their movies in a theater at the Los Angeles International Film Festival.”
Quarcelino explained three of her students’ films were honored by being chosen for a panel discussion during the film festival.
Adamari Lopez, 12, of Brawley, was a camera director for one film and assisted in other films last year.
“Once you got all your equipment ready, we would go set up our camera and shoot the scene somewhere based on our instructors’ directions,” she explained of her experience in the class.
Adamari explained she would experiment with different camera angles to shoot a better scene.
Sharing a few tips she learned about videography last year, she added, “Always listen to the teacher’s directions and remember to work with the people who are in front of the camera."
Quarcelino explained incoming seventh graders can request to be in the Youth Cinema Project before the school year begins. Eighth graders write a letter to request to be in the program.
She encouraged local residents to view the students films online: “You can find most of the films the students produced at www.youthcinemaproject.org by typing in Brawley in the search bar.”
The Youth Cinema Project website describes itself as, “a 100% student led, student run program whose goal is for students to become self-directed learners, while finding their voices, and creating social emotional empowerment. In our project-based learning, the films are not the project, the students themselves are.”