PVUSD strengthens ties with Latino Film Institute

Students from Cesar Chavez Middle School work on their film “Problem.” The Youth Cinema Project will continue its work with students from Watsonville. — Photo courtesy Youth Cinema Project

WATSONVILLE — In a unanimous decision made by the Pajaro Valley Unified School District (PVUSD) Board of Trustees Wednesday evening, the Latino Film Institute will carry on and expand its work with public elementary and middle schools in Watsonville.

For the past two years, PVUSD has worked with the institute, trying out some of its programs in local schools. Starlight Elementary and Cesar E. Chavez Middle School each created three original short films last year through YCP.

Wednesday’s decision will further solidify the partnership, fixing the cost for the next two years so prices do not increase while the programs can keep growing.

YCP will act as an independent contractor, providing services in cinematic filmmaking, including screenwriting, story boarding, producing, directing, editing, sound recording/engineering and more. Each film created through YCP is student-led and run—they write, film, and make every decision.

PVUSD Superintendent Dr. Michelle Rodriguez highlighted the screenwriting in particular, and how it can help students use their creativity and express themselves.

“Often times writing becomes a laborious task that feels not authentic,” Rodriguez said. “A lot of the times they feel that, ‘It’s the teachers asking me to do it, I’m doing it just solely as an assignment.’”

The Latino Film Institute was founded in 1997 by actors Edward James Olmos (current Board Chairman), Marlene Dermer, Kirk Whisler and the late George Hernandez. The actors worked with the City of Los Angeles to organize its first Latino-focused film festival—and from it came the now statewide, public school program known as the YCP.

Two Watsonville elementary and middle school classes will be offered the services for two full school years from July 2019 through June 30, 2021.

YCP will be providing the curriculum and lesson plans, and also occasionally organize guest speakers and facilitate industry field trips—such as the one students will be taking to Los Angeles at the end of the month. Students will be walking the red carpet at the Chinese Theater, meeting actors and others in the industry, as well as participating in a panel discussion.

The yearly cost of the program is $326,592 each year, for a total of $653,185 for the two full school years. Costs include teacher orientation and staff development, school classrooms, program management, coordination and support.

Dr. Rodriguez showed fellow board members and public attendees of Wednesday’s meeting the short film “Consequences,” created by PVUSD students, which followed a young man dealing with anxiety and bullying.

“[It’s] a beautiful opportunity for the kids in the district to participate in something this special,” said trustee Kimberly De Serpa. “I saw so many values and really their strong voice through that video, it’s a beautiful way to learn.”

For information on the Youth Cinema Project visit youthcinemaproject.org.


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