January 14, 2005

Tu Voz TV: Border youth speaking out through video

By Luis Alonso Pérez

People often say electronic media is controlling children’s minds. Satellite television brings home more than 500 mind controlling channels that turn youth into passive entertainment consumers. But education programs like The Teen Producers Project, allow young ones to break from passiveness and become actively involved in the production of videos that deal with the issues that matter the most in their communities like education, pollution, violence, family, racism and history.

Future teen producers, learning their craft.

The Teen Producers Project is a fraction of the Media Arts Center San Diego (MACSD). It began in 2002 as a part of the MACSD’s goal of supporting and nurturing border region artists. The education program is directed to under-served youth in San Diego County ages 9-18, and was designed to provide video production and digital storytelling training to youth along the border region as a way of promoting self-expression, communication and social change among students.

Robert Bodle is the Director of Education in MACSD and oversees the Teen Producers Project. “Youth receive hands on project based collaborative learning opportunities, as opposed to a typical classroom situation. The learning happens before during and after production, in a team-building environment. So the learning is experiential and sequential, taking the youth through the stages of pre-production, production, and post production (planning, shooting, editing).”

At the beginning of their training students take on production roles that rotate, so by the end of their project students will have learned about research, writing, camera, interviewing, sound, and non-linear editing. Before getting started, everyone offers suggestions on topics dealing with issues relevant to their communities. After voting they break into groups around topics or all work on the same project. Classes can have up to 15 students and regularly have one instructor for every five kids; they are the ones in charge of conducting the training and taking them out into the field, either to interview subjects or to get additional video footage.

The results from the Teen Producers Project have shaped into another project called Tu Voz TV, described by Bodle as “a multilingual expression of youth voices in the San Diego / Tijuana border region. A television series showcasing youth produced and youth oriented video projects. The series seeks to connect the lives of youth from different communities by providing a common platform for them to express their views.”

“Escondido Stories” is one of the many outcomes of the community oriented audiovisual projects. It consists of four reports about the Latino community in North County. “For our health” takes a look at the lack of access, language and cultural barriers that keep the Latino patients from getting the medical attention they need. “Going the distance” exposes the problems and reasons why almost seven out of ten North County Latino youths drop out of high school, and it seeks possible solutions to this educational dilemma. “Politica” is an investigative documentary about the Latino community and politics in the City of Escondido. Student filmmakers reveal the lack of Latino representation on the city council and school boards. “Nuestra Historia” is a documentary that looks into the work of two local historians and their efforts in establishing the completely overlooked presence and contribution of Latinos in North San Diego.

The documentary was premiered at Escondido’s Orange Glen High school on December 1st. The screening brought together a diverse mix of people from the Latino community: medical professionals, students, historians, community activists, laborers and other concerned folks living in North County. “Most even stayed afterwards for the post-screening discussion with the teens’ said Robert Bodle. “The screenings had positive effects, which started dialogue around these issues, and the accolades the teens received testify the success of the videos as well.”

“I believe on two fundamental levels we succeeded in making an impact and difference in the community’ added Bodle. “Firstly by providing a valuable experience to teens that helps build their self image, provides professional training, and connecting them to stories relevant to their community. The second level is at the community level, our screening provides a sense of community through audience experience, but also provides the opportunity to create a public forum where issues are brought up and discussed, and movement is started among a like minded audience that should carry beyond the venue.”

The are big plans this year for Tu Voz TV, the MACSD is looking forward to airing all 13 of our episodes on public access, cable, satellite, and other youth and community channels. They will also be distributing our programs to public libraries, schools, and community centers throughout San Diego and elsewhere.

If you would like to know more about Tu Voz TV or the Teen Producers Project, please contact the Media Arts Center San Diego through telephone 619-230-1938. Or visit their web page www.mediaartscenter.org.

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