Interview with Johnny Ramos & Sade Falebita, DCTV’s Youth Programs Staff

Sade Falebita

(From top) Johnny Ramos, Sade Faleabita

October 26, 2016

Q. Describe a typical day at the firehouse for DCTV’s youth filmmakers.

Johnny: Our admin work has to be finished by 3:00pm because everything changes once our students arrive. We’re responsible for teaching and mentoring. Teenagers are always in conflict with something. They are “at risk” no matter what community they come from because of all the natural challenges they face at their age. We have to advocate for them and keep our doors open. It’s how we build their trust. Media training is the basis for the work that we do, but our program does so much more.

Q. What challenges do your students face when they begin the program, and how do you see them change over time?

Sade: In the beginning students tend to be shy. They have to learn how to trust themselves and each other so they can open up. They don’t have the communication skills yet to speak about their concerns or what’s on their minds. A lot of them lack self-esteem when they first come to the program, but the evolution is remarkable. As they move through the program you see their confidence develop. They become adept at public speaking, their vocabulary grows, their demeanors change. The most incredible thing is to see how they become more socially aware and more interested in the world around them. We stress to them the importance of understanding other cultures and learning about places and people beyond their neighborhoods.

Q. What makes you want to do this work?

Sade: I’m a PRO-TV alumna. It’s an amazing experience to come full circle and to be here in this capacity because the program gave me so much. Applying for PRO-TV, I didn’t know what to expect. During my second year with the program, I had the opportunity to go to New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina to make a film. This allowed me to experience a part of the country I’d never seen before. It really opened my eyes. Doing the program boosted my confidence and opened doors for me. It’s important to me that other young people have this opportunity. I can speak from experience that PRO-TV makes a difference.

Johnny: I never had this opportunity growing up. When I told my father I wanted to be a filmmaker, he asked me to name one Puerto Rican filmmaker and I couldn’t do it. They just weren’t in the industry. Film seemed like something for rich people. Now that I’m in this position, teaching young people from all walks of life, but largely students of color, I want them to know that they can make films no matter where they come from. One of my favorite parts of the program is when a new student comes in and we let him or her take a camera home for the first time. They always seem surprised that we would trust them with our equipment. It makes me feel so good to encourage them, to entrust them with real responsibility, and to let them know that we want them out in the world, filming, telling their own stories.

Q. What message would you like to share with the generous donors who support PRO-TV?

Johnny: Your donations aren’t just used to make movies and buy equipment. They allow us to provide real mentorship. DCTV helps our students become young adults who are insightful, confident, and productive members of society. It’s not about the equipment, it’s about how we use the equipment. The money you donate to us is for the future, for a group of urban teens to move forward in life. Your donation helps to support and sustain young people’s dreams. We thank you and so do our students!

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