Actor Edward James Olmos speaks to the Pajaro Valley Unified School District Board of Trustees on Oct. 9 about the Youth Cinema Project, which is now happening at two Watsonville schools. — Todd Guild/The Pajaronian

WATSONVILLE—Cesar Chavez Middle School student Regina Molina recently wrote a screenplay for “Forever Young,” about a girl who is reluctant to grow up and move on in her life.  

“I think moving on is hard for a lot of people,” she said. “But sooner or later you have to put those problems behind you.”

If the creators of a Los Angeles-based film program for young people have their way, Regina will indeed move on in her life, to a bright future.

She created her script as part of Youth Cinema Project (YCP), which has been at her school and at Starlight Elementary School for the past three years. She said she enjoyed the creative aspect of the process.

“I liked doing the script, developing our stories and, maybe one day, making a film,” she said.

YCP is a project of the Latino Film Institute, created to give young people hands-on experience with every facet of filmmaking, from idea to storyboard to script to sound, camera work and editing.

More than that, the program is also to be integrated into—and bolster—their school’s curriculum.

Now located in 32 classrooms in 16 school districts throughout California, YCP also teaches self-esteem, self-respect and self-worth, said YCP founder and actor Edward James Olmos, who chairs the Latino Film Institute.

“We’re not just trying to make filmmakers, we’re trying to make lifelong learners,” he said. “This is 21st century learning.”

Olmos said he hopes to eventually get the program into every school in the U.S. 

Cesar Chavez Middle School student Daniel Hernandez said he hopes to continue studying film in high school because of his experience with YCP. 

He said scriptwriting taught him the art of storytelling while pitching his story ideas to his peers bolstered his self-esteem.

“It’s been a blast,” he said. 

The Pajaro Valley Unified School District (PVUSD) Board of Trustees approved a proposal to continue the project through 2021 during its July 10 meeting.

The district will pay about $653,000 over the next two years for the program.

YCP teaches cinematic filmmaking, screenwriting, storyboarding, producing, directing, editing and sound recording, among other things. Every film created through YCP is student-led and run. The organization also provides the curriculum.

Olmos was at the PVUSD Board of Trustees meeting on Oct. 9 to promote the program. He also attended the State of the District breakfast on Oct. 11.

“Nothing advances creativity, collaboration, communication, critical thinking like youth cinema,” he said. “Nothing like this has ever been placed in front of our children before.”

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General assignment reporter, covering nearly every beat. I specialize in feature stories, but equally skilled in hard and spot news. Pajaronian/Good Times/Press Banner reporter honored by CSBA.


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