“Most importantly for me was having the opportunity to work with the youth to tell their true stories for the (TV) screen and empower them to create change in their own lives.”
Longtime MYD member, Juan Carlos, easily embodies everything our organization stands for. From engagement to true activism, Juan Carlos has dedicated his time to fighting for causes that truly speak to him. From founding the White Roof Project through MYD in 2010 to creating socially conscious films that get straight to the heart of the issue, he’s become a tremendous role model for how young people can make a difference.
Check out the below to learn more about Juan Carlos and his latest film, KNOW HOW.
What got you started making cause driven films?
I started a documentary production company back in 2005 that was driven by a mission to create socially conscious films. For the most part we worked with small non-profits to create short form content about their projects and people. That led to making my first feature documentary which dove into the topic of virtual worlds, chronicling the folks who have one foot planted here while the other is firmly in that other space. I’m not sure I can claim that was truly cause-driven filmmaking.
How did you get started with KNOW HOW, your latest film?
At that time my life was out of balance, and an experience mentoring young adults to better prepare them for successful careers had helped shed a completely different light on how to be happy. It led me to rethink my motivations and I started looking at the potential to do good and be good while letting everything else follow. So, in June 2010 we sat down to discuss what a movie written and starring foster care youth might look like.
The project had the potential to be uniquely powerful in that if we were successful, it could give foster care youth themselves a platform to speak their truth and with that, affect change in the system nationally. Most importantly for me at the time, though, was having the opportunity to work with the youth to tell their true stories for the screen and empower them to create change in their own lives.
Where did you find the story and script for this film?
Each year a group of foster care youth discover a non-profit called the Possibility Project. These teenagers are chosen to participate in the program based on their desire to create a better world. They come together for one year to create change for themselves and their communities, and in the process, create an original musical from the stories of their lives.
I actually went to one of their first shows when I was in high school, and after college volunteered to shoot some of their productions in NYC. Years later, having recently finished my first feature film, I received a call from the founder, Paul Griffin — they wanted to make a movie.
When the foster care youth enter the program, each immediately has a platform to tell their stories — their successes, failures, hardships, triumphs. After breaking into teams, they bring to life a scene from each of their lives. However, they do not perform as themselves in these re-enactments, but instead have others inhabit the role. These scenes provide a framework for what eventually becomes the storylines, and often two or three youth’s scenes become one longer story arc.
When I first sat down with them at a roundtable, I listened, I asked questions and more questions, and I listened again. It was immersive storytelling to help transpose and transform their world into a film. We rehearsed as we re-imagined the script, with the whole process being uniquely collaborative. The film took shape through their stories, and scenes were ripped directly from their memories. A multi-protagonist plot line formed that weaved in and out of each other’s lives. Sometimes they were deeply involved in one another’s world, and sometimes they just glanced off for a moment. Somehow we ended up with a 124-page foster care epic.
Want to learn more? Join me in tuning into Pivot TV tonight (May 27th) at 11p EST to support our friend, Juan Carlos, and spread the word on how we can help our often forgotten youth in the foster care system. Can’t tune in? KNOW HOW will be coming to DVD/iTunes on June 3rd. Check out the link to the iTunes store here – https://itunes.apple.com/us/movie/know-how/id985870275
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