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Q&A with BAYCAT Academy Film Student D’Arion, 17

We got a chance to sit down last week with D’Arion and talk about how BAYCAT is shaping his career and influencing his life. We are so fortunate to have young people like him in our program and in the world. Get to know D’Arion and see BAYCAT’s programming in action!

Q: Tell me about school. Do you enjoy it? What parts do you like the most?

A: I’m in high school right now and a lot of times I hear kids say, “I’m not going to use this in life, so what’s the point?” But I don’t think so. I love learning. English is a big part of what we do in film production. We have to write scripts. We have to critically think. That leads to science and exploring and testing. Which leads to math where you have to problem solve. All of these skills can be related to different topics in your life and used. I love school.

College

D’Arion (left) in action.

Q: What brought you to BAYCAT?

A: I’ve been here for about three years. I always wanted to go to summer camp but we could never afford it. For just a week it was $2,000! I was at a summer camp fair with my Mom and saw a sign that said, “Free” at the BAYCAT booth. When I talked to the lady there I could tell she liked me and wanted me to be at BAYCAT. Then I met Zara, my BAYCAT teacher. She showed me what Villy and everyone else here believes, that through film you can express yourself because personal stories matter. I got put in documentary class and I really didn’t want to do it. I thought it would be boring. Just some guy who keeps talking. The main question people have asked me since I was 12 is what do you want to be? I want to do something I love and get paid for it. That’s why I got more into documentary making. That’s when I got to use my skills in English. Because you had to critically think on what the topic should be for Zoom In. You had to thoughtfully write out questions to get to the main point. You had to have group discussions and use conversational skills and critical thinking skills. I use those skills every single day. Zara showed me how to be realistic in what I was thinking. If my big picture goal is to interview President Obama, how would I do that? I learned business skills and planning. Each semester that class would bring me back again and again.

Q: What’s it like to be working in a real studio?

A: Initially, I thought it would be very school oriented. Write this down. Listen to this. Lessons upon lessons. Then Zara explained the program to us and showed us that it was our space. That we were limitless in what we could learn and it was all up to us.

Q: What did you think about all of the tools/hardware/software?

A: The first time I was really intimidated by all of the mechanicals. I had never worked on a Mac before. I’ve always been a PC person. Learning really basic skills was so helpful. I feel like I’m on the same level as anyone else coming out of a great high school because of the technology and tools that we have at BAYCAT. Because of that, I know technical language. When I was at the Arts Academy they asked what kind of equipment we used. The teacher was shocked to know what I’ve used. I know how to use Illustrator, and Photoshop and that gave me the advantage over people. I’ve been learning these skills at BAYCAT since I was 14.

This space makes me feel like I’m in a professional production studio. You see people making business calls. You see them editing and working on projects. I feel like I’ve already made it. I feel like I’m living my dream. But, I know I have more work to do though and that’s what keeps me coming back to BAYCAT.

I recommend this program every single day. I got one of my friends to sign up. He couldn’t come back this semester because he had to get a job. I think if he could be paid here he would have come back. My teachers are very supportive of my work at BAYCAT. I brought every teacher from my school here for Zoom in. My Biology teacher at school got me all the interviews with John Hafernik who is the scientist featured in Zoom in 34, “ZomBees” which won 3rd prize at San Francisco Green Film Festival.

Q: Once you leave BAYCAT, can you paint me the picture of your dream career?

A: I don’t think I’ll stop coming until my age is over the limit and they won’t let me come back. Until they get sick of me, I’m going to keep coming back! I’ve made so many connections with other students connected to this industry. We talk all the time about things that we could produce together: Phil, Ginger, Stella, Hugo and many others who are passionate about being in this industry and are doing things they love and giving back to the world. I love to be around positive people. I like to surround myself with people who are good.

I’m already planning to go to college for film production. I am trying to plan how to make that happen. I want the hands on experience of learning and doing during the same time that I am in school. I took a class at the Academy of San Francisco in TV and movie production. The teacher said having a degree is good and will get you recognition, but, the main thing that will get you hired is having the skills. Most students know things in theory, but they don’t have the skills for practical application. I’ve learned all those skills at BAYCAT.

Q: What’s your favorite piece you did at BAYCAT?  

A: I would say, that’s like asking a parent to pick their favorite child! You can’t ask that! But, probably, “Why Ask Me?” I came up with the concept. It was the closest to my heart because it dealt with all the big issues that I care about, like education. Taking the time out to ask a person what do you want out of life? It benefits you as much as them because you end up on the same page.

Q: If a stranger read this–what would you want his/her takeaway thought of you to be?  

A: That I love to learn. I’m a young man trying to find his way through life and spread peace, love and positivity through film and other mediums. Because for me, that is what I get out of other artists.

A lot of other African American kids feel like they have two options: Do good and learn, or have friends and be “true” to your race. I want those options to change. Have your friends, and have an education and have a career, own a home and support your family. For me, having options–I really dedicate that to my mother because she is very supportive of me and what I want to do with my life. Because of BAYCAT, I’m involved with other activities that she supports too. I was part of Vote16 which tried to let 16 and 17 year olds vote in local elections here. And, I’m a part of the SF Public Library’s Youth Advisory Program. I teach others how to use Adobe Premier and do film production. It’s at The Mix in the new Teen Center. They have everything BAYCAT has in the library. Because I learned it at BAYCAT, I get to teach it to other kids who don’t go there. If no one taught me or gave me the chance I would never have known this is what I wanted to do in life. I would just have a regular 9-5 job. Passing stuff on is important to me. If everyone did that the world would be a better place.