Young BAYCAT filmmaker Bella Vallero, 17, has always been influenced by media, and dreams of being like the people she sees on TV. Now it’s her turn to do the influencing as she prepares to step behind the camera next year as a freshman at the University of Southern California.
USC has the best film school in the country. She credits BAYCAT with helping get her there.
“When I found out I got in, I didn’t believe it. I thought it was a joke or a mistake. I kept telling my mom, “I can’t believe I got in” for the longest time… Everything still hasn’t hit me yet,” she said. “I got to apply to as many colleges for free because of our financial standing, so I applied to a lot. Because everything was free, I applied to USC just to make my mom happy,” she said.
It will be a major shift for the film student, which can be a little daunting at times.
“I’m both excited and scared for so many things. I’m kind of intimidated because a lot of the kids going there have been doing this for years, if not their entire lives. Some of their parents even got to work on major films that have been released within the past few years, so they’ve always been exposed to this kind of stuff. The money thing intimidates me a bit, too. Not the cost of schooling, but the amount of money the other kids have. I don’t know how I’ll be able to adjust or fit in with all the other film kids there, but I have to somehow, if USC thinks I have just as much potential as them.”
Despite some nerves, after her time at BAYCAT, Bella feels well prepared to take on USC.
“BAYCAT has taught me so much. Technically speaking, they’ve helped me work better in a group setting and construct good work ethic in a collaborative environment,” she said. But the best lessons go beyond filmmaking technique.
“[BAYCAT] really taught me the importance of a diverse community. BAYCAT is all about representation and guidance and helping kids achieve their goals, and I am all about that. They helped me realize my potential in an industry as competitive as film. They helped me realize the lack of representation in media. They helped me realize that instead of noticing what’s wrong and not doing anything about it, that I should be proactive in things that I want to change, and I feel I could do that through the work I create,” she said.
The lessons in film and diversity impacted by BAYCAT instructors, have had a deeper personal impact that the young filmmaker expected.
“[The teachers] have also been really helpful in aiding me on speaking out more and having more confidence in myself. Throughout this past year, I’ve learned that I work really well under pressure, and I’ve learned that I’m worth more than I think and that I shouldn’t doubt myself too often,” she said.
Armed with renewed confidence and desire to champion representation in media, there is no other career she would rather have.
“Film combines everything I love to do into one profession. I never wanted to work a regular 9 to 5 job in an office all day, and I just feel that film can offer me the pleasure of traveling, writing, producing, interacting, and creating while still doing things I find exciting. Not knowing what each day has to offer while working is one of the main things that I found most desirable about film. The variety and constant change involved in the film industry, I feel, fits well with the kind of person I am.”
As for her hopes for the future: “I would like to see myself living comfortably and exploring the world at the same time with a camera in hand. Other than that, I’m unsure of what I’ll actually be doing. Hopefully, I’ll be successful in my film endeavors and life in general.”