Getting to Know our Newest Team Member & Youth Media Instructor
Meet Carla! Carla joins BAYCAT as a Media Producer and Mentor, working with the youth and young adults teaching filmmaking skills. A documentary filmmaker, artist and educator, Carla has taught filmmaking classes with hundreds of young people in collaboration with organizations throughout Los Angeles and the Bay Area, and is excited to use her skills to inspire a new group of students.
Where are you from?
I was born in Hollywood and raised in Los Angeles. I mostly grew up in Reseda- which is in the San Fernando Valley, 30 miles northwest of LA. The Valley is where the term “Valley Girl” comes from, so I guess that makes me one! The neighborhood I grew up in is a diverse, working-class Latino, Asian, and Eastern European immigrant community with lots of families and many languages spoken. The landscape consists of auto body shops and horse stalls and the subject of the Tom Petty song, “Free Fallin.” Reseda is also where the movie Karate Kid takes place.
Why the Bay Area?
The Bay Area has always been this place of possibility- there is a spirit of challenging the status quo through art and politics that is very inspiring to me. I have always been drawn to the legacies of radical activism here in the Bay Area- from the Black Panthers, to the student activism for Ethnic Studies at SF State, to queer activism of ACT UP during the AIDS crisis. What I love most are the people here- the many faces that I see become familiar in a city full of neighborhoods, each with their own histories.
The reality of living in the Bay Area, specifically in San Francisco, has been harsh. The cost of living, the struggle for housing, and the fight to remain in the city affects all of us- whether you are a teacher, a businessman, a mother, a city worker, or a young person just trying to get by. We are all connected and have a real impact on each others’ lives, and we need to make it right for all the families, the elders, and young people who call San Francisco their home.
What made you want to work with youth?
Growing up as a queer mixed-race girl, I didn’t see myself in the movies or TV shows I watched, or the books I read. Thankfully, I had some amazing teachers in high school who encouraged me to develop my own perspective as an artist and an activist- it was the first time I began to take my own ideas seriously. My hope, as an educator, is to challenge this dominant culture of profit and level the playing field where young people recognize their power as creators, decision makers, and full and complete human beings with something important and valuable to share with the world.
What is your favorite part of working with youth?
I love the way young people breathe life into a room, into your lesson plans, take the theme and the concepts we’re working with and make it their own. Young people will always surprise you. They keep it real too. I’m grateful to always be learning from the experiences of young people. Oh! They also make me laugh and tend to find the humor in all things.
Have you had and fun or memorable experiences with youth in your career so far?
So many! I will never forget shutting down the 2nd Street tunnel in Los Angeles with 40 young people to film an opening scene on Halloween a few years back. Working on the set of a Margaret Cho music video with a team of teen girls was amazing. Seeing young people off to college or writing recommendations for jobs in their dream field has been extremely rewarding as well.
What has working with young people taught you?
Working with youth has reminded me to never give up on the 15 year-old girl that resides in me and to tell her to never give up on her dreams.
Why is youth media important?
Seeing the world through the eyes of young people will change the way you look at the world. Young people hold vision and they have really solid ideas about how to make the world a better and more inclusive place for all people. I have seen youth media inform curriculum, affect policy, and remind us of what it means to bring out our best for our communities and ourselves.
What do you do when you’re not at BAYCAT?
You can find me swimming, climbing trees, reading books, watching movies in old theaters, going for long walks through the city, and working on my own documentary projects.
Last book read? Spitboy Rule: Tales of a Xicana in a Female Punk Band by Michelle Cruz Gonzales
On Your iPod? Kendrick Lamar’s good kid m.A.A.D city forever, on repeat.
Favorite movie: Shadows by John Cassavetes
Favorite restaurant: The Old Clam House in Bayview
Favorite meal of all time: Sopa de Mani is a potato and peanut based stew from Bolivia, where my mom is from. It’s cooked slowly over hours with beef ribs and garnished with parsley fries on top- so delicious!