Film Courage: Alex how much are you sacrificing your Hollywood goals to be so heavily involved in FYI Films? Or did you never have Hollywood (quote-un-quote) goals?
Alex Muñoz, Filmmaker/Founder of FYI Films: Yes, I had goals that are in alignment with how Hollywood perceives success. But I don’t feel like I’m sacrificing anything because I feel like this is my organic journey to being a filmmaker.
“In working with youth it liberated me from [a formal way of filmmaking] and I become more radical in my approach to storytelling through cinema.”
I went to USC where we were very much taught a Hollywood way of filmmaking, mise-en-scène [in French meaning visual theme or telling a story], master shots, medium close-up, close-up, ECU [meaning extreme close-up], cut away!
In working with the youth [Alex is founder of FYI Films empowering youth affected by the juvenile justice system to improve their lives and become self-reliant] they are very informal. They don’t like to lock the camera down on the tripod because they are locked up. They are very inventive. Like one day I came to the camp and they attached three bungee cords on each side of the camera Hey, Muñoz…look! It’s a bungee cam. And the camera is moving and they’re very inventive. And so the way I was taught filmmaking was to take a very stately, formal Hollywood approach.
In working with youth it liberated me from that and I become more radical in my approach to storytelling through cinema. I crossed the line. We were told Never cross the sagittal plane [meaning the anatomical boundary that exists between the left and right sides of the body]. Well I do all of the time now because the youth emboldened me. So I feel like my work with them is a necessary part of my journey. I feel like my work as a filmmaker is informed by my interactions and my making films with them.
The other thing they don’t like is having to memorize lines and repeat lines because it’s too robotic for them. So before we shoot a scene with them we will say this is what is happening in the scene…(Watch the video interview on Youtube here).
FYI Films Mission:
FYI Films empowers youth affected by the juvenile justice system to improve their lives and become self-reliant. Through media literacy and the creative story-telling process, youth find their voice and gain valuable skills that are transferable to all areas of their life.
About FYI Films:
Founded in 2004, FYI FILMS has produced over thirty-five film workshops with youth in LA County, Guam and Hawaii. In these workshops, youth write, direct and perform their own short narrative films based on their past. By making films informed by their own immediate history, the process of filmmaking helps them to gain perspective on their lives. FYI FILMS regularly screens these films to policy makers, giving them insight into the lives of young people from economically disadvantaged communities, and thus helps inform them as they craft policy regarding juvenile offenders. FYI FILMS is a high impact program, and through a three year study, has proven to put a serious dent into recidivism rates in LA County.
FYI FILMS continues to change the lives of incarcerated youth. To date, the organization has helped to make over fifty-five films by offering high impact film workshops to a population that is both underserved and marginalized. FYI FILMS believes that every young person deserves a second chance to turn their lives around. Telling stories helps incarcerated youth gain invaluable perspective on their lives. By giving them the tools to make short, dramatic films based on their own personal and immediate history, it renders their past unrepeatable.
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