SBCC documentary filmmaking class thanks first responders

David Sjostedt, Channels Staff

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Fifteen City College students and their teacher filmed personal accounts of the Santa Barbara community to express their admiration and gratitude for the first responders of the Thomas Fire and Montecito Mudslides.

The project, led by instructor Osiris Castenada, was able to be made thanks to the Film and Television Production department’s documentary filmmaking class. The team consisted of field producers and camera crews that utilized a green screen and a high performance camera to capture accounts of people that had experiences to share.

“There were several moments where people spoke and we were just in awe thinking, did we really record this?” Castaneda said.

Although the green screen was mainly used to display footage of fires and debris flow, it also gave people the opportunity to share pictures of their loved ones. In addition, the equipment used created a perception of authenticity and interest to the set.

“People are definitely really excited to be on camera, especially when you have a green screen and the whole crew out there,” said Devin Green, a student in the filmmaking class.

Castenada reflected back on the recording process saying that one woman waited for over an hour with a rose in her hand ready to share her story for the film.

“We needed a vehicle for people to tell their stories and say thank you,” said Margaret Prothero, a City College English teacher who sparked the idea.

Prothero initially wanted to set up a video booth on campus to allow people to say thank you when they came back from spring break, but this plan was thwarted by the onset of the mudslides.

“We couldn’t do it then, but we realized we had a lot more to thank them for now,” she said.

During this time, Casteneda was already gathering footage for the film evevn before Prothero approached him with the idea.

“You’ve always got to have your batteries charged and your camera ready to go,” he said.

By tagging along with a local news team, Castenada was allowed the opportunity to film up close shots of the flames. His drive to film the fire arose both from curiosity as well as concern for a place that he once called home.

“We were former Montecito residents,” he said. “Exactly where all the flooding happened.”

One of the things he said surprised him the most was the role firefighters had uplifting the victims.

“They’re not just there to protect people they’re there to support and console them too,” Casteneda said.

This draws similarities to how he teaches his class.

“The number one thing in a documentary is to be empathetic,” he said. “It’s not uncommon to see people cry in doc class.”

“People respond to the medium of video,” added Prothero. “And overall even if people weren’t directly affected we all want to say thank you.”

“Were going to make sure it gets sent to everybody who was involved in helping us.”

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