WATSONVILLE—The Watsonville Film Festival (WFF) will soon celebrate its 10th anniversary, and to commemorate the occasion it has launched a fellowship to support local up-and-coming Latinx filmmakers.
The Cine Se Puede fellowship will support five emerging filmmakers from Santa Cruz County and the Pajaro Valley in producing short film projects. It will assist with funding of up to $1,000 per project. Selected participants will learn to pitch stories and projects, improve film proposals, budgets, marketing and distribution plans.
Fellows will also have a chance to pitch their projects to industry experts at the 10th annual festival on March 11-20, 2022.
“For almost 10 years we have been supporting local filmmakers by providing them a platform to share their work,” said Consuelo Alba, co-founder and executive director of WFF. “This fellowship is the next step in that mission.”
The fellowship, Alba said, is meant for artists who are currently creating work (producers, directors). It is an opportunity for them to connect with the industry and help bring their art to “the next level.”
“WFF has cultivated numerous contacts with filmmakers, distributors, editors,” she said. “Through this fellowship we are providing a network of support.”
Brenda Avila, who screened her first film with WFF in 2013, has been volunteering and working part-time with the organization for eight years. She emphasized the importance of having this kind of support when getting started in the industry.
“Sometimes you have to pay fees. If you’re lucky you’ll be invited to a festival, someone will pay your way,” Avila said. “But often that’s not an option. Filmmaking is about love and talent, but it’s also about connections. You’re not guaranteed to get a paycheck or be successful. Not everyone is going to understand your vision. We wanted to be mindful about that disconnect.”
Alba said that WFF had been looking into creating the fellowship for years, but there was a lack of funding and resources. Now, the organization is finally in a position to take on such an ambitious project.
Funding for the fellowship comes from Rise Together, a Community Foundation of Santa Cruz County initiative aiming to advance racial equity throughout the county.
“This project involves a lot of people,” Alba said. “It has been a long, complex process. But we are beyond excited to provide this opportunity.”
She added that giving opportunities to Latinx filmmakers, in particular, is vital to their success.
“We do not have enough representation,” she said. “Our stories are not told and seen as much as others. So we are super excited that this [fellowship] is now a reality. It is a commitment from us to keep promoting these stories.”
Added Avila: “I’m excited about the relationships that will be formed, or strengthened through this. It’s really important for us filmmakers to get to know each other and our work.”
Filmmakers must submit their applications online through Dec. 22. Avila encouraged interested filmmakers to send in their applications, and not be discouraged if they are not chosen.
“It really is important to us that people give it a shot,” she said. “Get your feet wet. Test it out, and stay tuned—even if you don’t get into the fellowship, there will still be community events related to it happening throughout the year.”
An informational webinar about Cine Se Puede will be held Dec. 15 at 6pm. To register, and for more information about the fellowship and WFF visit watsonvillefilmfest.org.