Brothers on the Pitch

The Premiere

The FedEx Global Education Center welcomed over 300 attendees for the premiere of Uprooted. Photo Credit: Tenley Mae Garrett

Last night was special.

Four months of hard work culminated in a successful presentation of our project, Uprooted.

Over 300 members of our community came to campus to watch the live presentation of the short documentaries that told the stories of Venezuelan migrants in Medellín, Colombia. It was a surreal experience to see the impact the films had, and I’m grateful to have been a part of this amazing project.

The ‘Economy’ team. From left, journalist Brooklynn Cooper, visual storytellers Bryan Cereijo and Abby Cantrell, and designer Kailee Akers.

Celebrating after the premiere. Photo Credit: Alex Kormann

To the Vinotinto FC family, thank you so much for allowing us into your lives and sharing your story. The world now knows how special you all are.

Laurenti Velasquez and Alvaro Junior Cardenas of Vinotinto FC.

The Process

After filming for 10 days in Colombia, our team had a little over a month to edit the films together. We would share our radio cuts, scenes, assemblies, and rough cuts in class and give each other feedback. It was a long and tedious process, but it proved worthy.

Here’s what our final timeline looked like:

Scenes are coded by different colors, natural sounds make up the first three audio tracks, the interview audio makes up the fourth track, and the music bed is in the fifth and sixth track. Having this coordination is definitely helpful during the polishing phase.

While the video team worked on editing the short documentaries, the developers, writers, designers and photographers worked on making sure the website was coming together, the stories were polished, the interactive graphics were functioning, and the photo journey was edited.

The Final Product

And here is my team’s final video:

Most Venezuelans who have the fortune of making it to Colombia find the things that they lack in their home country: food, safety, employment and the list goes on. But sometimes, even when life’s basic necessities are fulfilled, you can still feel a void. This is the story of how an immigrant from Caracas filled his void through sport—and helped dozens of other Venezuelans fill theirs too in the process.

You can explore the rest of the project at http://uprooted.unc.edu - where you will find the four other documentaries, the written pieces, the interactive graphics, and the photojourney.

Eu Sambo Diferente

About a month ago, Brazilian artist Caique Vidal allowed me to document his busiest week of the year, as he prepared for his Carnaval show. Vidal, a native of Salvador da Bahia, is a multi-instrumentalist, songwriter, and music educator. He stays true to his Afro-Brazilian roots by creating samba-reggae music, which is also a way of staying connected to home despite being 3,000 miles away. For the past six years, he’s been promoting Brazilian culture in the Triangle area while trying to strengthen the community.

Opening Day in Syracuse

It’s Opening Day for the Syracuse Mets - previously the Syracuse Chiefs - and on this #ThrowbackThursday, I want to share a photo story on Rafael Bautista that I photographed two years ago, as well as some of my favorite images from the 2017 season.

During my junior year at Syracuse University, I knew I wanted to work on a baseball story, but in Syracuse, we don’t have a Major League Baseball club. I started brainstorming story ideas and thought it would be interesting to document one of the players who was projected to be called up during the season.

I did some research before Opening Day and found that Dominican centerfielder Rafael Bautista was one of the top prospects expected to play in the big leagues during the season.

I reached out to the Syracuse Chiefs and they were very accommodating in allowing me to talk to Rafael and giving me a season pass to photograph as many games as I possibly could.

Rafael was awesome and he had a great season with the Chiefs. One day, he called me and lets me know that he was about to go to the mall to buy a suit in case he got the call. I picked up my camera to document the moment. Seven days later, he makes his debut for the Washington Nationals.

Starting this year, the Syracuse Chiefs are the Syracuse Mets - the Triple-A affiliate to the New York Mets. The Triple-A team for the Nationals is now the Fresno Grizzlies, where Rafael hopes to play after he recovers from a season ending injury that he sustained last year.

My time photographing Rafael and the Chiefs is one of my fondest memories of my time in Syracuse. The organization is all class, and I am so appreciative of the opportunity they gave me. 

Most importantly, I will always be grateful because they helped me surprise my dad with the throwing of the first pitch during one of the games. It was a special day.

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Ten Days in Colombia

The past couple of weeks have been busy. There’s been filming, working on midterms, more filming, getting ready for Colombia, more filming, traveling to Colombia, more filming, and now I am finally back in the States. 

It’s taken me a couple of days to regroup - and I’m still working on it - but I’ve finally have been able to gather myself enough to sit down and write a bit about my experience.

Traveling to Medellín, Colombia with the Uprooted UNC group was an amazing experience. I’m grateful for this opportunity because it was inspiring and meaningful: we traveled, met awesome people, and documented important stories.

There were a lot of moments of reflection during the trip in which I just thought about how incredible it was that I was in another country, doing what I most care about, and working with my peers to shed light on the struggles that Venezuelans face when they are forced to flee their country.

Over the next few days, I’ll be sharing some of my favorite moments and images from the trip as my peers and I start putting the entire project together for an April 23rd premiere date.

The view from Medellín’s recently inaugurated ‘ Metrocable .’ The Miraflores station became the fifth gondola lift station in the city, making Medellín one of the cities with the best sustainable public transportation in the country.

The view from Medellín’s recently inaugurated ‘Metrocable.’ The Miraflores station became the fifth gondola lift station in the city, making Medellín one of the cities with the best sustainable public transportation in the country.

Docs in the Dome: Tales of the American South

Last semester, Nathan Klima and I produced two short docs in the span of four months on the American South. 

For our local story, we traveled to the nearby town of Siler City. The population of Siler City, North Carolina has increased by 20% since 2000. Along with the population growth, there’s been a demographic shift in which Hispanic residents now make up roughly 50% of the town. Fourteen years ago, Jose Juan started an independent soccer league, La Liga Sabatina de Siler City, which he organizes to this day. Soccer is now what unites this town in the American South.

For the second film, we traveled to East Atlanta, which has become one of the most significant regions for contemporary hip-hop music in the United States. We filmed rap duo Osei & Armani, from Bouldercrest Road, home to some of the most popular rappers to come out of Atlanta. In the short film, Osei & Armani reflect on the what it takes to be successful in the most popular music genre today.

Both films will be screened at Morehead Planetarium today at 6pm along with eight other films produced by our peers. At the end of the showing, we will host a Q&A where we will answer questions about the stories and production.

Hope to see you all there!

Also, go ‘Cuse!

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Portrait Preparedness

In January, I started working for Morehead Planetarium and Science Center in Chapel Hill, North Carolina. As a production assistant, I’m responsible for filming and editing promotional videos and assisting the creative department with research and editing for planetarium shows. But perhaps the coolest perk is being able to photograph some of the awesome people who come to visit.

On Friday, Astronaut Charlie Duke came to talk about the various Apollo missions he participated in, including the one that took him to the moon. General Duke is one of only 12 people to have walked on the moon and was the Capsule Communicator (CAPCOM) for Apollo 11, the first moon landing. It was incredible to hear him talk about some of his experiences in person.

Because he was on a tight schedule, I did not have a lot of time to make a portrait. I thought about what I wanted it to look like and arrived early to set up. I knew it had to be simple because of the time constraints so I took my reliable and efficient Yongnuo YN360 light and had Sam - a gentleman who was working the event - help me out and stand in so I could have an idea of what my exposure would be. 

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Hurry up and wait.

About 10 minutes later, General Duke walked in and I quickly introduced myself, directed him to the spot where I wanted him to stand, and fired off six frames in 10 seconds.

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Mission Accomplished.

Professor Greg Heisler at Syracuse University always stressed the importance of working with intention, having an idea, and then being prepared. Though this was a simple setup and thankfully everything went seamlessly, this shows the importance of all these tips - especially in larger, complicated shoots.

Year Twenty-Two

I was talking to one of my mentors this past week about my recent struggles. He listened. Then he reminded me of what we do as storytellers - we seek to document and share stories. But what makes a good story?

In its most basic form, a good story includes a person who has a goal and overcomes struggle to achieve that goal. During the journey, there is change that comes from overcoming said struggle.

As Donald Miller says, “somehow we realize that great stories are told in conflict, but we are unwilling to embrace the potential greatness of the story we actually live in.

Though we strive for a perfect life, not only is that something that is unachievable, but it’s also something that would cause us to plateau, to stop growing.

Year 22 was probably the most challenging year thus far. I experienced the highest of highs in graduating from Syracuse University and returning home for a bit to spend time with my family.

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I also experienced real lows in moving to another state by myself, trying to acclimate to a new space, starting all over, and dealing with the physical and mental effects that this stress caused.

Through this, Year 22 taught me the importance of allowing myself to seek help when I realize that I cannot do everything all by myself. I’m so thankful for my supportive family and all that they’ve done and continue to do to ensure I continue on my path. It taught me struggle and it has been slowly showing me the growth that stems from it.

Year 22 made me realize the importance of truly understanding my passion. This has allowed me to expand the amount of things I can do with it - learning to use different mediums, mentoring, and further enjoying what I do.

Year 22 reaffirmed the golden rule. The rule that tells us to treat others as we would wish to be treated. The rule that my mom has told me to live by since I can remember. When others don’t abide by it, remind them of the rule. I’ve come to understand that not everyone is going to like me, but they have to respect me.

Year 22 reinforced the idea that it truly takes a village to achieve success. I’m so grateful for everyone that has supported me in my endeavors during the past year.

Year 22 taught me that I define what success is for me. Everyone’s path is different. Coming to terms with this has helped me stay focused on the path I’m blazing. I know that if I constantly work hard, results will surely follow.

Year 22 showed me that I can set goals and then follow through by doing everything in my power to meet my own expectations. This year, I competed for one of two TEDxUNC student spots, and though I ultimately wasn’t selected, I finally put together a presentation that I was proud of and that I feel can inspire others. I’ll just think of it as practice for next year.

Year 22 helped me realize it is important to live in the present, in the moment. Trying to take it all in because life moves so fast. Acknowledging small victories is important.

Year 22 highlighted the importance of friendship – especially when one is going through challenging times.

I appreciate you, Jackie, for always being just one phone call away. For always listening. And for always giving me the best possible advice. See you soon.

I appreciate you, Manny, for being the best brother I never had. I know that you’re always there for whatever I need and that means a lot. I also want to thank you and Geo for taking time out of your day and meeting up to celebrate my birthday.

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Year 22 confirmed my love for mentorship. Over the past couple of months, I’ve used several opportunities to talk to students about the importance of what we do and share all that I’ve learned about visual storytelling.

Facilitating a class in video journalism at  Randolph Community College . Thank you to Khadejeh Nikouyeh and Jay Capers for the opportunity.

Facilitating a class in video journalism at Randolph Community College. Thank you to Khadejeh Nikouyeh and Jay Capers for the opportunity.

Year 22 taught me the importance of understanding emotions, learning how to control them, and working toward growing my emotional intelligence. Because “intelligence can come to nothing if emotions hold sway.”

Year 22 proved to me that Year 23 will be what I make of it.

No Te Rindas

Last week in my documentary video storytelling class, we were assigned an “interpretation” assignment in which we could choose any poem and put together a narrative to represent it.

I wanted to make the assignment meaningful. I had never made an interpretation piece where I had to think about every shot in the video beforehand and the meaning it would contribute.

This project became significantly more special when my mom - who was visiting - agreed to be a part of it, reading one of the poems that she constantly reminds me of when I’m too stressed and not feeling too well.

No Te Rindas translates to “Don’t Give Up,” and it’s a poem by Mario Benedetti that reminds us to keep pushing forward, to keep going despite the many hardships we may face. Why?

“Because every day is a new beginning,

Because this is the hour and the best moment.

Because you are not alone, because I love you.”

My mom and I filmed for three days and edited it all together on the last day. It was awesome to give her insight as to what I did - from the filming, to the editing, to the countless hours spent looking for royalty free music that would perfectly fit the video. It was like ‘Bring Your Parents to Work’ weekend (which actually exists).

We were both happy with the end result, but more importantly, with the time we spent together creating something meaningful for the both of us.

When she got on the plane, she sent me a text that read “thank you for allowing me to be a part of your projects. I really enjoyed it. I love you.” Love you too, mamá. This is a video and an experience that we will both forever cherish.