While she might not get paid for anchoring yet, Santos is senior at Union Hill High School and works on these newscasts and other 30-minute specials that come out of the Union Hill Video club.
"I joined Union Hill Video Club because I wanted to learn how to use a camera," said Santos, who joined the club after taking a class in TV production her junior year. "The next thing you know I was working on my first story and now I am anchor."
Like Santos, many students join the program not knowing how to use the equipment.
"It is just a matter of kids coming to the workshops and learning," said teacher Paul Lopez, who directed the movie and is the Director of Union Hill High School's Video and Television Department.
However, many students do learn how to use a camera through the club. In fact, many of the students learned what it was like by filming Explosive By Nature, a 43-minute movie about conflict resolution in an inner city setting.
Part one of Explosive By Nature was scheduled to air in the club's weekly spot at 8 p.m. on Friday Oct. 27, and will conclude this coming Friday.
The movie has already been sent to schools in Jefferson Township in New Jersey and as far away as a middle school in Alabama to be used as a teaching tool, according to Gary Wilcomes, the peer mediation facilitator at Union Hill.
Wilcomes added that the movie is also used extensively at Montclair University, the base of Conflict Resolution and Peer Mediation studies.
The film was funded by the Union City Board of Education and worked closely with the Substance Abuse Student Awareness Program. OMEGA a private production company based out of Union City also provided equipment for the filming and editing of the movie.
Making a movie
"I was a homegirl," said Cara Aranda, who played Millie, the girlfriend of the main character, Carlos.
"This was totally out of character," she added. She said that Millie is the studious type with her priorities in order.
At the auditions, which were open to anyone, not just Union Hill students, students had to read a part from the script, and then read it again with their own interpretation of the character.
After auditions, there were seven long weeks of taping that took them all over Hudson County and some parts of Bergen County.
"We taped all over Bergenline Avenue," said Lopez, who said that parts of 39th Street in Union City were also a part of the film. They also filmed at La Fonda Paisa, a restaurant on Palisade Avenue in Englewood and at Frank Sinatra Park in Hoboken.
"This film was an effort with a lot of different people," said Lopez.
Michael Lotero, who had just completed his freshman year when the filming of the movie began said, "I learned more making the movie than anywhere else. It was more hands on in the movie."
Now, as a junior, Lotero is called the "Tech Man" by the other people in the group.
"I would bet that he is able to go into a full production studio, take it apart and put it back together," said Lopez about Lotero.
However, the students were involved with production from even the beginning stages.
"I had the kids sit in on discussions with the script," said John Kraus, the Director of the Musical Theater program at the high school, who wrote the script. "We learned from them."
"We aren't 16 years old; we don't know the lingo," added Lopez.
The students learned the ins and the outs of the movie business, often having to wait four or five hours to film their scenes and making last-minute changes.
"You learn so much about what it is like in the real world," said Santos, who didn't work on the movie but has worked on the newscasts and other special programming produced by the club. "You have deadlines and it really looks professional when it is done."
Working on the script not only gave the students hands-on experience with filmmaking, but also gave them a lesson in conflict resolution, the main message of the movie.
"There was a lot of conflict resolution on the set," said Kraus, pointing to instances when the students would disagree about what scene to film next or how the scene is being shot.
The script was trying to get across the idea of using channels other than violence to solve their problems. "The movie shows kids resolving their own problems through peer mediation," said Kraus. "Rather than going to anger and violence."
However, peer mediation and conflict resolution is not a new idea to the students in Union City.
According to Wilcomes, every school in the Union City school district has a conflict resolution program within the school.
"Students learn that there is a peaceful way to come to an agreement," said Wilcomes, who said that he sends his student mediators to Peace Roots, a training site in Montclair, to be trained as peer mediators.