Project Overview: Brazil Livelihood Program – VCU.br
Imagine a situation where young, talented youth use their creative energy to build careers in media. They are professionals, rooted firmly in their communities – a favela in São Paolo, a village in rural India, a shanty town in Johannesburg.
The Brazil livelihood program (VCU.br) is part of Video Volunteers’ drive to build a financially sustainable community media scene. The program gave an eight-month fellowship to ten favela youth in São Paolo; providing the support and resources they needed to establish themselves as media professionals. By rethinking their disadvantaged backgrounds, these youth were able to see their distinctive advantage in Brazil’s competitive media marketplace; as favela residents, they are uniquely positioned to tell the stories of these overlooked but crowded areas of society.
VCU.br is a result of Video Volunteers’ and Sáo Paolo-based Casa Das Caldeiras’ shared desire to build a more democratic and sustainable global media landscape. The goal of VCU.br is for each fellow (also referred to as community media entrepreneurs) to develop a one-year career plan enabling them to create meaningful documentaries in a way that would financially support them. This should lead to a long term media career path for youth from disadvantaged backgrounds. The ultimate aim is to enable these youth to develop a sustainable career in videography and media production.
In the first year pilot, the entrepreneurs received a fulltime salary to enable them to focus on the VCU.br program. They were given access to mentors, advanced training workshops and support in marketing videos to distribution platforms. The mentoring component of the program focused on helping the entrepreneurs launch careers as freelance filmmakers.
The desire to expand programming to Brazil came from seeing an already rich community media base throughout the country, coupled with an acute need for financial sustainability.
While Brazil has one of the most vibrant and thriving community media environments in the world, individual programs are often short-lived. After the conclusion of these programs, individuals and organizations often go separate ways. Participants go back to their jobs (or unemployment) and life continues much as it did before. The architecture for ongoing financially sustainable options needed to be built.
Read more about the media landscape in Brazil here.
Who is Involved?
After designing the program and receiving a grant from Art Action Fund, Video Volunteers surveyed Brazilian media NGOs and selected Casa Das Caldeiras as the local implementing partner. Casa Das Caldeiras is a well-known and highly-regarded local arts center in Sáo Paulo. It manages a fantastic array of artist-in-residency programs and community youth media programs, in areas such as graffiti art, hip hop and many others.
Casa Das Caldeiras is based in a converted 1920s factory; it is an absolutely beautiful community space. Revenue generated from renting it out for events (it’s one of the prime party venues in the city) is used to fund Casa Das Caldeiras’ community projects. As an important Sáo Paulo cultural hub, Casa Das Caldeiras connects Video Volunteers and VCU.br entrepreneurs with Brazil’s film and cultural network in a way that would not otherwise be possible.
Check out their website here.
The Community Media Entrepreneurs
The selection process for the first batch of VCU.br entrepreneurs took place from June-July 2009. They were selected from five different video/educational/social projects in São Paulo that run short-term video trainings for favela youth. Video Volunteers put down three non-negotiable qualifications: the entrepreneurs must be from disadvantaged backgrounds, they must have prior video experience, and they must have demonstrated that they had tried to find work in media but had failed to do so because they lacked sufficient business skills, networks or training. The candidates were truly impressive and inspiring. Finally, ten community media entrepreneurs were selected. These incredible young individuals brought enthusiasm and drive to the program.
You can find out more about the selected entrepreneurs here.
Video Volunteers designed a curriculum on video and livelihood and Casa Das Caldeiras hired its own trainers, and brought in its own friends, to implement it. The training was a dynamic mix of technical training and creative workshops by media professionals and artists. Under the guidance of experienced trainers, the entrepreneurs each produced three final films over the course of eight months of training. Each film was of increased demand and difficulty. The first production focused solely on cultivating sharp technical and story telling abilities. The second, built on these skills and challenged the entrepreneurs to create productions for a (non-paying) client. The third film aimed to incorporate all the learnings from the previous months of training, train the entrepreneurs to garner contracts for their work and produce content for a paying client. Finally, the entrepreneurs worked with VCU.br staff to create a personal business plan for their video production work. This final piece helped carry their work forward after the conclusion of the program.
A selection of the entrepreneurs final films are here.
The Result – A Community Video Collective
The livelihood program resulted in an exciting and innovative new venture – a video collective (Coletivo Cacamba) initiated and run by graduates of the VCU.br program. To find out about the innovative work of this group click here.
The Bottom Line: Is Video and Entrepreneurship Possible?