Real Chi Youth reporter Jhordan Ruiz talks 'NeXt Doc' trip to New York & latest project

by Jhordan Ruiz

The 'NeXt Doc' Experience with Guest Blogger Jhordan Ruiz_ Free Spirit Media News.jpg

I'm Jhordan Ruiz, a young striving filmmaker from Chicago hoping to make an impact in the film/media industry. I tend to incorporate what I'm around into my work, such as emotions, environments, and people. I want films to feel as real as possible so that I can get my message across. I always love the opportunity to master my craft and learn new creative techniques. Around sometime in early March I applied for a program called NeXt Doc, which is ran by group called Youth FX. NeXt Doc is a 5 day program in Upstate New York by The Carey Institute for Global Good in which a young, striving film/documentarian artists such as myself has the opportunity to be surrounded with other young artists from around the world, with the same goal. You also get up close and personal with big and upcoming directors in the documentary world. To my surprise, April 28th, I received an email explaining that I've been accepted into the program. The program fortunately covered the expenses of housing and food, but not transportation to New York. Luckily, Free Spirit Media granted me $175 scholarship for travel expenses, which just so happened to be the exact amount for a roundtrip Amtrak train ticket! So, at the beginning of June, I traveled to Albany New York and had the incredible opportunity to be part of #NextDoc2017.

The experience as a whole just felt so unreal, as in too good to be true. Out of many applicants there were only fifteen of us selected. I have never been part of a more diverse group in my life, and I never felt so welcomed immediately. I honestly don't think they could have picked a better group! The people I met were amazing. They were so humble, with amazing projects under their belts. The place of study couldn't have even been better; we were literally on a mountain surrounded by the beauty and ambience of pure nature.

Without a doubt the highlight of it all was the networking. The leaders of the program were phenomenal. The directors (Sabaah Folayan, Sam Pollard, and Cecilia Aldarondo) we met were super down-to-earth. Not only did we get to see their work but we also had a personal class session with them. We went over topics like how to create, how to work, and how to fund films. And we didn't stop there. We got to personally connect with them over breakfast, lunch, and dinner. It really taught me that no matter how far away someone can seem by the status quo, you really can be extremely close in personality.

NeXt Doc coming to an end was one of the most bittersweet moments of my entire year so far. I felt like I created a whole new foundation of support, but with a slim chance of me seeing such beautiful souls for a while. Still, the experience left me highly inspired to go into high gear and do a documentary on my own about black activism throughout the years (Black panthers, Pop culture, Black Lives Matter, etc.). I hope to produce a rough cut this summer and, in the fall, go back to New York to show the leaders of NeXt Doc what they help me produce!

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