Max Spivak, a senior in the School of International Service, had the opportunity to travel to Cochabamba, Bolivia to participate in the filming of “Your Street, Our Stage,” a documentary telling the story of Tania Coca Ardaya, a former student and current instructor for Performing Life International. Performing Life International is a nonprofit that helps impoverished youth living on the streets of Cochabamba.
This opportunity was provided by Actuality Media, which gives students the opportunity to travel abroad to share the stories of people creating change, whether small or large, in developing communities around the globe. Their films spread the word about nonprofit organizations that are focusing on new and innovative ways to diminish or solve social problems.
“What Actuality Media does is they host every summer, probably about a month each, documentary projects in different countries where the filmmakers learn a lot about the documentary trade while simultaneously creating a film for a local organization and that wherever the locale is,” Spivak said.
Spivak was the only non-film major in the group, which was appealing to him, he said.
“I wanted to learn the trade, but also [make] an impact and to see somewhere where I haven’t seen and meet some people along the way,” he said.
Performing Life, the program Spivak worked with, helps teen street performers sharpen their skills so they can earn more money. It also helps children from underserved neighborhoods with their schoolwork.
“It’s a way for them to keep them out of very dangerous situations or activities and a way to provide a safe space to do homework and to improve their art skills,” Spivak said. “They also provide meals where they might not have full meals outside of this place or to brush their teeth and provide toothpaste.”
In “Your Street, Our Stage,” you learn about how Coco Ardaya brought herself up from street circus performance and is now attending college to join the police academy in La Paz. Coco Ardaya hopes that these children will reach their full potential in the arts.
Performing Life uses Actuality Media’s documentary to gain donations and reach a wider audience by pairing with other organizations like Circus Olay. “Your Street, Our Stage” was also accepted into a small film festival called My Hero in December 2016. Spivak said that these profits are then used to “to help fund one more kid’s week.” Spivak was the producer on the project.
“As a producer, I was more like a fixer, translator, helper and just made sure that everything that needed to get done, got done and keeping things on track,” he said.
Since he didn’t know any of film techniques or software, he was not able to help with those aspects of the documentary. However, he was the only Spanish speaker on the project, so he was able to provide another valuable service to the film team.
Spivak explained that a challenge with making the documentary was how to remain respectful of the area they filmed.
“We weren’t tourists as much as travelers, which is like a big distinction to make,” Spivak said.
Spivak said he hopes to continue making more film projects in the future. He plans to attend law school after he graduates.
“You can make a documentary from anywhere in the world, but I have also seen the impact that documentaries can have,” he said. “Media is always an important method of communication and education.”