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Luis Peña, Northeastern Alumnus

After taking Topics in Documentary Production (currently called Documentary Production) while a student here at Northeastern, Luis Peña knew he had found his passion. The class, taught by CAMD’s Tracy Heather Strain, Professor of the Practice, not only introduced Luis to the basics of filmmaking, it also encouraged him to explore the field in ways he had never considered. The course was the first step toward a career as an independent filmmaker, which Luis now pursues full-time in Atlanta.

“In Professor Strain’s class, we went over everything from how to use a camera, to how to use post-production software, to how to tell an effective story,” Luis explained.

Throughout the course, Luis discovered that he really enjoyed every facet of the filmmaking process, and this is truly how he began to uncover and realize his fascination and passion for the work.

“As a working filmmaker, my goal is to share as much of what I do when I am making my documentaries. Each semester I help students work to transform their ideas into stories that express their interests and will resonate with audiences,” Professor Tracy Heather Strain added. “The work is extremely detailed and focused, and we screen and discuss documentary classics as well as contemporary works to analyze how others tackled their storytelling. For the technical aspects of the course, I combine hands-on instruction, practice assignments and self-directed learning. The diverse stories my students craft each semester inspire me; I have learned so much from them through their documentary shorts.”

After Northeastern, where Luis graduated in 2015 with a business degree, he went on to pursue a Master’s in Film from the Savannah College of Art and Design (SCAD), where he is now giving technical workshops when scheduling allows. Currently, he is leading a workshop (for undergrad and grad students) on how to use a RED camera – and is enjoying living in Atlanta, which Luis describes as quite the up-and-coming hub for film.

Since the field itself is very collaborative and focused on networking, being in a location with a growing film scene was key for Luis.

“The entire experience of creating a documentary is collaborative,” he described. “Depending on the purpose of the documentary, you could be working with an individual or a team to raise awareness about something, or to simply showcase that something happened. Either way, I find documentary films to be the truest form of capturing reality.”

This is partly because these films require an abundance of research, which is also typically a team effort. Luis jokes that sometimes, the process of researching and creating a story that will effectively resonate with the intended audience is a longer process than the actual filming.

Luckily for Luis, he loves the whole process and experience from start to finish.

“For me, it was easy to excel once I found what I loved to do,” he described. “Filmmaking comes so naturally to me, and it’s definitely important to know what you are good at.”

Now, Luis just wrapped working as Director of Photography on a film project entitled “Time and Place,” currently in post-production. The film, directed by Simon David, is about the soul music artist Lee Moses and his forgotten career in the Atlanta music scene in the 70s. Luis is also focusing on supporting young people who want to be in this business and follow a similar career path.

“The best advice I give students is to work for what you love, but be very aware of the skillset you’ve developed,” he concluded. “It’s easier to shine when you’re doing what you love. And have patience – work, work, work, but take the time to make connections and enjoy your life!”

To see some snapshots of what Luis is working on, find him on Instagram!