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Teaching Artist Spotlight: Ana

“I want to be my students’ ally.”

Ana Laura Treviño has been part of Creative Action since the summer of 2016 and has already forged lasting connections with her students at Del Valle Middle School, Ojeda Middle School, and Youth Cinema Collective. Native to the border town of Brownsville, TX and living her formative years in Miami, FL, Ana was always attuned to representations of Mexican-American heritage. Her MFA thesis, El Otro Lado (The Other Side), was a multimedia exploration of the ‘border crossings’ of self-identity and the commodification of Mexican cultural objects.

“My work was fueled and influenced by artists dealing with similar issues like immigration, including Iranian and Middle Eastern artists.”

At a social event in 2008, Ana met a young filmmaker named Barry Jenkins through a mutual friend. The meeting was brief, yet memorable enough that Jenkins emailed Ana two years later asking her to be part of his next film. Though she’d only worked behind-the-scenes in film production, and never as an actress, Jenkins cast Ana as the lead in his short film, “Chlorophyl.” In 2016, Jenkins released his next film: the heavily-praised “Moonlight”, currently nominated for eight Academy Awards. Jenkins is also the first African-American filmmaker to be nominated for Best Picture, Best Director, and Best Original Screenplay.

In a one-week shoot following a loose story with an ad-libbed script, Jenkins allowed Ana to suffuse her character with her own personality and experiences.

Ana Laura Treviño in the short film “Chlorophyl,” written and directed by Barry Jenkins

“I really liked that [Barry Jenkins] let me express my voice in the way of my own personality. He was such a laid-back director and made it so easy for someone, like me, who didn’t necessarily want to be in front of a camera […] He’s really really good at making anything beautiful. He just has this vision.”

That experience of stepping outside of her comfort zone onscreen—and on top of that, watching herself at screenings in front of thousands of strangers—pushed Ana to include performative elements to her artistic work. It also helped her as a teacher to be more perceptive in picking up on students’ subtle cues, then helping them to explore their interests.

Ana helps a Youth Cinema Collective member edit a project

“I’m lucky that I’m always able to find something that I have in common with [a student]. Especially in middle school, because I was super self-conscious and shy at that age, I really like to ask questions without being overbearing and discover things that they’re into and good at. I try to be on their side whenever I can”

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