Local Man Takes Film Class To San Quentin For Discovery Channel Series
6-episode series debuts Friday.
Pepe Urquijo was born and raised in the Santa Clarita
Valley. He went to school at Sky Blue Mesa, Canyon High and College of the
Canyons before transferring to San Francisco
After earning a degree in filmmaking, Urquijo quickly
transitioned into the role of a teacher, bringing film programs to lower income
children and senior citizens around the Oakland/San Francisco area.
Then, in the middle of last year, he got a called for an
opportunity that would draw upon his experience for a six-week long documentary
Radical Media had decided to produce a show about setting up
a film school in San Quentin, one of California's
most notorious maximum security prisons.
No film program had ever been brought to a prison, much less
the very facility that has played host to Charles Manson and runs the only male
death row facility in the state.
But they pushed ahead, and Urquijo readied his lesson plans
for the class, which consisted of nine inmates. Of those, there was an almost
equal split of African American, Caucasian and Latin American students, each of
them eager to learn.
"When you work with folks that really have a desire to be
there, that really want to tell a story...wow," recalled Urquijo.
He said that they worked 8-hour days for six weeks straight
to bring the inmates up to speed. The students worked to develop their stories,
plan their production schedules and execute the video filming and editing.
"I would assign a chapter of reading, and when I came in the
next day they had already read the assigned chapter, plus the one before it and
after it," Urquijo said. "They really kept me on my toes."
The most rewarding part for Urquijo was the final product.
"What they were able to do was create a world that actually
broke down those barriers, broke down those walls and you're taken to a place
that's very personal," he said.
"San Quentin Film School" will debut on the Discovery Channel
Friday, March 20th, at either 6:00 a.m.,
or 9:00 a.m. Some television providers
might broadcast the episode at both times. Each successive Friday a new episode
will debut for the next six weeks.
The episodes will feature the entire process, including portions
of the students' video projects.
Even now, the show is having an effect on Urquijo and the
inmates. While two of the students were serving life sentences, three others
have already been released. One lives in Oakland
now and has kept in contact with Urquijo as he tries to keep his life on the