Celebrating the Second Year of Creative Careers

On December 12, 2023, the Austin Film Society hosted its second annual Creative Careers Capstone Celebration, an event celebrating the accomplishments of AFS’s unique workforce development program run through Austin Public. The evening’s attendees included people from throughout AFS’s extended film family — past Creative Careers graduates, AFS Grant-supported filmmakers, AFS Board Members, and the local film community — all there to support the 2023 graduates of Creative Careers.

Creative Careers is AFS’s hands-on workforce development program for emerging creatives trying to break into the film and television industries. The program aims to help young people, especially those who may have been overlooked by these industries in the past, get a leg up at this crucial stage of their professional journeys.

“Access is essential for emerging creatives.” — Rakeda Ervin, AFS Director of Community Education

The evening started off with a lively reception in the lobby of AFS Cinema where guests mixed and mingled with program participants over drinks and charcuterie before moving into the theater for the program showcase. After AFS CEO Rebecca Campbell thanked the evening’s sponsors and welcomed everyone to the event, Director of Community Education Rakeda Ervin dove into the numbers and impact of the program:

85 program participants to date | 96% graduation rate | 71% BIPOC participants | 63 jobs reported to AFS after graduation

This and several creative reels set the tone for the in-depth panel discussions that followed, where audiences got to hear from program participants about their experiences during and after Creative Careers. 

The first panel, moderated by Program Manager Jacob Ramón (who also teaches several classes), focused on those who’d been in the AFS Internship Pathway, the six-month, stipend-paid internship and training cohort for 18-24-year-olds. Joining him on stage were Dylan Aguilera (spring 2023 graduate), Andrea Cardenas (spring 2023 graduate), and Will Mauldin (spring 2023 graduate), who spoke about the professional opportunities they’ve seen since graduating. Aguilera became a PA during SXSW 2023, Cardenas worked at the Houston Media Arts Film Festival, and Mauldin was booked to be a PA on a short film, his first on-set gig.

“I’ve had a lot of internships and none have been like this … this opened the door for me.” — Andrea Cardenas, AFS Internship Pathway, spring 2023

The second panel of the evening was led by AFS’s Production Services Manager, Christian Nelson, who provides much of the hands-on in-the-field training to the Immersive Training Pathway of Creative Careers, which is also stipend-paid. Joining him on stage were Noah Brown (spring 2023 graduate), Malaysia English (spring 2023 graduate), and Trai Wade (fall 2023 graduate), who spoke about the community and network they’ve gained from the program.

“[Creative Careers] opened my eyes that there’s this huge net of people who want to meet you and get you involved. Once I left the Creative Careers program, I felt like I had an abundance of that.” — Noah Brown, Immersive Training Pathway, spring 2023

The evening drew to a close with the keynote commencement address by AFS Grant-supported filmmaker PJ Raval, known for films like Call Her Ganda (2018) and Who We Become (2023), the latter of which recently became available to stream via Netflix. His speech took those listening through a tour of his film career starting in 1995 as he learned how to load a 16mm camera at UC San Diego from Babette Mangolte (cinematographer of films like Jeanne Dielman, 23 Quai du Commerce, 1080 Bruxelles). 

Raval also shared other important moments of his career, highlighting filming in New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina for Trouble The Water (2008) and getting to attend the red carpet premiere of his own film, Trinidad, in 2008. He finished by talking about how only a week beforehand, in December of 2023, he was at the graduation of UT Austin’s MFA program when he heard a student talk about how far the industry has come to make space for queer filmmakers like himself.

It was a moving conclusion to an inspiring evening and a fitting finale to another successful year of AFS Creative Careers. For more information about this program, click here, and for photos from the event, click here. Those interested in further coverage of AFS Creative Careers, please reach out to will@austinfilm.org.