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RAFAEL GELL

Born & Raised: Dominican Republic and Harlem

First EVC Project: Gender Power: Street Harassment in NYC (2014)

Current Occupation: Studio Operator, CNN

Education: AS, Theater Production, Borough of  Manhattan Community College; BS, New York University, Media Culture and Communication

Films:
  • Gender Power: Street Harassment in NYC (2014)

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Rafael's Story

Born in Manhattan, Rafael moved to the Dominican Republic when he was three to live with his grandmother. He returned to New York City when he was six, landing in the Bronx. Rafael found EVC at a critical time in his life: he had already been in and out of several high schools, and was worried he would never graduate. He woke up one day with the realization that if he didn’t graduate from high school he wouldn’t succeed in life. Attending City-As-School, he was grateful that he could learn about almost anything that he was passionate about by doing internships around the city. He was enthusiastic about film, theater, and communications, so he applied to EVC, and EVC accepted him as an intern in Youth Doc Workshop (YDW).

 

He became a leader of his YDW production team. He went on to co-produce Gender Power: Street Harassment in New York City, which shed light on the causes of street harassment and solutions for creating more equitable gender power. Working on the film helped him not only gain artistic and technical filmmaking skills, but he also learned how to put them to use to make a film with a sociological perspective. As he worked hard editing the film and listening to the interviews, he came to realize how desensitized he had become to the ways young men objectified girls and women. The film premiered at the HBO Theater in Manhattan and won awards at three festivals. 

 

Inspired by his time at EVC, Rafael graduated high school in 2013 and was accepted to the Borough of Manhattan Community College (BMCC). There he majored in theater and joined the film club, and eventually he was elected vice president of the club. He directed a short film that screened at Tribeca. He graduated from BMCC with an associates degree in Theater Production. The confidence he gained there led him to New York University, where he graduated with honors in spring 2019 with a bachelors of science in Media Arts Studies.

 

After graduation and faced with the daunting task of finding work in the New York City media industry, Rafael again received critical mentoring, networking, and career-skills assistance from EVC. In addition to connecting Rafael to media professionals and his first freelance job opportunities, EVC offered Rafael an internship, enabling him to develop a film reel that both provided him work experience as well as his first work samples for a growing media portfolio. And EVC sponsored an internship for Rafael at Bloomberg News under the mentorship of Technical Director Alex Soto, another EVC alum. Rafael reflected, “EVC helped me get an internship at Bloomberg News, which literally changed my life because it led to a full-time contracted position. If I didn’t have the connection through EVC, I never would have had an ‘in’ to a job that I love and that has launched my career in media.”

 

Rafael stays connected to EVC and periodically returns to participate in EVC screenings as an alumni guest speaker. He has full-time work as a studio operator for CNN, and he is working toward membership in a professional union.
 

Favorite EVC Project:

"Gender Power —  my group’s documentary on street harassment. Interviewing Ronnie, one of my best friends, was a challenge for me. Because of the way he always bothered girls on the streets, I wanted him to change. That’s why I interviewed him the way I did. To get him to really think about what he was doing, and have the other boys who will watch our  video think about it too."

Proudest Youth Media Moments:

"My proudest moment was when I was standing on the stage at HBO, screening our documentary, Gender Power. I actually felt that I had achieved something great.  And I felt that I wanted more.  That was a motivation for me to keep going at it and doing what I love. Which is film.  And I know I wont stop till I achieve my goals. My dream is to win an Academy Award for best film."