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The Student News Site of Sacramento City College

The Express

The Student News Site of Sacramento City College

The Express

‘Unheard Voices’; Student videographer illuminates issues facing juvenile detainees in upcoming documentary
City College student Nathan Dang sits in William Land Park on a sunny April afternoon after class. Anastasia Jones | Staff Photographer | [email protected]


‘Unheard Voices’; Student videographer illuminates issues facing juvenile detainees in upcoming documentary

Nathan Dang is making moves (and movies) to break into the world of cinema. At 19 years old, with a collection of cinematic works already under his belt, the up-and-coming videographer’s most recent project takes a look behind the scenes of a tender subject: Sacramento’s at-risk youth.

“I can’t say much right now, but it’s basically about that, and how you can empower the youth” says Dang. “We are the second city in the entire country that’s doing this program. We wanted it to be a short film, but the county decided they wanted a more educational, informative piece about the subject matter, so it became a documentary.”

The documentary was commissioned by Sacramento County to shine light on a new program called the Crossover Youth Practice Model. Sacramento County’s official website says “The CYPM was implemented with the primary goal of reducing the number of youth who cross over from Child Protective Services to Juvenile Justice.”

Although the original idea for the project changed, Dang was excited to add his creative flair. “It used to be—it still is a feature idea about kids in juvie hall. The narrative aspects and dramatization of the documentary was completely our idea. Thankfully (the County) was really happy about that.”

Dang’s long-time friend Alex Greenlee directed the piece, titled “Unheard Voices: A Documentary on the Crossover Youth Practice Model in Sacramento.” Dang was in charge of the camerawork and other technical aspects.

“I met Alex when I joined the Tower of Youth program which advocates for young students in digital media,” Dang says. “I really started collaborating with Alex during senior year. Our first film together was for his NYU submission. He’s one of my best buddies at this point.”

Greenlee’s idea for the film began in 2016.

“Alex went to go visit juvie hall in Rosemont way before this documentary, just to get an idea for his feature film,” Dang says. “Ever since then its been in his mind, and then the Crossover Youth Practice Model was coming up in Sacramento.

I was officially brought on when Alex got a green light after he pitched his idea to Chapman (University). Part of this project is actually a community service for his school since he’s a film major.”

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“It was a skeleton crew,” says Dang. “(It was) Me, Alex, and our sound guy William Stinson. We were taking on three different positions each, three times what one person would normally do. That’s kind of normal now. Everyone is trying to get into the film industry with a camera in hand and a skeleton crew. Everyone is trying to learn everything.”

The film was subsidized largely by Sacramento County. Michael Shores, the assistant chief probation officer for Sacramento County Probation Department, oversaw the project.

“We had a guy who was the assistant probation chief, Michael Shores, who helped us get the people that we needed to interview. He was the person that really helped make this happen,” says Dang. “Mike is very passionate about juvie reform. He’s not your typical government type of guy. When we showed the documentary to Mike, he loved it so much he said if we wanted to do more work on juvenile justice, he would pay us next time.”

Dang hopes the project will shape his career.

“My future is based on a bet,” says Dang, who’s transfering to CSU Fullerton in fall. “I’m networking like crazy, learning the skills I need to develop a language for the industry. What I want to do with this doc is show that Sacramento has potential. We are submitting the doc to festivals right now to see what kind of exposure we can get. I’m hoping this doc will catapult us into somewhere.”   

Dang’s interest in videography began when he was only 16.

“It started as just a couple of guys and me wanting to make videos when I was a freshman in highschool,” Dang says. “I really like producing the look in movies. In addition to the script, I believe lighting and framing and blocking is what really makes a movie a movie. That’s what really got me into it. The fact that I get to control where the image can go is a creative outlet for me… I get to put a little bit of myself in the movie.”

The release date for the documentary has not yet been announced by Sacramento County. Dang hopes that it will be available to the public before fall.


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