Raising Awareness Through Film: Student Saliha Crespo
Born and raised in Miami, Florida, Saliha Crespo is a photographer, filmmaker, and YouTuber currently majoring in Communications. In 2016, her first short film, Catch Me, which addresses the risks of teen dating violence, won two awards at the Miami 4 Social Change Youth Film Festival. Saliha is currently working on her new short film, Runaway: The Grooming Stage, which focuses on human trafficking. She plans to release it in 2023.
Tell us about your background (where you’re from, what brought you to JCU, etc.)
All throughout high school, I took 4 years of Italian. While learning the language, I also learned about the culture and fell in love with it. My Italian teacher recommended John Cabot University, however, I never submitted my application because at the time, my dream was to focus on acting, filmmaking, and my business. So, I moved to Hollywood where I lived for 3 years before moving to Italy. When it was time to transfer from Santa Monica College, I applied to JCU as a transfer student, got accepted, and I’ve been here ever since.
You’re a photographer, filmmaker, and YouTuber. What keeps you motivated in your work?
In my moments of doubt, my family, friends, and professors such as Jenn Lindsay remind me of my talent, and it gives me hope that the success I am working hard for is within reach.
You won two awards at the Miami 4 Social Change Youth Film Festival with your short film Catch Me, and you’re currently working on a new short film, Runaway: The Grooming Stage. What inspired you to focus on socially-engaged topics?
My passion for creating films that raise awareness on different issues came from my early acting days when I met a human trafficking survivor. In one of my first films, my character was based on her real-life story. I was so emotionally impacted by the story that I knew I wanted my peers worldwide to be aware of the struggles people like her face. There are things that people go through that we cannot always detect on the surface, but in film, we can bring these stories to light.
How did moving abroad affect your filmmaking?
I believe moving abroad has expanded my worldview and made me more aware of different points of view, which has in turn influenced my filmmaking. Recently, I have really been inspired by documentary filmmaking, because I get to meet people of different cultures and share their perspectives. This has inspired me to tell more diverse stories, which I think is necessary when you’re a filmmaker.
Who are some filmmakers that inspire you and why?
Some filmmakers that inspire me at the moment are Ava DuVernay, Jordan Peele, and Issa Rae. They are all so different, but each captures the real-life experience of blackness in America in their own way. Watching their films reminds me that filmmaking is all about originality and how important it is to stay true to yourself when creating art.
What advice would you give to aspiring filmmakers?
The advice I’d give to anyone is to find their niche! I spent so much of my early days as a content creator trying to make everyone else happy that, in the end, I was not fully satisfied with what I had created. Now, by focusing on my passions, sticking to my personality, and being truthful to my art, I feel so much freer, and it has made me happier all around.
What are your plans for the future?
My plans for the future are not certain, but I know as soon as I graduate from JCU, I will continue to explore Europe and look for job opportunities that will allow me to see more of the world while growing my passion as a storyteller and content creator. Who knows, maybe I will travel to Thailand to teach kids how to express themselves with a camera and a story.