Brooklyn’s Reel Works finds and develops cinema’s future stars
Helsen Sanabia is just 15 years old, but he already has the knowledge and the credits of your typical college film student. When discussing his craft, you might find him referencing directors like Wong Kar-wai or speaking about his own film, which recently screened at the MOMA.
How is this possible? Much of it is a testament to Sanabia’s own curiosity and drive, as well as the encouragement of his father, who introduced Sanabia to many influential films. But a large part is due to a Brooklyn-based organization called Reel Works.
It’s a program that provides free filmmaking, mentoring and workforce readiness programs to over 1,600 youth ages 12-24 across NYC. Each year, Reel Works sponsors a 24-week documentary filmmaking workshop where high school students are paired 1:1 with an industry mentor to plan, shoot and edit a short film on their lives and communities. That’s where Sanabia partnered with mentor Alex Portera, Director and Co-Founder of the Brooklyn-based digital production company Rally On Media. It’s also where he forged his latest project – WANGS.
The documentary short film chronicles the origins of the Brooklyn fried chicken restaurant of the same name, owned by former Top Chef contestant and current Park Slope resident, Sara Nguyen. It premiered on April 12th at the Museum of Modern Art, as part of the Reel Works Documentary Lab. I had the privilege of sitting down (virtually) with the up-and-coming filmmaker, to hear about his experience and thought-process behind the piece.