Ben Ochoa

Porter ‘20, film and digital media

Ben Ochoa (Porter ‘20, film and digital media)

The documentary Ben Ochoa is most proud of is one he made that hit close to home. 

During his second year at UC Santa Cruz, the film and digital media major covered the wildfires that ravaged Napa and Sonoma counties. He remembers seeing well-known Napa Valley sites from his childhood destroyed. The fires “devastated a lot of stuff, a lot of landmarks. It kind of messes with how you think about where you’re from,” he said. Though the fires didn’t hit his home, they “affected everyone generally,” he said.

Ochoa decided he wanted to pursue film in college after researching and writing a screenplay for his high school senior project. He chose UC Santa Cruz because “Santa Cruz is one of the upper-quality film programs in public schools, big on indy projects,” he said.

Because of COVID-19, this spring he’s been working on his thesis film without being able to get the equipment that would normally be available to him as a senior. 

“There's just no sanitary way to do it,” he said. “It’s opened my eyes to what's possible with limited resources.’’

His old DSLR camera is at least better than using a phone like some of his friends, and he’s picked up a tripod and LED light. 

Ochoa figures some of his resourcefulness stems from hands-on experiences he had in summer and fall last year in London and Paris. He enjoyed several internships, including one with a tech start-up where he learned the nuts and bolts of fast-paced filming, schedules, timelines, interview skills, editing, and branding. 

“I had an amazing time,” he said.

Back on campus, Ochoa has been editor-in-chief of Eyecandy, the only film and media criticism publication at UCSC. As part of the effort, he led a student-taught class on layout and writing. As a teacher and editor “you have to learn fundraising, grant writing, social media outreach.”

Ochoa said he had planned to move to Los Angeles after graduation but everything is on hold because of the coronavirus.  

Reflecting on his UCSC years, Ochoa cites the resources available to students. 

“How much you get out of a university education depends on putting in the effort to take advantage of every resource you can use," he said. "What you get out of it depends on what you put in.”