Q&A with John Cárdenas, PDC Videographer


How does your cultural background impact the way you tell stories?

View the Dawson Park video


John Cárdenas serves as Public Affairs Coordinator at Portland Development Commission. For the past two years, his role has evolved to that of PDC's videographer, documenting PDC projects and events . He has also been involved in documenting PDC's major decisions . He has produced over 60 videos, and some 40 are posted on YouTube.

In a Q&A with Colors of Influence, John talks about his passion for storytelling and the ways in which video is enabling the commission to get the word out about its projects and service s they offer.

Why is video an effective mode of communication for PDC?

Our main goal in developing these videos is to get the Portland Development Commission out there in the community, so people can get a better understanding of what we do, and the resources we have available. We offer tons of products and services . People use them, but we’d really like to get the word out to more people.

It’s time to start using video as a communication tool. Videos are super-affordable to produce. You need a camera and a Mac: that’s pretty much it. Using video to tell stories about our work helps people connect with people. There’s no better way to do that than showing a house purchased by a family, with the help of PDC. Or having someone talk on camera about how great their experience was dealing with PDC. It helps demystify any barrier s between the community and the services we offer. Hopefully, it brings us closer to the public.

Good storytelling to me boils down to one thing: people. It’s important to connect with the general public in a way that helps them to see themselves as homeowners or business owners. We wrap stories around helping people see the steps needed to become a homeowner, or services available to grow their business. We’ve used testimonials from people who have received business and home loans from PDC. Our goal is to show Portlanders the wide range of PDC products and services, where they fit in, and how they can access the services.

How did you get started in doing this work?

I started doing video work about 10 years ago. I’ve always been interested in making short movies. I’ve taken a bunch of classes at NW Film Center, PSU and did a lot of work on my own.

Last summer, I went to the New York Film Academy to study digital journalism course with NBC News. We had professors from NBC News teach the classes. Craig White taught handheld camera techniques . He has more than 30 years experience in the field and produced 6,000 pieces. That’s an outstanding and enormous amount of work.

The best take-away from that experience is that you have to produce. Every day, you’ve got to get something out and that’s how you learn. Over time, you’ll see improvements and progression, but you’ve got to put in the time. That’s what I try to do as much as possible: get a finished product out as quickly as I can while never compromising quality. I never let the camera sit too long.

Sampling of John's work (Click here to view more videos produced by John for PDC )


What community organizations are you involved in?

I’m President of the Portland Guadalajara Sister-City Association. The association is celebrating its 25th anniversary in 2009 as the second oldest Portland sister city association. I’ve been with the association for 10 years – starting as a volunteer coordinator for the annual Cinco de Mayo event.

I’m proud to serve as President: it’s a position I don’t take lightly. The need to give back to the community is a big part of our work. We work with a lot of really good people. Everyone on our board of directors is so talented and very committed. They’re at the top of their game in their fields and industries and they contribute their talents to the association.

I’m also one of the founding members of JustPortland, a group of young professionals of color who are interested in building new ways to build equity in upper-level management positions in government and private business. Diversity is a huge buzzword among elected officials. Our goal is to make sure that elected officials keep their campaign promises to retain, hire and promote professionals of color in their staff.

JustPortland is also about finding a way for people of color to become elected officials. How can we empower people of color to run for elected office? It’s really important to build a pipeline of talented people of color who can be elected to government positions. If you don’t see anyone in your own government who looks like you and talks like you, chances are, you will be less invested in your community. We want people to be more engaged in the community, and not just sit on the sidelines, watching things happen.

Spring 2009 Colors of Influence

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"Our goal is to show people the wide range of PDC products and services, where they fit in, and how they can access the services."

"Every day, you’ve got to pump something out, and that’s how you learn. Over time, you’ll see improvements and progression, but you’ve got to put in the time."


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