Organization creates, screens films by cancer patients

“Film can change people’s lives,” said Eleanor Cho, who started the club Spotlight On Hope at USC because of her conviction in the power of film. Through various workshops, the club teaches cancer pediatric patients and their families how to create stop motion animation.

Maansi Manchanda | Daily Trojan

On Thursday, Cho and the club screened 10 films, which were all produced by workshops from the organization. They were screened on Thursday at the School of Cinematic Arts. The filmmakers watched their own movies on the big screen and participated in a Q & A session afterward.

Spotlight On Hope Film Camp was originally founded at UC Riverside. Cho, a senior majoring in film and television production, brought the organization with her when she transferred from UC Riverside to USC.

“I remembered how Spotlight on Hope provides free film workshops for pediatric cancer patients and their siblings,” Cho said. “I really wanted to bring that to USC.”

Spotlight on Hope launched its first workshop at UCLA back in 2013 when the organization’s original founder Cassie Nguyen, a pediatric brain cancer survivor, brought the idea to Think Ten Media group, an organization that aims to create media projects that inspire change.

Nguyen said she initially started the organization because she knew how important it was for cancer pediatric patients to have opportunities to be social with family and friends.

“I was diagnosed with cancer when I was 16,” Nguyen said. “Having friends, going shopping and going to the movies are so important to you as a teenager. When I was just in the hospital, I couldn’t be around my friends because I was fighting for my life.”

When Nguyen recovered, she said she was motivated by her experience to start Spotlight On Hope. At first, the program focused on giving pediatric cancer patients a place to socialize. But as she continued conducting workshops, she realized the workshops improved participants’ mental wellness as well.

“Spotlight On Hope gives kids the opportunity to explore their imaginations,” Nguyen said. “The program offered me a way to escape into the make-believe world.”

Currently Spotlight On Hope at USC is trying to expand so that it can host workshops in hospitals, Cho said. The organization wants to help all children with chronic illnesses, not just those with cancer diagnoses.

“I think art in general can change people’s lives for the better,” Cho said. “Just the process of imagining something and bringing it into reality is transformative. Knowing that you have the ability to bring things to life is really amazing.”