(This article first appeared in the Belen Jesuit Alumni Magazine, Winter 2021 edition)
A graduate of the Belen Jesuit class of 1992, Johnny Calderín was a quiet kid with a knack for music and media. As a student, he was involved in many clubs, participated in service projects, and was even the drummer of a Belen band.
“A few friends and I created a band while in the Alpha Club. The band had no name but would play at school football games,” Calderín recalled.
After graduation, Calderín left his nameless band drumming days behind as he headed to Emerson College in Massachusetts. He previously took a class related to film production and knew it was what he wanted to do.
“I didn’t know what I wanted to study but I knew I wanted to do something in communications. I liked being behind the scenes and dealing with the planning and the production side of things,” said Calderín.
While in college, his focus shifted to film. After college, Calderín came back to Miami and took on multiple media-related jobs. He freelanced making commercials, music videos, and other small productions.
A new opportunity opened up for Calderín when he was given a chance to open an independent movie theater with a friend of his. “We ended up opening an independent movie theater that showed foreign and American independent films,” Calderín mentioned.
He was able to open a second theater, and everything seemed to be going uphill. After the attacks on September 11, however, American independent films had much less of an audience, and sadly in 2003, the theaters closed.
He didn’t give up, though. Johnny landed a job in the University of Miami’s film program. He was able to get his master’s degree in producing while he was at it, as well.
In 2006, Calderín was approached by Fr. Marcelino García, S.J., who was interested in creating a film program because a lot of students had expressed interest in the field. He knew Johnny Calderín was the right man for the job. After more than a decade away from his alma mater, he returned to Belen part-time and taught a small film history class. He began working full-time not long afterward. As the years progressed, the Belen film program became more advanced and intricate.
“Working at Belen was something I never thought I would do and I am eternally grateful to the Jesuits for giving me a chance to teach and impart the lessons I have learned,” said Calderín. “It’s a privilege to be able to work with some of the most talented young men I know and seeing them grow into wonderful people. Belen is definitely a place I call home, in fact, it is my home away from home.”
“One of the most important teachers I had while at Belen in regards to my education and career development was Johnny,” said David Fonseca ‘09. “He taught me the terminology and the techniques to understand and express ideas about motion pictures. He also did it with a lot of patience, humility, and humor, and I am a better person for it.”
Today, he continues to expand the program and challenge his students with new technologies, programs, and techniques. He’s influenced numerous students and helped drive their passions for film production.
“We were basically operating from a closet, and now the program is bigger than it ever was,” said Calderín. “Being able to challenge students at every level has been a great experience. We’ve hosted table discussions, longer format shows, WBLN, short films, Spanish language programming and so much more. I’m excited for what’s to come!”
Calderín hopes his students are able to gain an appreciation for the filmmaking and television production process through his classes, as he spreads his passion for media and communication to students in both middle and high school.
“The guys that take the classes are obviously interested in media and film production to some capacity. I hope they are able to get something more out of the class, and that they’re able to take advantage of the tools that are provided to them to tell the stories they want to tell,” said Calderín. “It has been a great journey. We never had these kinds of opportunities or resources when I was a student at Belen, so the evolution of what we are now able to provide the students that have this interest is amazing.”