The Tomorrow Makers: An After-School Project Becomes an Epic Adventure

Marcos Garibay wasn't really planning on launching a multi-volume cinematic franchise, in the tradition of such dystopic sci-fi series as Hunger Games and Divergent, when he took a job as a paraprofessional at Dupont Elementary in Commerce City three years ago.  He wasn't even sure if he wanted a career in education. All he knew was that, after closing a recording studio he'd run in the RiNo district and quitting a restaurant job, he needed work. 

But his time at Dupont quickly became something more than a way of collecting a paycheck. Garibay fell in love with the job, the school and the kids. He became increasingly involved in organizing after-school activities for the students, many of whom come from low-income families. One of the ventures was a film club, and Garibay soon discovered that the regulars shared his passion for comic books and superheroes — including Garibay's personal fave, those bickering mutants known as the X-Men. 

Last fall, at the start of the semester, Garibay got to talking to a few fellow geeks about how superhero movies would be different if true fans got behind the camera. That got him thinking: Why not just make our own movie? "The notion seemed impossible to them, but it sparked something in me," he says.

Over the next nine months Garibay transformed more than three dozen Dupont students into a film crew. He enlisted fifth-grade thespians for leading roles and kindergartners as extras. He worked nights on a script about a future in which adults have vanished and kids have to step up to save the world. He poured his own cash into the project, scouted suitable sets, splurged on special effects when possible, and helped the students devise and construct their own wardrobe. "It's about a world where parents disappear," he notes, "so it makes sense that the costumes look like children made them."

Garibay says the "unofficial motto" for the project became, "We can do this! I'm not sure how, but we can figure it out together, and it will be fun!" The result, an 87-minute adventure in which different tribes have to unite to avert a potential apocalypse, had its premiere at Adams City High School in May. The film gave his students a sense of accomplishment, Garibay says, but left him and them feeling a bit of a void after it was over. After a few days' downtime, talk of sequels was in the air.

This summer, Garibay has been working with students on a non-air-conditioned stage and in an unused gym. He's planning to leave his paraprofessional position and work full-time on building Tomorrow Makers into a nonprofit organization that provides a creative after-school environment in Adams County, "a place where mutants can go to develop their abilities in a safe environment with others like them." Meanwhile, production is under way for The Tomorrow Makers Volume Two, with a climax to be filmed at the Great Sand Dunes. 

"I owe it to these kids to make this happen," Garibay explains in a draft of his resignation letter that he provided to Westword. "If they are truly to be The Tomorrow Makers, they will need someone behind them that is willing to take a leap of faith and bet everything on them and the better world they can help make for our community."

Check out the trailer for Volume One below.  The entire film is available for viewing on YouTube. 

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Alan Prendergast has been writing for Westword for over thirty years. He teaches journalism at Colorado College; his stories about the justice system, historic crimes, high-security prisons and death by misadventure have won numerous awards and appeared in a wide range of magazines and anthologies.
Contact: Alan Prendergast

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