Victor R. Solis is the founder and owner of Initia, where he connects families in the Los Angeles area with excellent, professional tutors who coach their students with academic tutoring, test prep, and college planning. Initia is one of our amazing sponsors for our Indiegogo Campaign, so we wanted to get to know this guy! He’s also a film producer, writer, and man has he got some great tips for learning.
1. You wear a lot of hats–film, education, and more! Could you describe your role in Initia Education as well as that in Hachitan Entertainment? Well, I’ve always enjoyed wearing various hats. At Initia we love guiding students to succeed and become independent learners. It’s like that Biblical proverb: we prefer teaching students how to fish rather than handing them a fish. In 2014, we look forward to coaching more students in grades 6-8 and helping families outside L.A. by using video conferencing such as Skype. At Hachitan Entertainment, I’m a film producer along with my writing partner, Steven Wasserman, who owns the company. As a creative producer, I manage everything that goes into planning, creating, and delivering a successful film or video to an audience. That includes managing schedules, budgets, crew, casting (actors), shooting, and post-production. We’ve created music videos, commercials, and a documentary about Japanese-American WWII veterans and their Congressional Gold Medal that’s now in the Smithsonian Institution in Washington D.C. This year, Steven and I are excited to be writing and developing three feature-length movies.
2. You help students learn math all the time, but how do you use math in your job in film? Math is super important in bringing a film idea to life, especially when it comes to money! Producing films and videos is our job, so we need to make sure we spend money in the right places and get the best deals. For example, when I co-created our award-winning action-comedy series “Generic Girl,” I had to calculate how much we would spend on creating our sets, costumes, props, and special effects. Would it be cheaper to rent a studio or paint our offices and build the sets there? I had to divide our script pages into our shooting days to figure out how many pages we could shoot each day. I also had to multiply food prices to see how much it would cost to feed our actors and crew—a lot of mouths to feed every day!
3. Pavi is an earthling who loves math. Did you enjoy math as a kid? Why or why not? Actually, I didn’t entirely enjoy math as a kid until high school, when I met my 9th grade geometry teacher who was also the football coach. Coach Peterson, known as “Coach Pete,” helped us create our “Game Plan” using our “Playbook” of rules about shapes, angles, and graphs. He was always full of energy and made math problems into step-by-step plans that we would follow in order to win. I realized I could beat those problems as long as I carefully followed the rules.
4. How did you start Initia? What inspired you to get into education? I began tutoring in 2007 as a flexible way of coaching students while continuing to work on movie and video production. I love helping students learn in fun and rewarding ways, so I trained professionally in SAT and ACT prep, taught full SAT classes, and eventually trained other tutors so we can help more students. In school, I was always fascinated with human behavior, biology, and learning, so I use science to help us tutors guide students based on their personal strengths, any diagnoses like ADHD or dyslexia, and how they learn best. My mom works with special ed children so she’s been a tremendous inspiration.
5. We’re so glad you’re helping students with Initia. What are some of your techniques for helping students retain knowledge? There are a lot of crazy memory tricks you can use to make remembering easier. Everyone learns PEMDAS, the math acronym that stands for Parentheses, Exponents, Mustard, Dingleberries, (jk) et cetera. (Editor’s note: Learn more about PEMDAS here!) You can make your own acronyms or rhymes to remember rules and facts—the crazier the better, because weird words will stick in your memory. You can even sing the quadratic formula to the tune of Pop Goes the Weasel. Of course, it always helps to write your own notes with different colors and explain how to solve a problem to someone else. You must really understand something in order to explain it to a friend.
6. As someone who works in both industries, what are your thoughts on the crossover between education and entertainment? Teaching anything can be made entertaining and engaging as long as you, the instructor, are first excited about the subject. I had a U.S. history teacher who taught us like our lessons were exciting stories of adventure, heroes, and villains who struggled for power. That’s far more interesting than having to write down dates and names of events and people—where’s the entertainment in that? We can make any subject more interesting for students if we keep up our energy like a great storyteller. Working in entertainment is professional storytelling with two ironclad commandments we can follow in education: 1, thou shalt not bore the audience; and 2, thou shalt not confuse the audience.
7. Did you have a favorite teacher as a child? How did they affect you? My second grade teacher, Ms. Gragg (that was really her name and she was amazing) had a section of the classroom reserved for using computers with math and reading games. We built dioramas, stood up and worked problems on the board, dressed up as historical figures, and did fun activities that helped us learn in many different ways. Now, I realize that she helped us to learn through a variety of methods like working with partners, writing, explaining, and playing. The more methods you use, the more parts of your brain you use.
8. Who’s your favorite character on The Digits and why? I have to vote for Gorgolax since, as a bass guitarist myself, I’m always cool with drummers, the other half of the rhythm section. What other arch-duke in the galaxy is a rockin’ musician with a vast collection of axes? He has a commanding voice and gaze that makes me respect whatever he has to say, especially about conquering math problems.