Making Media That Matters Online
2022 March 23 - May 4, 2022
Week by Week
Week 1 - March 23, 2022
Our first day of the online MMTM series feels kind of surreal. Not in a bad way, of course, just more that I can’t remember the last time we had one. Perhaps early last year. When we were hosting camps early in the pandemic, online was the only option so many of us had and felt comfortable with. Now with in-person camps having returned last year continuing into this year, it’s an interesting feeling to be sitting here in this Zoom room. Online or in person, though, awesome things always transpire.
Given that there are three participants this time around and only a few staff members, we were able to spend some extra time on introductions and getting to know each other a little better. We also had a brief discussion on community agreements as they pertain to group work as well as working together in a digital space. Participants were able to ask questions when it came to the more formal aspect of the session, which is the lecture on the basics of film. While being in a small group on Zoom can be hard, I admire people pushing through and asking questions anyways. And I’m glad the space feels safe enough to feel like one can ask questions and offer up any other thoughts they feel are necessary. That’s important and not always achieved in venues like Zoom.
We decided to close with an exercise lead by Katie. Each exercise helps us to grow closer as a group and know each other just a little bit more than the previous session. I feel like after all the questions, thoughtful listening, and exercises, there is a lot of cool stuff headed our way.
Week 2 - March 30, 2022
Our second day online started off with another getting-to-know-you game, led by Katie. Our task was to find an object around us that described our mood and show it on screen. This is one of those times when I’m grateful we’re at home during these exercises. When we’re in person, I mainly have a laptop, a sweater, and not much else that could be utilized to describe my mood. At home, however, there are a lot more options laying around to help me. I suspect this is the case with a lot of folks. A lot about a person’s personality, mood, and aesthetic can be found in their home or living space. And it doesn’t feel like as much of a struggle to dig around for something that can let everyone know “this is me” or “this is how I’m feeling.”
After our opening, the rest of the day was spent introducing participants to ISO, aperture, and shutter speed, as well as discussing the basic components that make up a story. There is quite a bit that goes into making a shot as close to the one held in the mind’s eye as possible. Watching these film basics videos alongside the participants reminded me of how incredibly detailed filmmaking is. The amount of work that goes into a single shot and the hours spent perfecting or specifying particular lighting, displays, and every single detail is actually amazing.
The participants appear to be set on specific shots as well, at least as they pertain to their own film ideas. Before wrapping up for the day, we were able to listen to some of the ideas the participants have for films and how the staff can best support them in bringing those to life. It’s always exciting to hear what people are thinking of creating. It’s even more exciting seeing those thoughts become reality.
I’m stoked to see where the next session takes us.
Small groups can be a challenge for some people. Whether in-person or online, having to speak to only about four or five other people feels kind of vulnerable. I know I certainly feel this way. I’m an introvert and am quite shy to boot but I’ve been performing spoken word in front of large groups of people since I was seventeen years old. I’ve been asked how this is somehow more comfortable than speaking to a group that’s a lot smaller– after all, it seems strange to be more at ease speaking to hundreds of random faces as opposed to just a few people or so. I’ve found that it’s more comfortable because smaller groups usually mean more focus. The speaker and the people listening are able to pick up on nuance, shifts in facial expressions, tone, and even nervousness in ways that larger groups can’t. They are right there. It can feel like a lot.
In our small groups like the one we have for this online MMTM, my mind tends to return to this often. The difference between this space and places like the classroom or boardroom, however, is the lack of pressure one feels from the room to participate. To account for the shifts in tone or body language. To explain why one is passing and not joining in on the opening or closing exercise. There’s no judgment because this space isn’t meant for people to mold themselves into what we want to see or hear– it’s a space for people to be their true, authentic selves.
The participants we have in this online session have definitely taken to that. They go at their own pace, ask questions when needed, seek out clarification, pass when they need to, and are free to be themselves because they know this space won’t ask them why or what for. As Katie leads us through group bonding exercises and Emily guides everyone through the intricacies of scriptwriting and storyboarding, participants aren’t afraid to share their ideas with us and receive feedback. They engage in the exercises and are diligent in asking for examples and explanations. They alternate between a lot of questions and not needing to ask any at all. And room is made for all of it.
Because this space is allowed to be what it needs to be. Small groups can be hard to be in. That’s why it’s important to remind people that it’s ok to show up however they need to. As one’s genuine self. And to create spaces where pressure and judgment aren’t looming over everyone’s heads. This is where engagement transpires. This is how people and stories are given the room to bloom.
Our fourth session started off with one of our opening exercises, with this time being focused on showcasing random and perhaps unexpected items that make each of us happy. Exercises like these aren’t the typical ones that many of us are used to in spaces outside of MMTM. I’ve found time and again that “getting to know you” exercises and questions are formatted in such a way that it’s less of an opportunity to get to know things about one another and more of a hump to get over. We do introductions and a couple of exercises so that we can make this other, more important thing happen.
That’s why I enjoy Katie’s exercises in the MMTM space. While I’m quite shy and introverted, I find that with each exercise it gets a little easier to talk, share, and be comfortable being myself (having the choice to pass is also incredibly important and helpful). I suspect others in the past and in the present camp feel similarly. In a creative setting especially, it’s good to get to know the people you are sharing space with. You’re making pieces and art that are going to shake some peoples’ foundations and worldviews– it would be good to know the type of people you’re doing that with.
After the opening exercise, Emily introduced the table read to the participants and we had a chance to listen to each person’s script. We also had an opportunity to offer feedback and praise. After a short break, Emily launched into a presentation on framing and composition in film, as well as the various roles that one can expect to encounter while working in the film industry.
Throughout the session, participants were vocal about ideas and the shifting vision(s) of their films, and weren’t afraid to ask questions when needed. Each session has us getting closer to a fully fleshed out film and the participants are definitely prepping. It feels easier to be in the space and comfortable enough to ask questions when one knows what other people in the space are like. I thank the opening exercises for cultivating that ease amongst everyone week by week.
This week’s session was a sort of crash course in the basics of production and what happens when the planning, crafting, scheduling, and actual filming begins. Since we have a small group this time around, there won’t be a full blown production crew that has to understand their individual roles as camera person, sound person, editor, or director. It is, however, still important for participants to understand the number of roles that make up a crew and all of their responsibilities; a future in-person camp or even a project outside of HWF would definitely enable that knowledge to be put to good use. Luckily, participants are vocal throughout each part of the presentation and are sure to ask questions when needed. Learning often demands questions and moments of clarification, especially in the beginning of a creative practice. This is how we go on to become masters of a craft.
After the discussion about the more technical aspects of filmmaking and production, Katie leads us through a presentation on internalized misogyny/sexism. During the course of each camp, the main questions that we continue to pose to participants are, what is the message of your film? How do you want the audience to feel after they watch your film? As people think through what they want their pieces to represent and convey to folks, it’s important to keep in mind what we don’t want represented. Katie’s presentation was an excellent reminder of the ways women and afab people are not only victims of misogyny at the hands of men and institutional/societal sexism but we also victimize each other when the patriarchal mindset seeps its way into ours. Most of the time it is unknowingly. Most of the time we don’t think that is what it is. And society often encourages the self-administered destruction of genuine, loving relationships between women in any form. Katie’s presentation allowed us to think hard about the ways in which we engage in patriarchal behavior in our personal lives, our personal experiences on the receiving end of it, how we see it enacted in daily life and in media, and how we can ensure we don’t perpetuate these behaviors and mindsets in life and in our creative practice.
If we want to make art that allows people to be seen and heard in powerful and moving ways, we must do just that. Without the influences of the patriarchy or other destructive forces. We make art for ourselves and for each other. We make changes for ourselves and each other. And that is all that matters.
After our opening exercise, Emily launches everyone straight into a presentation on the fundamentals of editing. The past few weeks have been focused mainly on all of the core parts of filming itself, such as types of shots, angles, sound, and storyboarding. The participants have been steadily working through what their films are going to look like and represent and some significant storyboarding, as well as shooting, has already taken place. All that remains now is editing. The visions we all hold in our head need sculpting when they find their way to the outside. Editing is the fine-toothed comb with which each artist runs through their work so as to smooth it out and perfect it.
After the presentation and a brief break, Katie leads us through a presentation on Erving Goffman’s Dramaturgical Theory, which posits that from birth all the way through our individual lifetimes, human beings are performing. Goffman considers life as a performance and we learn our individual roles from the people around us as we grow up and involve ourselves in society. With the advent of social media, this performance has increased tenfold, with people performing so much more than perhaps even Goffman could have anticipated. The performances go deep into the most private parts of our lives, even to when we are alone in our own spaces. It’s an integral part of being in this world.
This theory is an important one to consider when creating anything that is meant to send a message or convey thoughts about the world and society, and film is no exception. Performing and having roles assigned to one throughout a lifetime obviously means not all of us are playing roles that suit our well-being or health. Living in a colonized, capitalist world means a few of our roles are often harmful and with social media invading our every waking moment, it’s even more difficult learning how to grapple with all of that. Katie’s presentation was a necessary one because it allowed participants to think: what roles should be replicated in this film? What roles should be removed? What do the behaviors and ideals performed in this film do for my message? What behaviors and ideals are considered harmful towards my message?
These are the questions we need to have at the forefront of our minds when creating pieces meant to spark long-lasting change.
The films produced during this Making Media That Matters are available here and on our vimeo channel.