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Youth Mental Wellness Reel Camp for Girls March 14-19, 2022

day-by-day + films produced

Day 1

After a few sign-ins, temperature checks, and sharpies on name tags, our first Reel Camp of 2022 took off once again within the embrace of Ka Waiwai. Once we settled onto our pillows or chairs, our facilitators Punihei and Makanalani began to welcome in and model for the participants the mana-ful process of pilina. For the first two hours of the session, participants had a chance to truly dig deep into what it means to hold space with and for a person; that listening, being present, giving gratitude, and thanking someone for their stories and the privilege to listen to them is all a part of that experience. With the help of Makanalani and Punihei, participants enthusiastically engaged in the braiding of this collective chord in real-time through these various exercises and with each dyad exercise. Much like the knots within a braid, participants grew stronger in their interest and care for one another. During breaks, people would walk across the room to talk to people they had just met and everyone seemed so interested in supporting and learning more about one another. As Punihei started the pilina process off with a quote from a poem, “we are our stories,” these two hours saw participants steadily embodying their stories, experiences, and feelings, standing firm in them, and others taking that in and appreciating it. 

The rest of the session focused on lectures concerning basic camera and lighting techniques as well as hands-on practice with cameras, sound, and markers. Before leaving, Vera gives the participants a prompt to think on a little more before the next day’s session. What kind of story do you want to tell? What would you need to make that story happen in a film? What matters to you?


I have a feeling after the pilina they all created together and the mana that let into the room, there will be no shortage of incredible ideas to hear and, eventually, see.

Day 2

With a whole night to dream, visualize, and plan, the participants returned to Ka Waiwai on the second day with mental rough drafts of the films they are going to be making. It always amazes me how quickly participants are able to come up with an idea for a movie; it usually takes me about an hour into writing a poem before I realize what it’s about. Once the ideas were let free into the space to wander and join the other potential films getting ready to be made, we took a moment to remember the other important factor that brought us together this week: mental wellness.


Amanda Martinez of Mental Health America of Hawaiʻi spent the first hour of the camp breaking down what it means when we think of and see the phrase ‘mental health’ in the mainstream, as well as how this phrase is something we have the privilege of individualizing and suiting to our own particular wants and needs. Amanda’s presentation was a comprehensive and beautiful reminder that while managing mental health can feel like a task, we are not limited in the ways we can take care of it. Everything we do contributes to it so, therefore, instead of feeling bogged down by the vast array of options that exist to negatively affect us, we can instead take a moment to be in awe of how many options exist to healthily treat us. We are allowed to decide what rest, comfort, and health looks like and feels best for us as individuals. There is stress but there is also relief. 

The remainder of the session consisted of team formations and continued hands-on practice with equipment, as well as finalizing the scripts and learning more about editing. The teams all naturally seemed to come together. Contagious laughter and intense concentration existed simultaneously alongside one another for the last few hours in the space, each team figuring out how they work with one another, who has what role, and what the plan of action is for the coming days. 


The energy is high and I’m stoked to see where it takes them. 

Day 3

Our third session started off with a review of our community agreements. This is the first day that most of the teams will be filming their first scenes and so a quick review felt like a good idea. Everyone gets along, respects one another, as well as the role each person within the team plays. There is a definite cohesion that’s taken place within each group and between the participants as a whole. Teamwork (and making a film) can be stressful, however, so taking a minute or two to remind ourselves what tools we have to take care of ourselves in stressful situations and mindsets is always appreciated in the long run.

And the rest of the day was spent putting those agreements into practice. The days where the teams film within the space is a process to behold in that, one can see respect, listening, patience, and self-checking unfold in real time. I’m not used to seeing it in most spaces, period. Most of the things listed in the agreements are things we should be engaging in every single day with those we build community with and share close bonds with; unfortunately this isn’t always the case. Whether it’s exhaustion or a complete lack of care, we miss out on opportunities to practice kindness and space holding for one another. 

The Reel Camp space is different and the filmmaking days in particular stand out to me. Each team has to negotiate use of the space for their films. Everybody respects the time, listens for “quiet on set,” exercises patience as a scene is being wrapped up, and they are sure to check in with each other throughout the process. It is a mini example of what the world and human relations could look like if we took the time to practice these fundamentals with one another. It’s very cool to see that happening. 

Looking forward to the fourth day and more mini ideal world-building. 

Day 4