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Environmental Justice Reel Camp for Girls #2 June 28-July 3, 2021

filmmaking mentors





Bloom into art as resistance - EJ#2 day one

The first day of the second Environmental Justice Reel Camp started off with the usual introductions and a bit of a switch-up in our prompt. We usually say our name, pronouns, and one piece of media we’ve liked recently. This time we shared the reason we find ourselves in this space and at this camp.

For a few of us who are a part of the staff, we had memories of being affiliated with and working for HWF for a while now, as well as the years we have known and loved Vera as friend and chosen kin this whole time we’ve been doing this work. We shared how we are here because we believe in the work, we love being inspired, and being creatives involved with a program dedicated to creation is the best thing in the world. Other folks shared how the need for environmental justice, educating people on its importance, and storytelling as a form of activism and education is a big reason they are in the space. The one reason we all agreed on, however, is that we all find something powerful in a medium like film and we are here to explore just how much can be said with a camera. A mic. A storyboard. We are in this space to take the knowledge we acquire this week and watch it bloom into art as resistance.


After community agreements and settling on basic tenets for how we’ll conduct ourselves in the space and towards each other, we go into Lauren’s presentation on EJ. Lauren guides us brilliantly through the work that Sierra Club Hawaiʻi does as an organization in regards to environmental justice versus environmentalism and the importance difference between the two. She also walks us through not only larger environmental issues that people pay attention to globally but also local, more concentrated issues that directly impact the people of ka pae ʻāina, especially Kānaka Maoli.


After this presentation, the participants did some hands-on camera work and learned about how to safely and efficiently handle the equipment when in the space.


The day ended with a creative exercise by Lauren called Tree of Life in which participants created a genealogy of sorts about their lives and what enables them to be who they are in the world today.


Excited to see what this camp brings us.

Things are going swimmingly - EJ#2 day two

Day two had us starting off with a reflection on the Tree of Life exercise from the previous day.

As we sat around the table, participants and mentors shared their feelings about the exercise, what parts felt easier to fill out, what parts were the hardest, and overall what the exercise made them think a little more about. The beauty of exercises like these and the practice of sharing them with each other is that we get to learn a bit more about who we are building community with and what stories they are bringing with them to this work we’re doing together. It all means something at the end of the day and it all informs how we move about in the world, even if we are only catching glimpses of it in occasional exercises like Tree of Life.


Afterward, Lauren lead us once again into a presentation on EJ and local initiatives that are focused on EJ efforts directly in Hawaiʻi. She reminded us once again of the importance of recognizing that capitalism= extractive and destructive ways of living whereas decolonization and Indigenous ways of living= abundant and growth centered ways of living: that Indigenous ways of relating to the earth enable us to see it as a relative that we live in concert with as opposed to something that should be conquered and taken from.

Small & mighty team - EJ#2 day three and four

It’s full swing on day three. After a short coming together at the beginning of the session, we go straight into hands-on work again and a (re)introduction to editing. This camp is a small one, with only two participants, so it enables mentors to teach folks one-on-one. In bigger camps, mentors can be helping out a particular group mostly but they ultimately will find themselves going back and forth between groups to help with editing, filming, hands on tutorials, being in the films themselves, etc. So this is a definite switch up in that kind of busyness.


The one thing that’s stayed the same: gotta make a film in a week. Gotta learn the basics, storyboard, plan the shots, film, edit, and show it to your friends and family by Saturday. So we put on the Spotify and let them get to it. Stick around in case they need help. Watch as they pick up new storytelling skills everyday with the help of incredible mentors.


It’s a small but mighty team at this camp. We’re stoked to see what they create.

The sun is going back and forth between the clouds today. For the first time in what feels like forever, the wind also comes to greet us and offer us some breathing room in the midst of all the wela: the only problem is that the team has to now film with it as the backdrop.


As I was sitting in the assembly room, I was told the team needed extras for their film and so I walked out there to help. When given the piece of paper I need for the scene, the paper just continued to fly up, fold in on itself, and would really only stay if I flattened it against my stomach. It had me wondering why, of all times this summer, cool air decides to show up now? At this moment?


It’s also a testament, though, to how complex filmmaking is. That there is so much involved in getting a single shot and that something the audience only sees for about ten seconds could be something that took an hour or two to get perfect.

The participants have to consider weather, lighting both natural and artificial, what sounds are in the background, whether a part of a story can be carried out or if it has to be abandoned, the sequencing of scenes and the scheduling behind that, etc. This is hard work. It is obviously also fun otherwise participants wouldn’t continue to return to camps. But it’s important that we acknowledge the labor and care that participants, as well as the mentors, our documentarian, and our executive director all put into the craft that is filmmaking.


I am in awe of the ethic and commitment to making that they all have. It’s something I saw up close while as an extra and afterward when walking in from the wind and seeing the team huddled around a table working on their editing. I can’t wait to see what they have to show us in the final session.

Nothing deters the artist - EJ#2 day five

In a strange turn of events, we find ourselves with wind AND rain in the second to last session.


In this part of the program, it’s mostly about continuing to get footage and edit before the showcase on Saturday. So as soon as participants enter the space they go straight into the work and today was no exception. Even with the weather worse than the day before, they found a way.


Sitting at my desk in the back, I watched them find shelter underneath a building across the lawn and set up for filming there. Less than ideal conditions but nothing deters the artist.

The rest of the day was spent deep in the craft. Editing, drawing and coloring on more paper, discussing shots, the progression of the storyboard, and other logistics that need ironing out before showing a film.


The participants and mentors as architects. Continuing to build these awesome, potential worlds.

So excited for the showcase and the film to come!