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Environmental Justice Reel Camp for Girls - June 14-19, 2021


filmmaking mentors




Waiwai - Environmental Justice Camp Day #1

On the first day, we started with a social distanced welcoming circle. We introduced ourselves with our names, pronouns, favorite piece of media we have at the moment. After this, we all collectively decided on the rules we have for interacting with each other while within the space and how we can ensure our relationships with each other are as respectful as possible. 


We then had Lauren Ballesteros-Watanabe from Sierra Club of Hawaiʻi give us a presentation for the next half hour or so on the important difference between racist Euro-Western environmentalism versus environmental actions based in Indigenous and decolonial knowledge and ways of relating to the earth, as well as how climate change, fossil fuels, redlining, and the great sickness that is capitalism effects Indigenous peoples and communities of colors here in Hawai’i specifically. We discussed the intense but necessary journey from a capitalist mindset focused on individualism and extraction to the desired outcome of collective liberation through decolonization.


In between were breaks in which participants got to know the space and each other. We had a brainstorming exercise and presentation by Vera on what a production team is comprised of and the different roles that people typically hold on a film crew. We then had camera tutorials with the film mentors. The mentors walked the participants through the basics of camera operation and equipped everyone with the knowledge needed regardless of the ultimate role they will hold.

Afterwards, we had Lala Nuss from Conscious Concepts give us a breakdown on the the specific ways people engage in environmental justice initiatives in a Ka Pae ‘Āina context. We spoke about aloha ‘āina and the people and places that embody that in Hawai’i. Lala reminded us of this ʻōlelo term during our first session for the Environmental Justice Reel Camp. Waiwai can be translated into English as wealth but Lala was quick to clarify that it was wealth we acquire through and for generative/redistributive means, as opposed to the extractive/selfish forms that were used to.


Waiwai stuck with me from the moment I heard it during the session. While it was a little later in the session and we only had a few minutes left before wrapping up for the day, I think it described perfectly what we are attempting to do in this space. We are learning about deep rooted issues on a global and intensely local scale. Issues that affect all of us but perhaps not all in the same way. And those of us sitting in the room with the means to tell these stories and highlight these issues have a responsibility to.


At the end, we concluded with one word on how we felt about the day, with “inspiring/inspired” being the most prevalent one. And so the questions we have before us from this first session and certainly as we carry on through the week are: How do we take what we’ve gained as artists, knowledge seekers, fellow architects in this decolonial world building, and share it with our communities? What will these films contribute to larger conversations? Movements? What will become the waiwai that we share?

Jelo Media, Boba Team, and Mint Chip Media good to go! EJ day #2

The second day of the Environmental Justice reel camp was kicked off by Clara and Lucy from the Hawaiʻi Youth Climate Coalition giving a presentation on the work they do as part of the coalition. They emphasized the importance of young people becoming active in the climate movement and offered ways participants can get involved in the fight for environmental justice.


After this presentation, the participants went straight back into camera work with the film mentors. In addition to reviewing what was learned yesterday, Vera gave a short lecture on audio and participants were able to practice both filming and recording audio. With ample time set aside for each team to practice these different parts of filmmaking, participants had the opportunity to engage in mock setups where they used the slate, filmed each other, recorded short bursts of audio, and how to handle each piece of equipment properly.

After these mock setups, Vera gave an even more in-depth presentation on the specificity involved in each role that makes up a production crew. This allowed for some time after the presentation to sort out who would be in what role on each film crew and the name of their group. And so, Jelo Media, Boba Team, and Mint Chip Media were born!


Everyone seemed to take to their roles super fast and each table represented a full team waiting to get to work. After a short introduction to the significance of the story in a film, the day concluded with the teams working on the skeletons of their stories and what will eventually become their films by the end of this camp.

Environmental themes coming through - EJ day #3

After going over the agenda of the day, Vera had the teams launch into camera setup and recording right away. The day’s focus was on editing and becoming familiar with editing software so naturally, we learn best with things like this through actively doing them.


As usual, everyone is taking to their roles quickly and taking turns being in front of the camera and practicing with the slate. The sound of the slate snapping into place and different groups announcing “sound! mark it! action!” resound throughout the assembly room.

Editors and directors are hanging back to learn editing software while the rest of the team goes off into the courtyard and surrounding buildings to practice shooting and recording. Ideas are already taking on fuller forms as participants discuss certain shots, what rooms work best for what kind of setting they’re trying to create, and the mentors are working alongside them to ensure they have the tools to capture it all.


One can already see the environmental themes coming through, with practice shots including scenes focusing on littering and teams talking with Lauren from Sierra Club about the deep politics of pollution and environmentalism/environmental justice. With two teams doing more PSA focused films attempting to bring attention to pressing environmental concerns and the final team steering more towards a fictional imagining of life in the present versus life in a world where fossil fuels have made the world and daily life entirely unrecognizable, the participants are moving fast with shot lists, scriptwriting, and research.

As we concluded with a quick closing circle, we ended the day’s session looking forward to seeing what the participants come up with in the next few days leading up to the final product.

Accelerated production - EJ Day #4

We started the fourth session off today thinking about our most memorable moments so far since the camp started. Lessons on recording, camera placement, and other film-related moments came up: filming appears to be the only thing on participants’ minds today and with good reason.

Reel camp is accelerated production and when they get a chance to get to work, it’s best to seize it. Much of today, though, is going to be dedicated to getting the details of the story as hammered out as possible and to complete whatever filming can be squeezed into the afternoon.

When they’re not shooting, they’re diligently planning things out and discussing the particulars of their film. One team is in a room they’ve sectioned off for filming and I can hear them trying to figure out exactly what they’re trying to capture. Every little thing matters and every second counts at this stage. A ‘lofi hip hop radio beats to study/relax to’ playlist plays softly in the background as slowly, one by one, the teams make their way outside to start filming. Soon the room is empty save for a few of the staff and one editor.


The rest of the day is spent in silence and catching occasional glimpses of the participants as they run inside to get props or equipment and run back out again. As the 4:00 pm sun beats down onto the courtyard during our closing circle, we prepare for the fifth session soon to follow and another busy day ahead for our participants.