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LGTBQIA+ Rights Reel Camp for Girls July 19-24, 2021

filmmaking mentors



social worker


Thanking the journeys we took and continue to take - LGTBQIA+ day 1

We decided to start off a little differently for day one. A few minutes after 1:00, we all gathered into a circle and gave thanks to the experiences, places, cultures, families, and ancestors that brought us not just to the space but to who we are today as individuals. We thanked the journeys we took and continue to take. And we acknowledged the intertwined histories that enabled us to be here. For the LGBTQ+ camp, this felt like the perfect way to start; thinking about the fraught histories and forgotten peoples and voices that have paved the way for so many queer and trans people today to be who they are or at least explore what that means. It is important we acknowledge and show gratitude to everyone who has brought us here and allowed this type of a camp to take place, both our blood ancestors and our community ancestors. Known and unknown. It all transpired into us sharing this space with each other for the next week.

After our intro hui and the sharing of community agreements from each team, we launched into a short intro of gender and orientation terms. The participants played a game to match definition to term and people were able to match things up without much difficulty. While these terms are the ones most used and the ones people are most familiar with, film mentor Inez was sure to remind everyone that the terms presented aren’t an exhaustive list and that sexuality and gender are much more expansive than a slideshow could capture. Taking into account the branches that stem from each term as well as different genders and sexualities that exist outside of the colonial language and mindset, there is so much more to these experiences than we can possibly explain within a day. But this is an excellent launching pad for people who want to know more and it helps give people a start. The rest of the day saw participants learning camera hands on with the mentors. Some have been in the previous programs. Others are completely new to filmmaking as a medium. It is practice for some and a whole new world for others. We are excited to see where this week takes everyone. 

We were always here - day 2 at the LGTBQIA+ camp

Day two saw us opening once more with a gratitude hui. Bringing love and thanks to our ancestors, chosen and blood families, our experiences, and the people whose land we stand on, Kānaka Maoli. After our opening, we launched into a presentation on settler colonialism and the ways in which the presence of colonizers and their ideals continues to influence the ways in which the Eurowestern world defines gender and sexual orientation. When I learned about colonialism and LGBTQI+ identities in college, I remember it being mostly separated. It was rare for professors or instructors I had to make the connection between colonialism and non-cis-gendered/heterosexual sexualities and genders.


When it comes to Indigenous communities specifically, most things would circle back to the man and woman and the need to keep our respective nations going strong through continued procreation and the building up of blood families. There were few instances where I would hear things outside of the binary and it was not until graduate school that I truly learned about my own culture’s ways of viewing sexuality and gender. Settler colonialism impacted the ways in which cis-gendered-heterosexual men and women interact, yes; but it also wreaked such destruction on people outside of the gender binary and heterosexuality that we have to dig for our lives to find any evidence that we existed at all before colonization arrived. I am glad the participants were able to learn about settler colonialism and the impact on LGBTQI+ identities as a single, related subject. We were always here. We are integral players in our cultures and members of our communities. We will continue to be here. Even if colonialism wants to convince everyone that we aren’t real.

After this presentation, the rest of the day was spent going through camera again. In between small breaks, participants started capturing some film and audio for the first time. Three teams have been pretty firmly established. A few film ideas and genres are being thrown out as potentials, one being a genre hybrid of sorts. Today was heavy and filled with a lot to think about. I’m sure the participants are going to make something splendid out of it. 

Day 3

There are only two teams now, with one team having joined another and creating a super team. The teams are Dead Bunny Studios with Inez and Jessie as the mentors and Jupiters’ Moons with Noa as the mentor. I have to say out of all the names I’ve heard these two are definitely my favorites. 

I’ve found that day three is when the sessions start to quiet a bit. We start off loud after Vera has gone over the agenda and the teams go off to practice filming but once the story portion of the day comes around again, things begin to come down. Energy starts to focus a bit more as participants hone in on all the elements necessary in a story and what they need to make it possible. Sitting in the back watching the weather outside tantrum between windy drizzle and scorching Fire Time, I listen as the room grows steadily into a brainstorming session. Everyone huddled around tables with their mentors. Throwing ideas out, typing out words and descriptions, and sketching images and shots out on paper. They’ve had the hands-on practice needed in the first two days of the camp. Learned the technical jargon for each stage. Vera has defined the roles that make up a production team as well as had each team practice with the slate and verbally calling a shot. Editing is a continuous process. Everything leads to this moment. To the story writing. The world-building. The full on creative process needed to make films come to life. 

How lucky I am to witness this. To be in a room with all of these kaihanga kiriata. How fortunate we are to know stories keep being written; that we are in good hands. 

Day 4

Day four saw everyone deep in the mahi. Even as I strolled into the space about a half-hour before starting, one team was already gathered together. We opened once more with a gratitude hui before the teams went off to make their films. One team still had some last bits of storyboarding to work out before heading outside to film. Looking out from my desk, I saw Jupiters’ Moons lined up in a perfect row on the grass as they checked out the setting they had chosen to film in. With their rainbow pride flag trailing behind them, it legitimately looked a lot like some superhero team ready to rush in and take care of business. I don’t really gravitate towards superhero movies but I would definitely watch this one if it were a thing. 

In between shots, participants would come in to check their storyboards laid out on the table, get snacks, upload footage, and add to the Spotify queue. Those of us who aren’t mentors or the documentarian watch the day unfold around us as the participants flow in and out of the space. Have our own snacks and whatever burnt bean coffee drink we brought with us today. One more full day of shooting ahead. Getting as much footage in as possible before the showcase on Saturday. Everything is moving along just as it should.