Making Media That Matters
week by week
This is definitely the smallest group that we’ve had for Making Media That Matters, at least that I’ve been involved with. As the participants start to log on to the Zoom call, I think about how this would have been in any other setting. Small groups tend to give me anxiety as it means you will usually have to speak at some point, as opposed to getting lost in the wave of a larger group. As a spoken word poet, people tend to assume that means I have no problem speaking to groups of people. There is a difference, however, between speaking at people and speaking to people.
Thoughts on Community
This past week, one of the topics we discussed as a larger group was community. How do we as individuals define community? What is a community comprised of? How does one know when they are a part of/not a part of a community? Are there rules for membership and entering into/exiting a community?
Time has got to be the trippiest human-made thing we still hold on to. I say this first in relation to the speed at which the weeks are already progressing and the ideas, plots, and writing racing along with them. Naturally, almost everyone is well on their way to having a fully fleshed out film. Sitting in on the sessions this past week and hearing the ideas being floated out, the brainstorming taking place, and even the moments where everyone sits with their cameras and mics off in order to dedicate their time to writing and figuring out their movies bit by bit; I know good stuff is coming. Everyone has something they want to do, something they want to say, something meaningful they want to show their audience and they’re already figuring out how to make that happen. Hit the ground running, friends.
This week has me thinking a lot about art and how we go about including people in it. Participants this week mainly focused on storyboarding, finalizing their ideas surrounding their films, learning how to operate a camera, and what angles might work best for whatever story they’re trying to tell. Everyone works and learns differently. Some ask questions throughout while others sit quietly and observe with their cameras and mics off. For our Saturday session, we had an in-person session lead by amazing Kristle Backe and our certified COVID compliance officer, assistant, and incomparable leader, Vera Zambonelli.
I am thinking a lot about value these past few days. Specifically, the value that we assign to ourselves. Last Saturday, our ice breaker included a part where we had to use three adjectives to describe ourselves. While there are people in the world who don’t struggle with exercises like these and know how to describe themselves without reservation or a second thought, I’ve found throughout my time on this earth that most people have a difficult time with questions like this. And to be sure, a few of us found ourselves reflecting on that while reading our answers out loud or after the ice breaker was done. We were being asked to think about ourselves and what we are in ways that I imagine most of us aren’t used to: our value, our beauty, and the qualities that make us good and wonderful to know just as us, as opposed to the qualities that make us “useful,” “adequate,” or “able” in the service of furthering a capitalistic and/or colonial vision. To speak about ourselves in a way that praises just for the sake of praising, to celebrate something really beautiful about our personalities, to let everyone know that this one quality is something we are really proud of because it adds to who we are as a unique, whole human. In this structural/social/keep-your-head-down-and-don’t-speak-unless-necessary mess we’ve been raised in? Yeah, that’s a tough one.
This past week we began our Wednesday session talking about dreams. The icebreaker was focused on the most memorable dream we’ve ever had and given how gnarly the dream state can be, we heard some pretty interesting stuff. As someone with a pretty bad memory I can’t remember most of my dreams in detail; the most I can remember are feelings from dreams, especially whenever I dream about being back home in Aotearoa. So I loved hearing people with better recollection paint some really vivid pictures of their dreams.
This past week, we had the privilege of watching films made by our super awesome and talented film instructor and mentor, Kristle and Elizabeth. In watching these films we were able to catch a glimpse of different approaches, techniques, and processes, as well as continue learning about film and each other through commentary and felt, creative exchange. Both films, while different in quite a few ways, still touch on topics that most of us viewing could relate to. Whether it’s a setting, a conversation, or a feeling, everyone can get something out of what’s being shown on the screen.
I don’t have to reiterate in detail the intense and awful onslaught of anti-Asian violence that’s been escalating throughout the U.S. in the past few weeks. I think most of us have been paying attention, keeping track, offering whatever assistance we can to our Asian relatives, and constantly working at being better accomplices in this fight that we all have a part in. We all have a stake in. We all have a kuleana to participate in. There are many ways to contribute to the huli. There is creating media that can be shared across platforms. There is the re-sharing of that media. There is calling, texting, or emailing people in positions of power and calling on them to do something within the confines of a legislative body. There is art-making. There is existing and showing love to our loved ones and oneself in the midst of a colonizer structure that would rather us choke on divisiveness and self-loathing. And there are rallies. For those of us at MMTM who were able to attend the rally this past Saturday, that was how we decided to show up for that day.
This past week was spent thinking about representation, specifically the ways in which our Asian relatives are represented in various types of media. In light of what appears to be a continuing escalation of anti-Asian violence erupting throughout the so-called U.S., we are paying attention and continuing to educate ourselves. As best as we can. As often as we can. And in a medium that has immense cultural and teaching power: film.
The participants are deep in their work. Editing, refining, sharpening up whatever is left to do on their films. Sitting in on these break out rooms while several black screens and muted mics stared back at me, had me thinking a lot about work.
‘Mahi’ in Te Reo Māori is often translated to ‘work’ in English. We use it when talking about everyday 9:00-5:00 jobs, personal and community responsibilities, and, in general, things that we actively do in life. I often utilize ‘mahi’ when talking about things that the Euro Western worldview doesn’t consider work or actual labor in any way, i.e., art-making, decolonizing, learning, maintaining relations, and existing. All of these are connected as well as distinct things; they are all also, definitely at one point or another, very exhausting feats that we manage to carry out anyways. We don’t all do every single one at the same time. Most times we only have energy to do a few. Existing is sometimes the only one we can manage for a day or a sequence of days. The point is: all of these are work. All of these are mahi. This is how I view them, anyway.