Starting on June 22, 2015, we kicked off our Making Media That Matters (MMTM) film program at The ARTS at Marks Garage in Chinatown, Honolulu. MMTM is a 6 weeklong program that meets twice a week (Mondays and Thursday) from 1:30 – 4 pm. The main goal of the program – though far from the only goal – is to produce stories that we (the women filmmakers) want the world to see from our perspectives. To start the program off we did a series of icebreaker activities in order to become acquainted with each other and to start to slowly foster a safe and comfortable creative environment.
We started with the Weather Ball Activity, in which a ball gets passed around and whoever is holding it states their name, place they call home, what their role is here in this program, and what their ‘weather’ is like today. Your ‘weather’ refers to how you’re feeling overall (e.g. My weather is windy today because I’m feeling really scattered and flustered; My weather is sunny today with a light breeze because I’m comfortable and pleased with my surroundings and things that I am doing today). By sharing with each other our weather everyday, we are able to assess each other’s individual needs on a day-by-day basis and be able to take into account those moods in order to make a more cohesive working environment.
Our discussion then moved to ideas on how we can create a safe space. Given the nature of the program, we want to be able to share our opinions and ideas while feeling safe with these new people in this new environment. In order to brainstorm ways to create a safe space, we were asked to draw upon our own experiences by thinking of a time we felt safe and what about that experience made us feel safe.
After sharing all of our personal experiences, we concluded that the elements of a safe space were things like: being genuinely interested in what other people are saying while keeping in mind not to pry too much, listening without interrupting, reciprocal story-telling, no judgment (i.e. using words such as should, can, bad/good), and being open with each other – just to name a few. By outlining the elements of a safe space, we started to form our own safe space to set the tone for the weeks to come as we start to collaborate closer with each other.
Our final ice-breaker activity for the first day helped us to not only share some of our inner workings with our co-collaborators, but also worked towards helping us self-reflect so we can better understand how we work as individuals. The activity was called ‘If You Were a Plant’ and got us to get in touch with our artistic side as we drew out whatever plant we thought best suited us. As we drew we were asked to keep in mind the questions: a) if you were a plant what would you be and why, b) every plant needs different things in order to grow, what are the conditions that you need and c) what are the conditions that challenge you/your health? When we came back together, we noticed a lot of our nourishments and challenges paralleled each other, even if we experienced the variables differently. For example, family and friends were the biggest nourishments for most people. Other nourishments were things such as education, small challenges, and being able to express yourself. For challenges we saw the reoccurring themes of things like emotions, restriction, stress, self-doubt, and feeling powerless. On both sides of the spectrum was the idea of independence, which we all concluded both nourished and challenged us to different extents. By identifying these various strengths and weaknesses, we were able to not only understand ourselves and each other, but we also started to lay the foundations for a process that would play to our strengths as a group and allow us to start creating media that pertains to who we are, how we are effected by the world and how we in turn want to affect the world.
By engaging in these various icebreaker activities, we were kicking off a process of growth by creating a space that’s comfortable and creative while getting to know each other better. Over the first few weeks we will be continuing these types of exercises not only to become more and more comfortable with each other, but also so we can start to see emerging themes in our lives and identify what it is we really care about.
After getting acquainted, we watched the documentary Miss Representation directed by Jennifer Siebel Newsom and Kimberlee Acquaro. Miss Representation is a documentary film that focuses on how the under-representation of women in positions of power contributes to the media’s portrayal of women, which then creates unattainable expectations for women and girls. Because of how hyper- sexualized women have become in the mainstream media, it is often hard for them to be taken seriously, people pay more attention to what they look like than listening to what they’re saying. The lack of women in positions of power, creating media, etc, results in a skewed representation of stories about women that are written by men, which doesn’t provide accurate insight. Miss Representation is aimed towards women to encourage them to get their voices out there and to not fall prey to the impossible standardized image of women projected by current popular culture.
Once we finished Miss Representation, the group took a few moments to reflect on the movie and our reactions to it. Most of the discussion revolved around the contradictions seen in the discussion of sexualized women. On the one hand, the speakers in the movie seemed critical about sexualized women even though they were women speaking out against women and criticism. On the other hand, there’s this stigma surrounding the sexualization of women, which doesn’t have to exist.
The sexualization of women doesn’t always have to degrade them, especially if they aren’t being sexualized for men but rather acting and dressing for themselves. There’s also the alternate perspective that takes into account the profitability of sex and begs the question about whether women who portray themselves on the racier side are victims to sexual objectification or are they merely taking advantage of the society they exist in and capitalizing on it. This idea is evidently highlighted in Miss Representation as the experts point out the various ways that companies prey on the fears of the consumers and rather than selling products, they sell remedies to fears of superficial things like getting older or fatter or other things like that. After we reflected on our take away from the movie, we started to look at how the movie relates to our personal lives. We were asked to take into consideration what people perceive about us on a surface level versus what we wished people knew about us as we truly are. The common theme throughout our responses had to do with people assuming negative things about our personalities because we’re “quiet” or “look bitchy”, and because they make assumptions based on surface observations, they don’t take the time to better get to know us. This discussion allowed us to start seeing emerging themes in our process. So far these themes center around the divide between what women are taken for on a surface level versus who they really are inside and how that generalization of our superficial characteristics often hinder us and subject us to prejudice in the workplace, community or general everyday life.