“Decide what you want. Believe you can have it. Don't let anything get in your way.”
- Heidi Schulz
It's our second session of Making Media That Matters and students and staff are buzzing around the Hawai'i Filmaker's Collective in Kaimuki, setting up and getting ready. I was really excited about this session, as the staff had planned hard to work out some of the "kinks" from the last session. This is all about growing and learning and expanding our perspectives...even for the staff!
The students seem a little less timid of one another this week, and the space is filled with the dull roar of teenage squeals and voices. I set up camp in the front of the room so that I could watch all of the madness. Some of the girls were dancing to the Alicia Keys music playing, some were sitting on the floor in groups gabbing about school or film, and some were quietly sitting off to the side, playing on their phones or drawing in a notebook. I watched our staff photographers, Valeria and Malia, as they wandered around the space snapping photos, and I saw a few of the girls self-consciously shy away from the camera. It
shot me right back to 7th grade as an awkward, geeky girl with frizzy hair, buck teeth, and a huge nose. I hated when my parents took my picture and would even hide my official school pictures from them until the deadline had passed. I think of how different this world is to the one I grew up in; how anyone can just whip out a cell phone and snap a pic and upload it to facebook or snapchat for anyone and everyone to view. How HARD must it be to be a teenager in today's world? I have a gripping feeling of gratefulness that I grew up as a young girl without cell phones or instagram. Eventually Vera called us together and we sat in a big circle on the floor, cross-legged. We introduced
ourselves, what pronoun we prefered, and participated in the ice breaker (If you were a sea creature, what sea creature would you be?) Some of the answers to the sea creature questions were hilarious and some were thoughtful; with girls desiring to be a box jellyfish, coral, or a dolphin because "I'm cute and social!" :) Another mentioned she would like to be the largest whale in the ocean, a blue whale, because she wanted to "take up space." We all sort of sat with that statement for a minute, abosorbing its profoundness.
Our staff member Maddie explained our first activity of the night: we would break into two groups and oscillate between writing and talking exercises to get us thinking about story. Stories are the backbones of filmmaking and we want to teach the girls how to tap into the stories that matter to them the most. We moved into our groups and settled in. Our group began by completing a freewrite for one minute on this
question: Think of a time that felt unfair - when someone with power over you used that power to make you feel unheard, or used it to create a kind of injustice in your life?
We wrote for one minute together then shared aloud (if we wished to do so). The girls were actively invested in the conversation and their stories were compelling. Many stories of bullying, sexism, racism, and sexual harrassment came out. I sighed inwardly. Sometimes it feels as if women are making so much progress in the world, then I hear the same issues that I faced as a teen girl (and still face as a grown woman) being echoed in today's youth. What's that saying? "The more things change, the more they stay the same?" Indeed.
I'm impressed with the girls' vulnerability however, and how they showed such kind support to one another. We moved on to a free-writing session about everything we had just heard and absorbed. The room was quiet with thoughts and the light sounds of scrawling in notebooks.
After I heard others share, it made me recall things that happened when I was much younger - closer to the students' age. When you're an adult, you tend to sort of bury or stifle things that hurt you in your childhood. The truth is, if we can think of things that happened 5, 10, 20, even 30 years ago, then it DOES still hurt and it DOES still matter.
Noa, one of the group facilitators, asked us a different question to reflect on: What gives you mana? What makes you feel powerful?
I loved this question. We all want these girls to feel, understand, and own their power in this space we've
created. We took a few minutes to write our answers then shared again with one another. Many of the girls shared physical things that make them feel powerful: softball, running, basketball, hiking. Others shared that their art gives them mana. One would think that teenagers might be focused on the material; what they possess or what their parents possess. Or maybe on appearance, since females are long taught that beauty is an endlessly important goal (and because beauty for many females IS power) but that never came up, not once. A few girls mentioned others' stories or experiences as powerful to them, and I think this envokes the empathy and understanding they have as humans and as women, which is beautiful. This was an incredibly uplifting and inspiring note on which to end the session. I was again proud of their insight and vulnerability.
The two groups came back together for our filmmaking lesson, taught by our filmmaking instructor, Lisette. She
began by explaining that the writing and speaking workshops help connect us to story concepts, as our feelings and emotions come to the surface. This can help us decide which topics we are passionate about so that we can create moving stories that matter.
Lisette showed us some film shorts (a few of which were student films from the MMTM camp over the last few years) to demonstrate how to tell a story in only a few minutes using things like scenery, music, word choice and placement, sound scape, camera angles, lighting etc. Lisette wanted to encourage the girls to start thinking about translating emotion through a physical medium (film) and encouraged the students to think about how they responded emotionally to each film. She asked the students to think about character development and to
identify if they related to the chacracters featured, even in movies in which there was no dialogue. She asked many probing questions about the films and the girls happily and eagerly answered, often displaying knowledge about character development and story telling well beyond their years. After the session ended, we all milled around the space, cleaning up, talking story, acting silly and dancing around. The general staff consensus was
that this week's session was a HUGE success, and we were all happy and proud.
I kept thinking about how impressively astute the students were in their obervations about the films shown. Many noticed details that I would have never picked up on or observed myself. I recall a quote I read long ago by Jarod Kintz that has stuck with me, "Artists exist to show us the world." Indeed they do, and these young students are showing me the world, in a crowded little building in Kaimuki. And I already cannot wait for what they'll show me next week. <3
2016 Spring Making Media That Matters is made possible thanks to the incredible generosity and support of: Hawai‘i Peoples Fund, The Atherton Family Foundation, and NoVo Foundation. Thank YOU :)