"I've never felt like I needed to change...I've always thought, 'If you want somebody different, pick somebody else.' - Melissa McCarthy on beauty standards in Hollywood Making Media That Matters session 10!!! I arrived at our space a little early because there was going to be a
camera review session for a few of the students that needed a refresher course. Since I am a social worker and not a filmmaker, I thought it might be good for me to learn, too! Our film staff gave the participants quick lessons in how to set up a tripod, prepare the camera, focus the lens, and white balancing. I acted as the camera focal point and sat in a chair as the participants arranged themselves in a half-moon shape around me. The instructors told them to focus on my face, then just my eyes, then my hands. It was fun to see them concentrating hard behind those cameras, looking so professional, ready to shoot!
Vera called our group together promptly at 4pm for our welcome and ice breaker session. We asked the students to answer the question: If you were a juice, what juice would you be? Some answers were guava, watermelon, mango, but my favorite by far was, "I'd like to be asparagus water because I'd like to know what it feels like to be obnoxiously expensive and unnecessary." :P
We proceeded to a check-in with each production team to assess where they were in terms of being ready to start filming. Most were still preparing scripts, scouting locations, and rehearsing actors, but one team, Body Positive Productions, was ready to begin that evening. We discussed the logistics of balancing the many production teams in our work space as we begin to film. Vera dubbed the theme of the next few weeks as "creative chaos" because we will all be extremely busy navigating multiple projects at once in a small space.
She reminded us that we will have to be especially respectful of those filming, as there has to be silence on the set while shooting scenes. We have four different productions teams, so trying to assist all four at once over the coming weeks will most likely prove to be difficult for the staff, but we're up to the challenge! Our priority is to make sure our students' work and voices are in line with their vision for the films.
We broke into our respective production teams and got to work! Because Body Positive Productions was the only team ready to film, the workspace wasn't too disorderly. While other teams were focusing on scripts and actors and locations, Body Positive was working with our film instructors to get sound, lighting, and cameras ready to roll! I spent a few minutes as a fly on the wall, watching them work and film their first scene. I was so impressed with their professionalism and concentration. Young movie makers in the making! Future Oscar-winning female directors!! :)
The film team needed some help with a "beauty" collage that would be in a few shots of the scene that evening,
so some staff and I got to work cutting out images from magazines to use. It struck me that on nearly every page, a "perfect" air-brushed woman was staring at me; super thin, very tall, and usually white. I looked around the room and felt a heaviness as I realized how few girls and women actually look like these models that we hold as
bastions of beauty. Long ago, I cut those magazines out of my life because of how they made me feel, so it felt odd to revisit those feelings after years of abstaining. Instantly, I felt like a teenage girl again, wishing my tummy was a little bit flatter, my legs longer, my skin clearer, my nose daintier. It's incredible how just thumbing through magazines can make you question your place in the world. It was proof positive to me how powerful media images actually are, even as a grown woman.
I chatted with staff and students as we hunkered down to quickly cut and paste this collage together. It was fun to have this informal "down time" with the participants
and other staff members. We talked about art and fashion and what we were seeing and feeling just by immersing ourselves in this project. I would hear things like, "Ooooh! I love those sunglasses!" or "She's soooo pretty!" or "I wish I could pull that shirt off!" and the power of printed media felt stronger than ever. Despite some of these more intense emotions and conversations, however, we still managed to have some silly fun.
I snuck over to another team to check in. They had brought in several actors to prep and were going over marks and lines. They giggled a lot and read some of their scripted lines aloud, with some of the actors astounding me with how natural they were. I have always been a horribly painful actress, so I am genuinely impressed when one shows talent for a craft I find so difficult.
We finished our collage and Body Positive Productions snatched it up to use it in their last scene of the night. Several staff squeezed into the tiny back room to watch them in action, by now a well-oiled machine. "Quiet on the set! and "Check sound!" and "Action!" echoed in the room. I got chills watching these teenagers I've come to know over the last 10 weeks making their very first film. Moments like these are priceless and fill me with hope for the future of women in film. Just witnessing the students in action was empowering and has me so pumped up for session 11!