"One of the things we learn in movies directed by men is what the ‘fantasy woman’ is. What we learn in movies directed by women is what real women are about."
- Jane Camplon
Session 11 has come and gone and we are now in the home stretch. It saddens me to think about not coming here every week and spending time with our students. It's been so wonderfully fun getting to know them.
I arrived at our filmmaking space in Kaimuki early, because as we near the end of our program, students are invited to come early if they can to get more accomplished. As one can imagine, it's difficult to make a film in only 3 hours a week! Vera had asked me to get some sound bytes from the directors of each film, so I met with the director of each production team individually to do a short interview. One of the questions asked was what they wanted the audience's take away to be when leaving the screening. "That they're enough as they are" was one of the lovely, simplistic messages a director imparted to me. When I asked one director what she wanted the takeaway of their film to be, she replied, "I want to get them to the point where they...leave questioning themselves." Their answers made me beam with respect for what they're trying to accomplish.
Vera called us together to officially start the session. We'd decided to incorporate a self-esteem building exercise into our ice breaker game this session, since so many of the students have expressed issues with body image and self-confidence. It's seems like the universal female plight...learning to love yourself amidst everything else telling you that you shouldn't - that your flaws outweigh your virtues. We asked the participants to name one thing that they like about themselves. Some participants seemed to have a difficult time answering the question, but many came up with amazing answers like "My determination," or "My extreme resilience," or "How adventurous I am." I thought long and hard about my own answer, noting how easy it is to complain or come up with a long laundry list of negative attributes. I thought about how it took me over 30 years to be able to properly accept a compliment, without deflecting it or negating it in some way, with a casual shake of the head. Somewhere along the way, women learn not only to hate themselves, but to be sorry for their many shortcomings, over and over again. A quote by Amy Poehler jumps into my head: "It takes years as a woman to unlearn what you've been taught to be sorry for."
We finished our exercise and on a self-esteem high, we turned our attention to Sam, one of our amazing film
mentors, who gave us a quick lesson on saving our footage and how to organize days' worth of work on our new computers and hard drives. Staying organized, she reminded us, is a filmmaker must, as when you're trying to complete a project with editing and against a deadline, orderliness is key.
After our lesson, we dispersed into our separate production teams to get to work. Every team filmed this week, and there was/is a lot to be done. Several of the teams went outside to film their first scenes, and passersby stared as our mini professionals got quickly to work! :)
We have to use our time wisely from here on out! As usual, I jumped into a group for the week, and this time chose CAPS productions. Their group is creating a movie on child poverty, in which a homeless girl befriends an older woman that gives her some hope. They were shooting their first few takes, so we set off on the streets of Kaimuki to find a proper location.
The director of the group had a specific vision for what she wanted for the scene, which was an alley or narrow street. We tried a couple of locations without success before finally finding one in the back of a Japanese restaurant parking lot. The director took the initiative to go into the restaurant to ask for permission. I think I and the other mentors were impressed with her moxy...she marched in there without hesitation and acted so professional! :) The restaurant kindly granted us access and we began getting ready!
The film crew started setting up...preparing the actress, creating the set, and learning about sound. One of the
mentors carefully explained the sound equipment to one of the students, who learned it at warp speed. The mentor remarked to me that she was impressed and shocked at how easily she had picked it up. And pick it up she did! She ran around interviewing the whole crew and trying to decipher the best sound levels for the film. It was fun to watch the students get so invested and excited about their particular roles, and it was wonderful to see them take pride in what they are creating.
We were finally ready, and the director called, "Action!" It was an emotional scene, and the student actress was a little timid at first about displaying such raw emotion. I thought about how vulnerable acting is and what a difficult job it must be; getting past your own neuroses and remaining so exposed and unguarded. The director
called, "Cut!" and walked over to coach her actress. She talked in hushed tones and was incredibly encouraging and specific in her direction. Do we have a budding actress and mega director in our midst?!?! :) All of the mentors exchanged awed glances. We are continually surprised and inspired by the participants. There were several more takes before we moved on to the next scene. We were working quickly because our light was fading as the sun was quickly setting. Finally, we packed it in for the evening and headed back to our filmmaker's collective, where all of the other teams were assembling to save their work.
There was a definite buzz in the air as we packed up our belongings and helped the students store their footage
on their hard drives. It was the high energy and excitement of a hard days' work, and satisfaction with what we're all accomplishing individually and as a unit. I can't believe there are only a few weeks left. We've most definitely created a little community that we are so proud of, and cannot wait to see the finished products!