When you stand and share your story in an empowering way, your story will heal you and your story will heal someone else."
- Iyanla Vanzant
Our last session of Making Media That Matters has officially happened. While the staff are all proud and thrilled with the work and films the participants are making, we are sad to see our program come to a close. It has been a joy and an honor getting to know these fabulously creative and unique teenagers, and we hope to keep in touch with each of them in the future.
We began our session in the usual manner, starting with our welcoming circle promptly at 4pm. Vera talked about the strong relationships and friendships we've created over the past 13 weeks and I felt a stinging sadness that I won't be here every Friday evening. However, even though the session portion will be over, the students still have to complete and edit their films, so their work is far from complete! :)
We decided to make our opening circle a little more personal this time, asking each student the question: What stood out for you from these 13 weeks together? The students' answers made me feel so grateful to have been a part of this program:
"Meeting the people I've met here has helped me because they're so awesome, funny, and accepting. If I didn't come here, my life would be different. Less hectic in an 'unfun' way."
"It's just the feeling of being here and the way that everyone makes me feel; seeing everyone open up and be who they are."
"I appreciated how student-led all of the productions have been and how much staff trusts us to be creative and do everything on our own."
Some staff disclosed their thoughts about the program as well:
"There was great creative and collaborative energy. I love your different ideas. One other thing that stood out was that some of my former film students I had from UH really impressed me - it was fun to see them as teachers." - Lisette (Film Mentor)
"I loved the courage that everyone had to tell their stories, and how awesome it was to see everyone be vulnerable in telling their stories through an art form. Even if things don't go your way, you continue to push on." - Elliana (Film Mentor)
"It was great to make a difference and help get something done that's not my own project." - Noa (Writing instructor)
I think we were all moved by everyone's words. We took a collective sigh and then got down to filmmaking business. Before moving into our individual groups for the last time, our film mentor, Sam, gave a brief lesson in editing. Editing is a hugely important process of making and producing a quality film, but can be a tedious and tricky part of the journey. She gave the students ideas about transitions, effects, volume, color correction/grading, and cuts/passes. Since I am a social worker and not a filmmaker, I feel like I also learn in these little lessons. Being a fly on the wall in this film space has been an eye-opening experience for me, as I, like many of our students, absorb the weight of what this art-form entails.
After our editing lesson, we broke off into production teams so everyone could get right back to work. Another film mentor and I spent time conducting some interviews with the participants to get some feedbacks. I adore conducting these interviews, because I love hearing the girls' thoughts about the program in their own words. One participant has been coming for years, and spoke so highly of what the program has done for her confidence and self-esteem. Another discussed how she feels she might actually have a future career in this field, as she discovered a talent for it she never knew existed. I beamed happily...this is the stuff that matters; instilling confidence and encouraging girls and women to get involved in films that represent their stories.
After we finished the interviews, I went into the main room to observe the goings-on. Many of the groups were deep in editing mode, working with film mentors to splice their films together, input music, and create credits. Heads were bowed together in concentration in front of laptops, and sounds of films stopping, starting, and stopping again echoed through the film space.
Another group was filming down the street, hard at work trying to film their last scenes in the light, drizzly rain that was happening in Kaimuki that afternoon. They came in at 7:45 pm, looked tired and weary, but satisfied. :) All in a day's work! We made arrangements for the groups to come back for few afternoons the following week (with their film mentors in tow) to make sure they had time to complete their films.
I left the session for the last time, feeling nostalgic and sad, but also happy and satisfied about the work we've accomplished these last 13 weeks together. I want to thank all of our supporters, the incredible and creative students, and the amazing staff for their unique and important perspectives. A friend of mine recently asked me how the program was going. I thought for a minute and then answered with one word: "Magic." :)