MMTM week number 3 is in the books! We gathered in our filmmaking space in Kaimuki on Friday afternoon ready to talk story, build story, and share story! I was thrilled to hear the dull roar of echoing voices as I walked inside, noticing that the students are getting more and more comfortable with one another. Unlike those shy, timid students we met just a few weeks ago, they now greet each other by name, and with high fives and giggles.
Vera began our opening circle by chatting with the participants about their week. A student remarked that she got a bad grade on a test, which sparked a short discussion on the general effectiveness of testing. A few of the students shared that they were frustrated with tests, and would prefer more creative, inspiring projects to help them learn. Vera, once again reiterating why this program is so special, answered with, “We like to think of this place as an informal place of learning. Food is allowed at any time, chatting is allowed at any time. Make yourself comfortable...and learn, from us, from your peer, as we learn from you.” We had our usual opening ice-breaker question: “I feel happiest or most fulfilled when I am ________.” The answers varied wildly and demonstrated the uniqueness of our participants. Some were happiest while outdoors, spending time with their pets, or with friends and family. Others were happiest or fulfilled when creating art, writing, or taking photos. A few students reported contentment when traveling or eating something yummy, while Vera closed the circle with the awww-inducing, “I’m happiest in this space, with you.” ☺ As mentioned in previous blogs, we’ve decided to try and tackle some big concepts and social justice terms every week. This week, we focused on oppression. I began by discussing the definition of oppression and the many different types of oppression that can exist among different groups (race, gender, trans communities, queer communities, people with disabilities, etc.). However, I wanted to focus solely on gender oppression this week. To jump start the conversation, we watched the video, “Run Like A Girl,” which is an advertisement created by the company, Always. The video demonstrates the more subtle, sneaky ways in which gender oppression can manifest. We all too often fail to notice the seemingly insignificant ways in which we belittle girls and women, then wonder incredulously why women are timid, suffer from low self-esteem, struggle with internalized misogyny, and why our world continues to value men more in everything from sports to religion to government. So many tend to associate the word oppression with large-scale acts of violence and aggression like domestic violence or rape (which of course are traumatic and horribly oppressive), but there are many ways in which oppression weasels its way into our everyday lives, wreaking havoc and sending girls the message that they are weaker and lesser than.
Next, we discussed a piece of artwork that demonstrated the many sexist micro-aggressions women face every day.
Though it’s impossible to fit them all onto one page, I loved that the piece represented the contradictory messages that women receive throughout their lives, leaving them feeling inadequate or not good enough. I asked the girls to discuss this picture in small groups, hoping to spark more openness in smaller settings. I sat down to participate with one of the group and they quickly began telling stories…being told they couldn’t be a scientist, or that they couldn’t carry something heavy, or that they needed to be “quiet” or “ladylike” in school. Two students told a story about dress codes and how teachers only police what the females are wearing in their respective schools. Another shared that her Mom was angry that she was making less than her male coworkers. I sighed inwardly. The more things change, the more they stay the same, right? There is ONE huge, important difference, however. When I was young, feminism wasn’t at all a part of my vocabulary. I don’t think I even heard the word until college. But the younger generation knows that word and understands, more than ever before, that women are strong, intelligent, resilient, and powerful. So, that (at least) is inspiring and up-lifting.
We had a short break then moved on to our film lesson for the night. Carter led the lesson this week, discussing the aspects of visual storytelling (how to define characters, introduce characters, and how to create character growth and resolution). Carter explained how important it is to avoid relying on stereotypes for characters, and instead to present them as the complicated, engaging, and flawed humans they are supposed to embody. We discussed the “show, don’t tell” concept, which involves focusing on mannerisms, camera angles, wardrobe, and facial expressions to help set a scene and to define a character’s mood or behavior. Carter used scene grabs from popular movies to demonstrate “show, don’t tell” and to reveal how a director uses these concepts to connect characters to their audience.
After another snack break (we like our snack, what can I say?), we got into our previously arranged production teams, and began to brainstorm about character development and scene development, focusing on showing the audience, instead of telling the audience. I sat down with a new group this week, as I like to hop around. This week I worked with team Yoonique Productions, who are focusing on a script that emphasizes a young artist’s uniqueness. We discussed the first scene in great detail, and the team decided that they would open with the main character (the artist) at home in her bedroom, sketching. She has a wall of art in her bedroom that will become significant later in the film. Scene two entails her walking to school, and each time she sees her reflection in a store window or a car mirror, some harmful message flashes across the reflection (indicating that these are the character’s inward thoughts about herself). I love the idea, and think their approach is brilliant. We chat about the rest of the scenes, throwing out ideas and making jokes left and right. We giggle so much that we’re told we need to quiet down a bit (so as not to disturb other production teams), and then we laugh that we’re that table, and try to contain ourselves. :P I adore working with teenagers, their energy and humor is infectious. The student beside me gets a phone call and says in a very formal, important voice, “I’m sorry but I must take this…” then her eyes widen and she says, “Wow, I’m like a total businesswoman right now.” She walks away and I die laughing, thinking that perhaps we should turn our film into a comedy because they’ve had me laughing all night. We come back together to share our progress with the group, and it sounds like the other production teams have made some great headway on their films, as well. I hope they had as much fun as we did. ☺ We then formed a big, standing circle in the room and answered our closing question for the evening: “When I am sad, _____ cheers me up.” Some responded that they watch a comedy, talk to friends, or snuggle with their pet. Several mentioned that a good cry is necessary, and I’m impressed that they know the value of tears and aren’t hesitant to share about it. Crying is cathartic, after all, and our body’s response to sadness. As a social worker, it’s important to me that we talk about emotions, and that the students learn that emotions are not “good” or “bad,” they’re just real and true. We let out a few whoops and cheers and then the session was officially over. I’m already looking forward to next week. ☺