"I'm always prepared to be amazed and I'm never disappointed." - Celeste Headlee
Making Media That Matters Session 6! We're halfway through our filmmaking series and just like in the movies (to show time moving at a rapid-fire pace) it feels as if pages are flying off the calendar and landing in a heaping pile on the floor. It feels like the sessions are racing by, and we here at MMTM want to do our best to make them memorable and educational.
I meandered into our filmmaking space in Kaimuki for session 6, and stopped to chat with our staff and students. Now that we've been together for 6 weeks, it feels like we are becoming a real community. We're much more comfortable with one another and I love the vibe when I walk through the door; everyone happy to see each other amongst talking and giggling.
Vera called us together to officially begin the session and we start with our ever-creative ice breaker question: If you could be famous for one thing, what would it be? There were some serious answers, some hilarious answers, and some inspiring answers. From things like "having the world's softest hair!" or "making and living in a castle of chocolate!" to things like, "I'd like to be famous for founding a tech company that treats everyone with respect and gives equal opportunity to everyone" and "Finally finding the cure for cancer." We love our students' creativity and their capacity to dream!
We moved on by watching a Ted Talk presentation by Celeste Headlee on Ten Ways to have a Better Conversation. You may watch he video here. Headlee is an expert on effective communication and began the video by stating:
So this world that we live in, this world in which every conversation has the potential to devolve into an argument, where our politicians can't speak to one another and where even the most trivial of issues have someone fighting both passionately for it and against it, it's not normal. Pew Research did a study of 10,000 American adults, and they found that at this moment, we are more polarized, we are more divided, than we ever have been in history. We're less likely to compromise, which means we're not listening to each other...A conversation requires a balance between talking and listening, and somewhere along the way, we lost that balance. - Celeste Headlee
Headlee goes on to talk about 10 steps that will help turn others into a more effective listener, which will also inevitably turn one into an effective communicator:
1) Don't multitask, be present and in the moment.
2) Don't pontificate. Enter every conversation with the assumption you have something to learn (even if this means setting aside your personal opinion). "Everyone you wil ever meet knows something that you don't" - Bill Nye 3) Use open-ended questions. If you put out uncomplicated questions you get boring answers. 4) Go with the flow. Thoughts will come into your mind...allow them to come and go and then tune back in to the conversation in the present. 5) If you don't know, say that you don't know. Err on the side of caution.
6) Don't equate your experience with theirs. IT IS NEVER THE SAME and all experiences are individual. IT IS NOT ABOUT YOU. You do not need to prove how much you've suffered. 7) Try not to repeat yourself - it's condescending and boring. 8) Stay out of the weeds. People don't care about the teeny tiny details that you're struggling to remember. 9) MOST IMPORTANT: Listen. It is the number one most important skill you can develop. When we're talking we're in control and the center of attention, which isn't really listening. 10) Be brief. Be interested in other people instead of only what you have to say.
We discussed the video as a group, and hoped that some of its message would resonate as we moved into
group activities. Working on a film crew or on a film set comes with inevitable communication challenges and MMTM wishes to prepare these young people to meet such hurdles. I, in particular, responded to #7 - try not to repeat yourself. When I am talking with someone (especially if it is a more combative situation or a situation in which there is difference of opinion) and realize the other person is repeating their points over and over, it is a signal to me that the other person isn't feeling heard. We tend to repeat ourselves and may even get louder when we feel stifled or ignored. Repetition is a clear indicator to me that I need to shut my mouth, listen to the other person with intent, and repeat back what I think I am hearing (so that I know I am understanding their feelings clearly and so that the speaker feels understood). Nothing feels better than feeling understood.
We organized into our film team groups that were formed last session to complete a group activity. Each team had to design and create a team name and logo for their production company. The staff encouraged the students to refer to something that reflected their values, referred to a recent achievement, or represented a vision of what they wish to create in the future. The students were given huge sheets of paper and markers and were only provided with 15 minutes for this creative activity...so they had to think fast! :)
I sat down with a group of three with the topic of body image for their film. They
were a bit timid with one another at first in trying to come up with a cohesive group name. They each indicated that they would like the name to have something to do with women, but seemed stuck on how to incorporate the idea. I suggested we keep brainstorming and threw out other things women are commonly called, such as "female/girl/lass/lady/chick" and the group eventually and very enthusiastically decided upon "The Dudettes." They decided they wanted their logo to be a peace sign, because it has 3 open spaces in which they could each add their own drawings specific to what represents them. I loved it, and was (as always) impressed with their originality.
We came back together as a large group and took turns showing everyone our production team names and logos. Everyone else's group was equally imaginative with names like "Mote Productions" and "Body Positive Productions." It was such a fun way to get the groups to communicate and establish a unifying production idea. Plus, having an actual production company name and logo makes everything seem so much more "official!" :)
Next, our film instructors, Elliana and Sam, gave a lesson in cinematography. The lesson focused on film shots - how they're used, and how/why certain
shots can elevate a scene visually. Elliana explained to the students that film is a beautiful collaboration and that filmmakers are storytellers that create meaning and evoke emotion. She reiterated that there is no right or wrong way to tell a story; you want to express what you perceive to be true. We learned about shot sizes such as extreme close ups, medium close ups, medium shots and medium wide shots, extreme close ups, wide shots, over-the-shoulder and high angle/low angle shots, and much more.
We then put our newfound shot information to the test and completed a cell phone shot challenge! Each group had to take photos on their phone using the different shots we'd just learned. Every group was given a different scenario to "act out," wherein they had to portray the emotions that would accompany the given scenario, as well as choosing shots that would help to convey or enhance the emotion. Some of the scenarios were, "You have just missed the bus and your cell phone is almost dead." Or "You just had a horrible fight with your best friend."
I joined the same group that I had been working with
earlier (TEAM DUDETTES!) and we had to act out "You just moved to a new state and started at a new school where you don't know anyone." The group was really creative about portraying different scenarios, acting out loneliness, awkwardness, isolation, and the sheer joy of finally connecting with new friends. We used over-the-shoulder shots, medium wide shots, and high-angle shots to show these emotions. The whole room was filled with laughter, directions being shouted, and with students standing on chairs or lying on the ground. It was a fun exercise that both staff and students seemed to have a blast with. There was an excitement about finally started to implement the very lessons we'd been taught as well. New filmmakers are being born!
After we completed our cell phone task, we plugged each group's cell into the computer to display their pictures on the big screen for everyone to see and analyze. Each group explained what emotion they were trying to capture and why they had chosen that particular shooting style. It was a great way to end the evening.
Vera called the group to a close and session 6 was officially in the books! Some students stayed behind to watch DEAF JAM by Judy Lieff and the staff met briefly to chat about how session had gone. In this blogger's opinion, it was one of our best sessions so far, and I cannot wait for next week! ***Special thanks to our amazing photographers, Malia Derden and Valerie Narte***