"I hope that my presence on your screens and in the magazines may lead you, young girl, no a similar journey. That you will feel the validation of your external beauty, but also get to the deeper business of being beautiful inside; that there is no shade in that beauty." - Lupita Nyong’o
It's the next-to-last session of Making Media That Matters and already I'm feeling sad and nostalgic. Whatever will I do with my Friday evenings without my weekly dose of nerding out on filmmaking with all of these amazing teeange social justice warriors?!?
We handled things a little differently this session, because the students and film mentors were in major crunch mode, trying to whip these films into shape in record time. We decided to skip our usual opening circle and just let the teams get straight to work! By the time I arrived, the entire space was abuzz with cameras, tripods, scripts, actors, and busy young filmmakers. I love to see our participants so dedicated to their films!
While all of the teams got down to business, one of the film mentors and I set to work interviewing some of the students about their experiences with Making Media That Matters. We created a little "set" and filmed their responses. We asked them questions like, "What was your best memory of your time with MMTM?" and "What did you learn about yourself through this experience?" It was amazingly fun to hear their answers. One student stated she learned that she could be assertive. She told us that she's always been shy but since she took a director role, she had to learn to speak up and actually direct others. I loved hearing that, because so many young girls absorb the lesson that women are supposed to be quiet and soft-spoken, or that it's not feminine to be assertive or aggressive in any way, even if the situation requires it. Part of our program is to encourage girls to go after their dream, so it was good to hear that some of that message is resonating.
Another student told us that she vaguely knew what feminism was prior to coming to the program, but had learned even more about it and is now an even bigger feminist and advocate for women. I grinned from ear-to-ear as she talked about how passionate she's become about women's issues. THIS is the real dream of our program...igniting passion and excitement for social justice to make true media that matters. :) Each girl answered the questions with such sweet openness and honesty that I felt my heart swell. What an honor to get to know such fantastic teenagers.
After our interviews, we packed up and then went to check on team Body Positive Productions, as they were filming a scene, staged outside of our work space. I sat in the back, just observing as the students handled nearly every bit of the filming process on their own. One of our students was the lead actress in the film, and I was blown away by her natural acting ability. After a particularly emotional take, I pulled her aside and told her what an incredible actress she was. She grinned a long, slow grin and said, "REALLY?!?" I nodded enthusiastically, "Yes! Really!" She beamed at me, then skipped over to the director for direction in the next take. I made a mental note about the power of sincere compliments. We are often so hard on ourselves that a simple and sincere kind word can really spark confidence.
The director of the group seemed to have a specific vision for what she wanted in the scene, and gave explicit instruction for sound, camera, and to her actress. It was great to see her blossom in her director role as the evening wore on...moving from a timid and quiet, "Action" to a loud and confident, "Let's go! ACTION!" Another of our students was operating sound for the first time, filling in for someone else, and I loved how quickly she adapted to her new role, carefully listening to playback after each take to endure you couldn't hear the dull roar of student voices in the background from the other rooms. We all have to be patient with one another and take turns filming when we're in a shared space.
At 7pm sharp, we gathered around for our closing circle and to assess where each of the teams were and what else needed to be accomplished in the next week. Next Friday is our final session! Each team gave a brief synopsis on what they'd accomplished thus far and what they needed to focus on for next week. Most teams had completed filming and would be moving on to editing. I looked around the room at the tired, happy faces. They worked hard this week, and there was a great feeling of accomplishment floating around the room. Next week will surely be a mixed bag of both sadness and fulfillment. The time has positively flown by, and I am beyond honored to have been involved.