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Making Media That Matters #7

Week 7 of Making Media That Matters might just be my favorite week to date. And considering how special each week of this program has felt, that is a lofty sentence. ☺ I arrived at our Kaimuki collective a little earlier than usual, as we had plans to try some new things this week. A few of the mentors and I decided to run up the street to grab coffee, and we chatted about the plans for our workshops the entire way. In that short exchange, I was reminded of the unique brilliance of our MMTM staff. I often get so swept up in how our students are doing that I forget to notice how lucky I am to be in the presence of such amazing adults. Our staff is incredibly diverse, talented, and inspiring. We arrived back at the space with coffee in hand, and Vera called our meeting to order. We were a slightly smaller group this week, since several of our participants are on Spring Break, but the room was still bursting with energy and chatter. In coming up with questions for the group, I’ve been playing on themes of vulnerability, as I believe vulnerability to be one of our greatest assets as humans. Showing others our authentic selves is scary, but when we mirror vulnerability, it encourages it in others. Vera and I therefore landed on the question, “When others come to you for help, what kind of help are they usually seeking?” The answers were great, not only because it was a subtle way to instill confidence, but because I got to learn the unique skills of everyone in the room! Now I know who to go to for relationship advice, cooking lessons, and help with photo-editing! ☺ I loved seeing our participants proudly reveal that their friends come to them for help with math, or to get the “brutal” truth, or to help work out a problem. We all have unique talents and ways in which to help others. I liked that we started off our night tapping into those strengths. So often, women in particular take on the role of emotional laborer for others in our lives, and very rarely do we get credit or accolades for doing so.

Next, we jumped right into our film lesson for the day, which was on “shooting to edit” with one of our film instructors, Sam. We learned how to film scenes to make editing easier, which, as a non-filmmaker, I found quite fascinating! I learned that you need to film a character walking in and out of the room (a “full entrance” or “full exit”) even if you don’t intend to show the character doing so in the film. This way, the editor has more power in deciding what looks best for the scene. (Who knew? This social worker sure didn’t!) Sam also discussed how to keep scenes visually interesting, as well as the importance of getting actions and full scenes with or without dialogue for editing purposes. I learn something new every week! Elliana took over the lecture next and spoke about the 180-degree rule of shooting, which is designed to keep the audience from getting dizzy or confused about who is speaking. Since this concept is a little confusing, she asked for several rounds of student volunteers. I think the students like when they get to volunteer, as they enthusiastically shoot up their hands when asked to do so. The volunteers ran through some pretend dialogue, as the film instructors demonstrated the 180-degree rule and the participants learned to run through an entire scene before cutting, for editing purposes. Sam then continued the lesson on filming for easier editing purposes, discussing things like insets (showing what a character sees, or bringing attention to a key plot point) and continuity (making certain that props and scenes remain consistent, wardrobe/makeup/hair are noted and recreated, etc.). Sam provided us with tips for continuity and consistency such as taking notes, taking pictures of props and scenes, and reminding the actors to use consistency with things like gestures (using the same hand to pick up a coffee mug, for example) to make editing easier and more realistic.

Next, we moved into something new for MMTM. Because we are not only a filmmaking program, but a social justice program as well, we wanted to find a creative way to incorporate more social justice education, without sacrificing filmmaking time. We decided to create 3 individual “stations” this week. One station focused on filmmaking and storytelling. Another station was a writing/discussion workshop surrounding gender roles. The last one was a teaching station dedicated to discussing the gender binary (and its many constraints) and the gender spectrum. Since this was a new tactic, I was interested to see how it would play out. The hope was that it would keep the students engaged and stimulated, instead of simply focusing on one idea at a time. I believe it was HUGE success! I spent time in each group, hopping from one to the other to get the full experience. This also allowed me to experience a different station with a different group each time, which helped me get a better sense of how the production teams are communicating and bonding.

I began in Malia’s (our poet mentor!) writing workshop first. We started by discussing gender roles, and our expectations of gender. Malia began by using a word cloud technique, writing the words “boy” and “girl” on the board. She asked us to begin yelling out words that we stereotypically associate with “girl” first.

“Pink!” “Weak!” “Prissy!” “Dramatic!” “Superficial!” We went through the same exercise for boys. What was probably the most telling, however, was when Malia specifically asked the students to name jobs for each gender. For women, things like “nurse” or “teacher” or “Mother” were named and the suggestions came slowly. But when she asked the same question about men, the occupations were named so fast that she had trouble writing them all down. Doctor, lawyer, engineer, writer, actor, director, president, professor, etc. (note: “Father” was not mentioned). Noa, another writing mentor/poet, performed one of her original poems about never fitting into the gender binary. I was moved to tears. His words were so raw and real and amazing. One line in particular echoed in my mind: “Gender is not a choice, it’s an assignment.” From the moment we are born and someone calls us a “girl” or “boy,” rules are thrust upon us. Expectations and conformity is expected and if you deviate even slightly, you are often chastised or targeted. These constraints are unnecessary and limiting and most importantly, constructs of society, not science. Malia gave our group several writing prompts and gave us a few minutes to free write. I chose, “A love letter to myself” as one of my biggest issues is being far too hard on myself, in every way. After writing furiously, Malia asked if anyone wanted to share. One of our students volunteered to read her piece, and she had chosen the love letter option, as well! She spoke of her ability to see the good in others, the beauty in life, and joy in the little things. Before we knew it, our time in the writing station was over, and we hurriedly moved on to the next!

I moved to the filmmaking station with an entirely different group, in which Lisette and Elliana spent time with the production teams, helping them to solidify their story ideas and start mapping/storyboarding their scenes. The group was extremely interactive, throwing out ideas and creative solutions to location problems. I was thrilled to see them working together so respectfully and enthusiastically. We are getting close to starting to film, and I cannot wait to see how all of these ideas come together! Again, before we knew it, it was time to switch!

Lastly, I moved to the gender station with our mentor, Carter. Carter led us in a lesson/discussion using something called the Gender Unicorn. The unicorn is used to teach others about the gender spectrum, gender identity, sexual/emotional/romantic attraction, and gender expression/presentation. Carter presented the information so beautifully and then allowed the group to ask questions or get clarifications. I think exposure to these ideas and ways of being can be so freeing, as we are not just cookie cutter versions of our presented gender. We are individuals, and should be free to express that individuality. Yet again, after completing all of the stations with the students, I was struck by the profound brilliance of our staff.

We ended the evening with our closing question, and decided to play upon the opening question with, “When you need help, who do you turn to?” As we went around the circle, I noted that almost all of the answers revolved around women in their lives. Mom, sister, best friend, cousin, etc. While it does seem unfair that women take on the brunt of emotional labor, I am truly inspired by how women take care of one another. I hope we can continue to do that for each other at MMTM.

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