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Making Media That Matter #9

It’s Making Media That Matters time again, folks! We’re heading into our 9th week and gearing up for full film production. I blasted into our filmmaking space with coffee in hand, ready to work! The students were all back from Spring Break, chatting animatedly about their time off, travels, and what they’d missed at MMTM.

We began as always with our opening circle. This time, I asked them to tell us about a childhood memory that made them all warm and fuzzy inside. Almost every single answer had something to do with family - sisters, cousins, brothers, mothers; some memories even revolved around fighting or teasing a sibling. It demonstrated how important family is and how difficult it can be if you don’t have a stable one. I loved the reminiscent stories. It’s fun to get a little glimpse into what our students and staff were like as young children.

After we shared our stories, we moved straight into our new “station” setup. This week, we had a station dedicated to camera instruction, a station concentrating on story development, and a station focused on writing original and complex characters. I think the students really respond to the station concept; it keeps them active and their minds engaged. We don’t want MMTM to feel too much like school, after all!

I began in the writing group, led by our storytellers, Noa and Serena. We began by discussing the group’s storyline, which revolves around 2 female characters that are complete opposites. One is athletic, smart, shy, and a skater. The other character is popular, outgoing, and appears superficial or vain. Noa and Serena asked us to write down ways in which we connected to the characters. As always, I played along, participating in the exercise. After a few minutes, I was finished, and I lifted my head to look around at the rest of the group. Their papers were empty, and they had stern expressions on each of their faces. After several more minutes without much more participation, I asked, “What’s going on? Do you all feel like you don’t connect with your characters?” They all shook their heads no and one student offered, “Maybe we made their descriptions just a little too basic?” “So…let’s make them better!” I said, “Let’s make them more complex and interesting.” Noa added, “Make them people that you would like to meet.”

Noa’s suggestion really got them motivated and they started throwing out ideas. At first, many of the ideas were simply regurgitated ideas that we’ve seen a million times in film or tv, like the popular character must be rich or stupid or the skater character might have learned skating from her Dad or brothers. But once we challenged them to consider a popular character that was also smart, or a skater character that perhaps learned to skate from a woman in her life, the ideas really started clicking. One student suggested that the popular character might actually come from a poor family, and has to work crazy hard to keep up with her peers. Another suggested that the skater character perhaps learned to skate from her Mom, and then Serena said, “Whoa. Wait. What if her Mom was a pro skater?” The group exploded in a unanimous “YESSSSSS!” I sat back in my chair, proud. These were becoming cool, interesting, complex characters that even I would like to meet!

Before we knew it, it was time to switch stations. I joined a new production team in the film station, where I observed two of our film mentors, Elliana and Sam, teach about camera operation. I had SO much fun watching this. They played with zoom, light, and framing, then used me as a “model” so they could learn to properly film in different ways. I immediately took the “model” character seriously, posing and acting silly, which made the girls laugh. I was having such a good time in the film station, that I decided to stay, observing the last group as well. At one point, one of the students got the giggles, and could not stop laughing. This, of course, made all of us start chuckling, and we lapsed into a fit of laughing that lasted about 4 minutes straight. This is it. This is the thing. This is the moment I will remember out of all the MMTM moments from this year. This is why I love this program and why I look forward to Fridays – the giggling for no reason at all, the giggles that cannot be stopped. The films are amazing, and the things we learn and share are amazing, but the giggles and the relationships are the most amazing. 😊

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