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Making Media That MATTERS #11

I was ridiculously excited for this week of Making Media That Matters, for two reasons: I was away last week (enjoying some vacation time in Kona), and we start filming this week! I love film week, because it’s so fun to watch the students implement their ideas and commit to their role in the film (director, assistant director, sound engineer, editor, etc.). We began in the usual MMTM way, by forming a big welcoming circle and answering the question, “What is one thing people often misunderstand about you?” I like this question because we often take one tiny bit of “evidence” and use it to put others in a box. Putting others in boxes makes us feel safer, because we can then sit back with pride, knowing we’ve figured someone out. But very often, we misinterpret, we let our biases guide us, or we root someone’s actions in our own neuroses, failing to see the REAL, unboxed person.

Several of the answers were about their resting faces being misinterpreted. When they’re not smiling or talking or laughing, people think they’re angry or sad. This made me think of the societal notion that women’s faces (and bodies) are often treated as objects for others’ pleasure. Have you ever noticed that men are not telling other men to smile? Our faces are supposed to be pleasing at all times, and when they’re not, something must be wrong. A few others mentioned that their quietness often translates to shyness or timidity, but really they’re just introverted. A couple of students mentioned that something about their presentation is intimidating to others, which would probably be a good thing as a man, but as a woman, one must be inviting instead of intimidating. I was surprised at the depth of the answers and how much they really speak to how women are “supposed” to be.

After our circle, we got right to work! Two production teams were slated to film their first scenes this week, with the remaining (3rd) production team assisting. I sat with the other non-film mentors, excited to watch the magic unfold. I observed the production team working on a film called Isosceles (working title), which is an abstract film that begins in a school classroom. I observed as the students set their scene with props and set up camera equipment. All of a sudden, these young teenagers seemed like such professionals! They were organized, self-assured, and open to one another’s ideas. As they began to shoot their first few scenes it was fun to watch their confidence soar, moving from a meek, “Um…quiet please. Quiet on the set, everyone. Um, please.” to a brazen, “QUIET ON THE SET!!!!!”

One of our film mentors was asked to star in the film, and while her work was excellent, she confided that it was very nerve-wracking having everyone stare at her while she worked. Acting is vulnerable and awkward, and even us adults are not above a self-conscious moment! 😊 As the team progressed, I saw their professionalism grow and grow. They were working like a well-oiled machine by the time I decided to hop over to the other room, to see how our second team was faring.

The second production team was still setting up and creating props. They had a far more elaborate scene, as their main character is an artist that plasters her bedroom walls with drawings. Our office space was converted to a teenager’s bedroom, with art supplies all around. The team was sitting on the floor, furiously drawing, scribbling, and sketching to create the “wall of art” necessary for the first few scenes. “Katie! Can you draw?!?!” one student exasperatedly asked me. “Not one tiny little bit,” I chuckled. They continued feverishly creating art until they had enough to cover the “bedroom” door. We all threw up a cheer when they finished. After camera setup and multiple lighting checks, they too were ready to begin filming. 2 students from the production team are also actors in the film, so it was great to see them move from their film role to their acting role. After the very first take, the director went up to her actors and said, “That was great. But this time, here is what I want…” and gave them each explicit direction. I was impressed! She was direct, but also kind and effective. This is why we need more women filmmakers! 😊

They went for a few more takes, and everyone seemed to relax into their positions a bit more. I looked down at my watch and gasped – it was almost time to go home! I wanted the group to be able to get in one more take, so Vera and I decided that we would forfeit the closing circle for the evening, to give the film crews a little more time. I wandered around as the teams wrapped up their final tasks for the evening. Everyone seemed happily tired and satisfied with the night’s accomplishments. I can’t wait to see all 3 crews in action next week!

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