This week for MMTM, we wasted no time and dove into the filmmaking process. As per usual, we initiated the lesson with an ice-breaker. The concept of the game was to stand up if a certain statement applied to you. For example, have you ever chased after a bus, or have you ever been caught doing something embarrassing (digging your nose, picking a wedgie), or have you ever tried dog food? At a certain point, some folks would probably assume that after 6 sessions of ice breakers the group members would probably know each other fairly well, but these games truly bring us closer as a community creating more opportunities for in-depth discussion and understanding. Every member seems to be more at ease with each other, and more receptive to each person's needs and interests.
After the ice-breaker, we scurried to find seats closest to the projector. Laurie then initiated the discussion by asking us about the films we watched last week at the Women of Wonders Film Fest. Without stalling, a few of the girls yelled out “Si se puede!” - the famous line of Dolores Huerta meaning, yes we can. Other participants chimed in with comments about the other short films, mentioning the flower and the table, the film about the fishing community, the smart speaker, etc. The favorites were the stories about the sister and the brother, and the two sisters moving with the talking speaker.
As the members enthusiastically talked about the films, Laurie brought the room back together by discussing the different roles and jobs of a production team, terminologies, angles, and camera effects. Eventually, she began quizzing the group on past terms and experiences. Instead of shy hands and uncertain answers, the girls leaped with confident responses. From the back rows to the edges of the classroom, the participants knew the answers to everything. I hardly knew half of the expressions being discussed, and I’m a communications major with an emphasis on film!
The conversation evolved from quizzing the girls to asking them what jobs they would want to be in charge of for their film. Answers such as producer, director, screenwriter, effects coordinator, director of photography, sound manager, foley artist, editor, production designer, art director, and music supervisor floated around. Papers were passed out for the students to write down their desired roles for pre-production, production, and post-production.
Then, some of the facilitators began grabbing black bags and placing them strategically around the room. Laurie gave the ok for the girls to explore the mysterious bags. Realizing there was camera equipment in the parcels, they started setting up the cameras with exhilaration. After replacing some missing screws and memory cards, the members divided themselves into two teams and began the process of fixing the white balance, finding a desired shot, and learning about camera safety and precautions. They took a few clips of their talent (Katie) before being released for their break.
After the participants practiced with the camera and had their break, a new face appeared at the front of the room: Marie Hobro. Marie is a photographer and documentary filmmaker. She came by to take pictures about our programs and organization for Hana Hou magazine. We had a short talk story with her, and she told us a little about her projects, such as her photo project with LGBTQ + members and the life of drag performers. She shared how she picked up a camera when she was 15 years old, and that it was one of the best decisions of her life.
The drum-roll began as Laurie announced the roles assigned to each participant. As she read off the list of who was appointed to what position, the dynamic in the room shifted. The enthusiasm turned into confusion and disappointment. A couple of sessions ago, the group had been divided into two teams to talk about themes they were interested in. One group was composed primarily of extroverts that were overwhelmed with ideas, while the other was full of introverts struggling to find a single strong story to portray. The facilitators saw that this situation could become strenuous on both teams, as talents and personalities could create an unbalanced condition.
When the teams switched around according the roles assigned, the noise level and spreading of ideas seemed to become more balanced than what they were before. Yet, you could still sense a but of a letdown among some of the girls, but overall the teams seemed to have a better understanding and straightforward path of what they wanted to do.
After the teams disassembled and the session came to an end, I couldn’t help but think about the overall day. While we had ample time to teach about camera setup, terminology for each job, and were able to hear about the personal experiences of a young filmmaker, I was caught off guard when the energy in the room changed when selecting the new teams.
While the members show immeasurable maturity and understanding of the issues we cover, sometimes I forget they are still teenagers. It's important to realize you can’t always work with your friends in the world beyond school. Until I hit college, I never fully grasped the possibility that I may not be able to work with people I liked or knew. It was almost like I was thrust into the ocean from my comfortable fish tank, having to get to know more people, ask more questions, and work with different individuals with completely different ideas. In reality, I wish my teachers could have done this more often so we wouldn’t have been so firmly attached to one another. In order to be creative, sometimes we have to be put in more difficult situations, placed outside of our comfort zone. This allows us to grow and become more acclimated to the “real-world.”
I know that every person in Hawaiʻi Women in Filmmaking tries their very best to be as just and considerate to each individual as possible. But sometimes these things can’t be avoided. One way or another we are going to hurt people, by being offensive, inconsiderate or simply do something unintentionally that causes a negative reaction out of another individual. Every person has the right to feel the way they do, everyone’s emotions are valid, but lack of communication can sometimes turn the even the most progressive group into a confusing whirlwind of hurt and disappointment.
Hopefully, over the next few sessions we will all be more flexible in discussing our discomforts and our reasoning for what happened and how w could have activated a process that was more participatory and consensual for all the people involved, thus leading to a more open group. Over all, I’ve discovered a new side to Hawaiʻi Women in Filmmaking, the side that speaks we can all still make mistakes and hurt one another even with the best intentions in mind, but it is the impact that counts, and so then it is a question of what we do next to restore justice.