Making Media That Matters Fall 2018 is officially a “go!” 😊 We launched the new session on Thursday, September 6th at our new space at Impact Hub Honolulu. 16 girls signed up to learn camera work, how to write and tell stories that matter, and how to “change the narrative” of traditional filmmaking. At MMTM, we hope to inspire our young women to write, direct, produce, and edit their stories. We are here to inspire and amplify their voices!
I arrived early to help set up, meet with the team members, and meet the participants. As we placed chairs, set up snacks, filled out name-tags and arranged the space, you could feel the excitement in the room. Everyone that is a part of MMTM is a change maker, and the energy is palpable. The first few girls slowly began to trickle in as we were still getting things ready. I love observing students on the first session – it’s so interesting to see who is most outspoken, who is a bit more reserved or shy, and who makes the extra effort to engage those that might not know anyone. It takes bravery to enter a space where everyone is a stranger (no matter your age), and I love that we honor that bravery.
A few returning participants from our Spring session came in, and I was thrilled to see them again. One squealed and ran to give me a giant hug, nearly me knocking me down. I hugged her hard – and we jumped up and down and laughed. The session hadn’t even started and MMTM was already giving me allllll the feels! After all the participants arrived, Vera (the Executive Director of Hawai’i Women in Filmmaking) called us together for an opening circle. Vera warmly welcomed us to the space and explained the meaning and reason for Making Media That Matters.
Then, Pumehana and I (the resident social workers of the group), asked each participant and staff member to introduce themselves, share where “home” is, tell everyone their preferred pronouns, and then share their “gift.” The gift idea was brought to us from Pumehana, by way of Puanani Burgess, a well-respected and treasured Hawaiian Kūpuna, poet, activist, and builder of “Beloved Communities.”
Auntie Pua encourages people to share the story of their gift:
The belief is that if you talk about your gifts, then you will be “bragging on yourself,” which in many cultures is not appropriate behavior. The emphasis is for people to tell what their gifts are, rather than their skills, degrees, or titles. The importance of this story is to enable them to wonder what their family, organization, or community would be like if it were gift-based and not just skill-based.
(Puanani Burgess, Building the Beloved Community)
One by one we went around the circle, introducing ourselves and sharing our gifts. I loved hearing some of the stories behind the gifts (Auntie Pua would have been proud!) like one staff member revealing her gift of making people feel comfortable and safe, because she was an awkward and shy child. Or one participant that shared her gift of sarcasm, making her friends and family (and us!) laugh and at her hilarious dry wit. Another participant revealed her ability to make “anyone her friend,” which I’d already observed as I watched her laugh, joke, and communicate easily with the other girls as they arrived.
Next, Vera led us through an exercise that has become important to MMTM: our community agreements. We want the space, activities, relationships, and filmmaking process to be safe and student-led. For that to happen, we must come to an agreement about how to work together with respect. Vera asked the participants to share what behaviors or actions they would like to use during their time together. The group was surprisingly vocal and came up with a great list of guidelines about how to communicate and work effectively. Things like “Be confident in your ideas and supportive of other’s ideas!” were offered, as were important suggestions like “Respect people’s identities” and “Be sensitive to how other people are feeling.” I locked eyes with another staff member as we both nodded and raised our eyebrows, impressed with the leadership and sensitivity the girls were already displaying towards one another.
After we completed our community agreements, I led the students in a silly, get-to-know-you game. We wrote 2 odd/unique facts about ourselves on a piece of paper, then shaped the sheet into a paper airplane. We launched our planes around the room all at once, and after they landed, we had to choose one and find the owner of the quirky, personal facts from our chosen plane. The activity was loud and boisterous, as we ran around the room trying to decipher who “hates onions more than anything” or who was “deathly afraid of cats because of the musical.” 😊
After the game, we took a short break for snacks and to talk story. Next up was our very first film lesson, led by Valerie and Marie, our film instructors. They talked the girls through some of the film basics: the art of storytelling, genres, conflicts, story arcs, and protagonists versus antagonists. The girls took notes and participated enthusiastically whenever Val asked them to give an example of a film that fit a particular genre. I sat back and watched how eager they were to learn and contribute. Val and Marie always have a natural, easy rapport with the girls, and this session was no different.
Written on the last slide of the presentation was the question: What is a topic that you feel strongly about? We asked the students to think about this question as they completed a small “gallery walk” (of sorts) that had been set up by the staff. On the wall were answers (given by the participants) to questions they had been asked in their MMTM applications. Questions such as:
What issues affect you as a girl, directly?
What are some topics and issues you want to know more about?
What are some important issues that affect girls?
We all spent some time looking over the answers others had offered, and it was easy to see some themes emerging. We hope that this exercise starts to solidify some ideas for film topics, and creates some connections around topics they are passionate about. After the gallery walk, we had time for a short writing activity, led by one of our staff writers and facilitators, Noa. Noa gave some writing prompts, but also encouraged a freewriting session, wherein the girls could write about anything and everything that came to mind. About 10 minutes later, Noa asked a few of the girls to share their work. One student shared a hilarious film idea about a banana thief, in which all sound effects were made by a person acting out the sounds on camera. We all laughed, and I marveled once again at the creative genius that lives in each of the girls. Truly, it never ceases to amaze me.
And just like that, it was time to leave. Vera called us together one last time for a mahalo circle, and we ended the evening by describing our first MMTM experience in one word. Inspired, silly, excited, safe, fun, and peaceful were all used. I’d call that a successful start. Until next week!