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MMTM screens at Girls Make Movies Film Fest and the conversation continues #media_matters

Saturday evening was the Making Media That Matters film screening at the Girls Who Make Movies Film Fest! It was held at the amazing Doris Duke Theatre, which has a beautiful, intimate auditorium. I adore screening night. It’s so incredible to see the final films and to witness the talent, hard work, and ingenuity that goes into them. I arrived to help set up and greet the participants, but when I got there everything was done and ready to go! So, I whipped out my phone to film some instagram stories for our page, (here) trying to capture the nervous and excited filmmakers as they arrived.

The participants began arriving, families in tow. It was fun to meet parents and siblings, and to watch our young women take selfies and chat about their films. I wandered around and got a few shots and boomerangs (Instagram lingo! :P) and they posed and made silly faces for me. We chatted about their nerves and anxieties a little, but mostly they seem stoked to see the final product.

Vera gathered everyone together in the auditorium at 7:30pm sharp and spoke about the journey of MMTM. She thanked the young women, the families for their support, and the staff. She described the importance of getting women and girls into film and thanked us all for “trusting the process” (our MMTM motto)!

The auditorium went dark and the first film, Decode Dress Code, began to play. This screening included all films from Making Media That Matters 2018. This film was created in our Spring 2018 program and speaks to the way that school dress codes target girls and value boys’ education over girls’. I love the opening and ending sequence of the film; its clever, somewhat snarky message (in the best possible way!) about the fact that dress codes are unfairly shoved upon girls and women. Next up was the film Thoughts and Prayers, also from the Spring 2018 program. I forgot how poignant this piece is. The filmmakers brilliantly used imagery and abstract props to convey the terror of school shootings. It truly has a profound impact on the audience. Both films were accepted and screened at the Hawaii International Film Festival this year, and we are so very proud of the filmmakers!

We moved onto screening the movies for Fall 2018, and first was the film In My Head, by Anxiety Productions. This is a clever film shot from a point-of-view perspective, about a girl with social anxiety. Because it was shot in this way, we (the audience) can experience what the character experiences, sees, and hears. There was a voiceover to convey the thoughts running through the character’s mind as she navigated through school and later to a party, beautifully conveying her anxiety. At the end of the film, she leaves the party to step outside to be alone and meets another girl that also has anxiety. I thought the last line of the movie was brilliant, as the (new) friend turned to the main character and said, “Do you think other people ever feel this way?” One little line, one BIG message about how lonely we sometimes feel, how we think we’re the only ones that are scared or nervous or unsure of ourselves. I loved it. In the Q&A with the filmmakers after the screening, the director bravely admitted that she was inspired to create this film because of her own social anxiety. I loved her willingness to share that with such a large group - such amazing vulnerability. Two of a Kind screened next, which is a love story between two girls. The film was beautifully shot with creative scenes/scenery, adorable interactions between the two actresses, and wonderful lighting. As mentioned in a previous blog, this production team struggled pretty profoundly, as they had 2 actresses begin the filming process and then drop out. Their 3rd (and final!) actress came through however, and the end product was charming and relatable. The scenes were sweet and vulnerable and showed young love in the truest way. Some of the scenes were the girls putting on makeup, laughing and talking about life together, and walking down a sidewalk holding hands. In the Q&A after the screening, the filmmakers mentioned that they weren’t trying to change the world with this film or make a giant political statement – they just wanted to normalize same sex teen relationships. I think that they accomplished that perfectly. The film was relevant and something everyone could connect with.

The final film was @MiaShaeffer, a movie about a young youtube personality that is grappling with her parent’s divorce and with being authentic with her followers on camera. The director of the film was also the lead character, and my jaw dropped as I whispered to my husband, “WOW, she can really act!” He nodded. At the end of the film, she is starting over in a new town and living with just her mom. She discovers another youtuber that believes in showing the realities of her life – the good and the bad. Mia is inspired by this and befriends her. The film ends with her learning to be truer, to herself and with her fans, and finding strong friendships she can count on. After the screening was over, I ran to hug the actress/director and to tell her that I was so impressed with her acting abilities…she was so believable and charming! This was the longest film, so during the Q&A, the editor mentioned that she had her work cut out for her. I loved the story they constructed, and the way they built aspects of other issues into the script (like bullying, social media influence, trust, friendship, divorce, and emotional abuse).

After a hearty round of applause and many cheers, Vera invited the filmmakers onto the stage to each accept a lei and take part in the Q&A. I’ll admit that I got a little emotional seeing them up there…this is such a special program and I am so overcome with pride for what these girls have accomplished. I hope they are as proud of themselves as I am!

The moderator, Taylour Chang, did a fantastic job of asking the girls interesting questions regarding their work. What did you want the audience to take away from your film? Do you hope to become a filmmaker someday? What gave you the idea for this movie? How did you decide to film using this technique? Probably my favorite question of the night, however, was when she asked what ideas they had for their next film. The answers were fantastic: “I have this idea that I’m on a talk show with myself…” or “I’d like to do a movie about female skaters, since skateboarding is such a male-dominated field…” and “Because I’m an army brat, I have this idea about each military base being a different Hogwarts house.” ;P I would see all of these movies, and they so accurately represent the amazing creativity and originality of our participants. The moderator then opened the floor for questions from the audience, and before each person asked their chosen question, they prefaced it with how impressed they were with the student’s work. We are, too. 😊

After that, it was time to end the film fest, but not the conversation. Vera announced #Media_Matters, the umbrella hashtag for our social media campaign as a way to keep the conversation going on issues that affect our young women. MMTM tagline is filmmaking for social change and civic engagement, and so we decided to launch media campaigns based on the films to engage our audiences in meaningful and impactful conversations. You have questions for our filmmakers? Ask them here! Read your and other people’s answer on our IG! #hiwomeninfilmmaking

That concluded our evening, and we jumped up to hug staff and students, take pictures, talk story, and say our goodbyes. I can’t believe another Making Media is in the books. I’ve learned so much from this program, from our students, from my coworkers, and from Vera’s leadership. I’m so grateful that programs like this exist – boosting girls’ self-esteem and encouraging their creative passions. Our girls have so much to say, so much to share. I can’t wait to see their future projects.

Until next time, a hui hoi! <3


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