Only a few weeks ago we hosted a strategy summit in partnership with POV for the Adoption Stories series which will air in late August/early September. At the strategy meeting, we brought together the filmmakers and POV team with non-profit organizations that work on adoption issues on many different levels every day. During the two day meeting, we discussed the multiple layers and complexities of adoption and identified overarching themes in the films such as identity, race, multiculturalism and the concept of family. Their diverse perspectives gave us insight to the best ways to approach an adoption awareness campaign around the broadcast and the films. We’re really excited about the results of the meeting and can’t wait to see the campaign develop leading up to the first film of the series, Wo Ai Ni (I Love You) Mommy on August 31st.
Last week Working Films, The Fledgling Fund and Chicken & Egg Pictures hosted a 3 day workshop where 6 filmmakers came together to create audience engagement plans so that their films result in Reel Change. All of the films tell the stories of and touch on issues that affect girls and young women. During the first 2 days, the filmmakers worked on their “community engagement mission statement” so-to-speak. Each filmmaker answered the question “What impact do you want your film to have?” We challenged filmmakers to get specific about the outcomes they wished to see from their film, prompting them to also answer the question, “So what?… So what if your film is broadcast and many people see it? Or, so what if you have community screenings? What will the measurable difference in the lives of girls and young women be when you film is used strategically?
By the end of the two days filmmakers had drilled down to much more specific answers to these questions. Here’s a sampling of some of the concrete ideas.
Jesse Epstein of Body Typed wants to use her series of short films on body image to engage men and boys in a conversation and shift their attitudes about the role of the media in shaping our perspectives on beauty. She believes that we not only have to build girls’ media literacy skills and self esteem by deconstructing false images of themselves but that boys and men have to be challenged to do the same. One idea she has for reaching this audience is to hold community screenings in neighborhood barbershops.
Stephanie Wang-Breal’s film Wo Ai Ni Mommy is about more than just Chinese adoption, it is about questions of identity as well as a redefinition of exactly what is the new Chinese American family. Through Fang Sui Yong (who is renamed “Faith” by her Jewish-American family) we see how quickly shifts in culture and identity can happen for young adoptees and other immigrant children immersed into a completely new culture. Stephanie wants to use her film to educate adoptive and potential adoptive parents of the cultural gains and losses that result from their adoption and their impact so they are better prepared to work through the questions of identity that their children face. She also wants to work with organizations to set up workshops for adult adoptees based around the film. Interestingly over the course of the residency Stephanie began to think about immigrant families as an additional potential audience for her film that could also benefit from structured workshops or Q&As around cultural and ethnic identity questions facing their children.
Selena Burks, of the film Saving Jackie, used her time at the residency to focus in on how her film can be a tool to serve youth who have experienced many of the same abuses that she did growing up in a home with parents addicted to drugs. To date Selena has had success using the film as an educational tool for foster parents, social workers and other adults that work with youth in these situations. But at Real Girls, Reel Change she came up with some solid ideas about creating a screening toolkit that organizations working with youth in the foster care system or other at-risk groups could use so that the film becomes a prompt for young people to share their own stories of hardship and resiliency and to get access to resources that they might not have known existed. In particular Selena was introduced to the idea of targeting youth that are aging out of the foster care system and using the film as a jumping off point for them to learn about resources available to them. Selena had a chance to test out this model of using the film with youth immediately after Real Girls, Reel Change, with a screening for young women at the Lower Eastside Girls Club in Manhattan on the same night as the workshop.
These are just a few examples of ideas that came from the Real Girls, Reel Change workshop. And this is only the beginning of a much larger collaboration among these films and NGOs. You would think with all these filmmakers in the room there would be competiveness, but the 3 days were nothing but a supportive and encouraging environment. All of the filmmakers shared their experiences of what works and hasn’t worked for them and learned much from one another. There were talks of how all of the films can be used in one big collaborative effort, an idea that was also championed by the NGOs and foundations that participated on the final day of the residency.
On the last day held at 92YTribeca, the filmmakers did a marvelous job of presenting their ideas and pitching their films to numerous NGOs and foundations. A group of young women from NYC based writing program Power Writers were also present to observe and compose poems to summarize the things they learned over the course of the day. The poems were extremely powerful and were a testament to the impact that these films can make in the lives of girls.
Everyone left the day with concrete ideas on how to incorporate media and film into the current work they are doing and with some specific goals to start working towards with these films and filmmakers. And the best part of it all is that this is only the beginning!
Two days of intensive workshops, sharing and, ultimately, caring for one another’s projects at the REAL GIRLS REEL CHANGE retreat made for a riveting final day at the 92Y Tribeca. Here, the six filmmakers were given opportunity to share and “pitch” their projects to interested nonprofit organizations and funders invited by Working Films.
Stephanie Wang-Breal (Wo Ai Ni Mommy) takes us through the day:
In the morning, each of the six filmmakers were given 10 minutes to present a clip from their work and talk about their community engagement plans:
After lunch, the filmmakers had “Quick Quality Time” (Speed dating without the awkward connotations) with attending nonprofit organizations and funders to brainstorm about possible collaborations:
At the end of the day, both the filmmakers and attendees were asked to share what they learnt from the workshop. Kate Gottlieb Kingswell, from Girls Scouts of the USA, really summed up the sentiment we wanted involved parties to be able to derive from the experience.
We are really proud of the progress our filmmakers made over the course of three days, as evident in Stephanie’s thoughts here.
But that’s not all! Working Films had invited a group of students from the Bronx, who write and perform poetry, known as the Power Writers to come and witness the day. They listened, engaged and ended our day for us with some poetry they had written from what they had learnt. Yes, they had written this over the course of a few hours – not a single person wasn’t left unmoved by their extraordinary abilities.
Check them out on the Chicken & Egg Youtube Channel here.
Thanks to my colleagues at Working Films, Chicken & Egg Pictures, The Fledgling Fund and 92Y for really creating a space for filmmakers to say “I don’t know” and nonprofits to say “I can help!”
Working Films is proud to announce the films and filmmakers that have been selected for our Real Girls, Reel Change workshop. Real Girls, Reel Change is an innovative new platform that will nurture the work of filmmakers, non-profit organizations, and funders that are focused on supporting the physical, emotional, and social well being of girls and young women. We understand that real impact takes time and strategic use of many types of resources, and we’ve developed Real Girls, Reel Change in order to explore the idea that it takes more than one great film on a topic to support sustained social change.
Professional filmmakers and outreach coordinators representing the following five films will participate in Real Girls, Reel Change October 21-23, 2009 in New York City.
These filmmakers will spend two days honing their audience engagement plans, learning from one another and from experts in the field of audience and community engagement, and crafting plans for possible collaboration in the future. This group will be joined by two teams of youth media makers and their mentors. The two youth media projects that will be part of the residency are still to be determined. Check back soon for additional information about the selected youth media projects.
On the third and final day of Real Girls, Reel Change the adult and youth filmmakers will be joined by funders and non-profits for a day long workshop. Together they will participate in workshops, panel discussions, and brainstorming sessions where they will learn about the effectiveness of film as a tool for advancing organizational priorities and mission. Filmmakers will have the opportunity to informally present their audience engagement ideas to non-profits leaders working on girls’ issues. These organizations may become partners or may offer valuable feedback on the feasibility and impact potential of their plans.
Working Films, and our collaborators on this project – The Fledgling Fund and Chicken and Egg Pictures, are very excited about this new format for our work. We look forward to working with all of the selected filmmakers.