Real Girls, Reel Change

How often is it that you go to a day-long workshop and leave feeling energized and not exhausted? I am a tough critic of workshops, having facilitated or attended hundreds in my short 30 years. A few weeks ago Ma’yan was lucky enough to be invited to a unique day-long workshop called Real Girls, Reel Change organized by Working Films, The Fledgling Fund, and Chicken & Egg Pictures that was magnificent. Not only was it extremely well-organized and executed, the content was interesting and applicable and the crowd was top notch.

One of the most inspired pieces of the day was the addition of youth poets in residence called Power Writers.  About six Power Writers, all girls, from a school in the Bronx were invited to observe all day and then write original work based on their reflections of the day. The girls resonated with various pieces of the films and many of the filmmakers themselves, finding mentors and inspiration that brought us all to tears. Reminding us just how powerful, clear, critical, subversive and essential girls’ voices are.

The day revolved around six films that are about girls and by women and/or girls. These films were selected for participation in this workshop and for ongoing support from the sponsoring organizations. The films’ issues ranged from body image to coming of age, to trans-racial adoption and drug abuse. These are the films:

  1. Saving Jackie by Selena A. Burks
  2. Body Typed by Jesse Epstein and Trish Dalton
  3. Going on 13  by Dawn Valadez and Kristy Guevara-Flanagan
  4. Wo Ai Ni Mommy by Stephanie Wang-Breal
  5. Seneca Falls by Louise Vance and Libby Scancarello
  6. It’s Not About Sex by Jessica Cele and other youth producers from Educational Video Center (EVC)

The workshop brought together non-profit organizations that work with girls and funders that support girls’ work. The goal was for us to consider how “story-driven documentaries” can support the work we are already doing. The organizations included: Girls Inc.; Girl Scouts USA; The Global Fund for Women; Lower East Side Girls Club; Ms. Foundation for Women,  New Moon Girl Media,  New York Women’s Foundation; Queens Community House; Inwood House; AAUW; Third Wave Foundation; Boys and Girls Clubs of America; Center for Young Women’s Development and Families with Children from China, NYC.

Another successful element of the days program were rounds of “Quick Quality Time” where we were given a few minutes with each filmmaker to discuss our media needs and for us to think together about how we can use these films to forward our work. Many of the films have complimentary websites where they have created innovative 2.0 technology to use their films as a springboard for safe internet social networking space for tweens in particular. Thinking about media making broadly and with an eye toward open-source, democratic tools and the movement and as we hopped from station to station  was energizing.

Media making is clearly a powerful tool for youth engagement, we all know that. We live in a technology obsessed culture, and it is clear that there is a lot more we can be doing to use media to develop young leaders and bring about lasting social change. As an organization committed to bringing girls voices and experiences and needs to the forefront, I want to challenge myself and others to think about how media is a tool to do just that. For example, The Lower East Side Girls Club’s Girlville is a gallery of girl-produced videos, photographs, podcasts, blogs and more. Ideas like this one, and the effective messages of the six films chosen to participate in this innovative workshop should be studied, used, and replicated. Let’s go!

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