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 and Trish Dalton, filmmakers of Body Typed

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!

More Real Girls, Reel Change:

All related posts about Real Girls, Reel Change on Working Films’ blog
Facebook Photo Album
Twitter #RealGirls
Chicken & Egg Picture’s blog: Day 1, Day 2, Day 3
Chicken & Egg’s YouTube Channel
Katherine Broendel from the American Association of University of Women’s blog
Kathleen Sweeney from Reel Grrls’ blog

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