Filmmakers and organizations are coming up with creative ways to incorporate a spectrum of social media into film campaigns, including interactive websites and games, issue-based social networking communities, podcasts and web TV shows. Filmmaker Dawn Valadez joins us as a guest blogger to share how she and her partners created their own social networking community just for girls.

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Going on 13 began in 2000 and was an ambitious journey to capture the transformation of 4 pre-teen girls as they became young women. We shot the film for four years and edited for two and have spent the last two promoting the film and sharing the film with audiences all over the world! We have been blown away by the positive responses and how the themes of the film–puberty, relationships, culture, identity, self-love–have been universally received in so many communities across cultures, genders and age groups. Our website shares the specifics about the film: www.goingon13.com.

We wanted to create a girl community online that goes beyond the typical fashion and fan pages that currently exist. We were looking to create something that really allows girls to be themselves and share what is most important to them. We are still fine tuning the site and hope to fully launch it in the early spring of 2010. This site will take the film out of the DVD and into the lives of girls and the people who care for them. It will allow us to extend the themes and ideas of the film far beyond the film to the national and international communities of girls. We have to work out some of the challenges with it–safety for one–before we really launch it so keep your eyes open for the launch of the site.

We collaborated with Girls Inc of Alameda County, Missing Pixel, Lower East Side Girls Club, and others. The girls and staff from these organizations helped us design the interactive website, gurlstalkback.com, and informed us about the content and design. We worked with a team of 15 middle school girls to see what they were interested in and what would make the site exciting to them. They loved the cell phone polls and the ability to post their stories and photos. We also have two high school girls from Girls Inc of Alameda County who are the moderators for the site — making sure girls aren’t bullying each other and making sure no creepy predatory adults are seeping in. They are awesome and have posted on our blog last summer.

Working Films has been a partner on this project since nearly its inception. Kristy and I attended a workshop that Robert West hosted at the now defunct Films Arts Foundation (RIP). He inspired us to partner with youth organizations and to think about community engagement all throughout production. Later I went to the Working Films’ MASS MoCA filmmaker residency in 2005 (for my 40th birthday!) and really benefited from the training, support and analysis he, Judith Helfand and the other participants gave me on our film and our plan. We have utilized the contacts and relationships and ideas generated there and throughout the process of creating the film. We are truly honored to be part of and indebted to Working Films — all of the staff have been great!

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