A few months ago I had the opportunity to work with the Southern Poverty Law Center on an article for their Teaching Tolerance Magazine. Calling to interview me about the K-12 classroom, social justice and documentary, I asked the woman writing the article how she found me. “You are kind of an expert in this, right?” Without a lot of awareness on my end, I had collected quite a lot of experience working in youth media production in the past 10 years.
I started working with youth during the production of Ellen Spiro’s documentary, Troop 1500 in 2003. The documentary was about a troop of girl scouts whose mother’s are in prison. We were running media workshops to give the girl scouts production skill; shooting music videos, writing scripts, and learning how to interview their moms on camera. It was a powerful experience watching a young women ask her mother what “plans she was making to ensure she would not ‘mess up’ when released from prison.” The mother, daughter and the audience were changed after watching that conversation.
I continued working with youth media out of a desire to have revelatory experiences but to also help improve gender imbalances in the media industry. With a few other colleagues, we started Girls Make Movies. Entering its 5th year, the first high school girls’ media initiative in the region was constructed to address the issues that discourage girls from seeking creative roles in the media industry. Ms. Magazine has named the camp one of the “up and coming media organization helping to increase the ranks of women in the entertainment and media industries.”
This summer, I will get the opportunity to explore another facet of youth media production, working with young men who have been struggling with behavioral issues in the middle school classroom. Each time I take on one of these project, I am always surprised by the restorative capacity of media production to empower those who invest in the issues that are of most important to them.