Tuesday, July 29, 2008
PYD Part II: The Reckoning

I got called in yesterday to sub for a sick instructor at the other branch of Project Youth Doc, the fully-paid one that works out of the Hollywood Theatre itself. This is a whole different game compared to the New Columbia group I taught for three weeks -- these are mostly middle-class kids from progressive homes, they pay the full tuition to participate, and they're treated accordingly. They get much better equipment, more is expected of them, and their accomplishments reflect those expectations. And it was night and day, y'all -- it was night and fucking day.

First, they're expected to produce a full hour of footage for each of their five shooting days. To put that into perspective, at NC it was a triumph if we got a full hour out of a unit over the course of the entire project. And yet getting these kids to do it was so much easier -- they took initiative, they made a plan, they took chances, and they got the work done. The crew I was working with got seven interviews today, plus about twenty minutes of solid b-roll. That would've been unthinkable at NC. They even did it under (for them) somewhat intimidating circumstances, approaching teenagers with whom they'd never normally have much contact apart from being the object of light bullying and the occasional swirly. But they pulled it off brilliantly, and were rewarded with some really good footage. I had enormous fun working with them and would happily spend the rest of their course with them if I could.

But it also breaks my heart. I hate that in the comparison the New Columbia kids come off so poorly -- they're good kids too, they just don't have the background that these kids do. The NC kids aren't accustomed to being asked to make an extra effort, to work harder, to do more than the bare minimum. Nothing has ever been expected of them, and that's exactly how they act. They get shoddy equipment because they can't be trusted with quality kit, they have to be begged and cajoled into making even the most modest effort, and even the hardest-working, most motivated among them would be barely scraping the minimum level necessary to keep up with the kids I was with today.

But I wish I could mix the groups together so maybe the NC kids would see what they're up against -- "look, this is what you're going to be competing with for the rest of your life. If you don't start caring now, you're going to keep falling behind until there's no hope for you anymore. And you're going to end up stuck in New Columbia or somewhere just like it." The kids who could make the most of the program -- the kids who might actually use something like this to start changing the course of their lives, and the kids who could make the most interesting contributions -- are exactly the ones who seem least able to take advantage of what's being offered. And I don't see any way to solve that problem.

Sigh.

Regardless, it was a good day for me. I wish I could do this work full-time, because I really do enjoy it. On the drive home, I looked off to my left and saw a girl waving excitedly at me from the back seat of a silver Volvo -- it was one of the little girls I worked with months back for Girls, Inc. The fact that she recognized me and remembered me to the point that she was happy to see me driving alongside blew my mind. I was even more astonished to find that I was genuinely excited to see her, too. I've been in this town less than a year, and already I've got all this behind me -- it's not what I expected to be doing, not what I was hoping for, but I'm pleased as fuck to have done it.
9:18 PM ::
Amy :: permalink
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