Wednesday, February 18, 2009
Again With The Little Girls

If you recall, last spring I spent a few weeks working with a bunch of 11-year-old girls, helping them make a silly little video on behalf of a nonprofit group. It was surprisingly hard work, but immense fun. Starting earlier today, I am repeating the process with a second group of 11-year-old girls.

They're a bit different -- this time I'm working with them at their elementary school up it St. Johns, and rather than the well-to-do girls I was teamed with last time (several of whom owned ponies and were brought to our sessions by their Mexican nannies), these are solidly working-class kids from somewhat more diverse backgrounds. Apparently they're also more given to fighting than the last group. And yet the first day was almost exactly the same. The biggest part of the job is to try to focus that much excitement -- and I don't mean tightly focus, more like "herd in the same approximate direction" -- into any kind of film at all. There are two teachers with the group, plus me, for only about nine girls, but it's still challenging just to maintain their attention long enough to issue an objective.

Still, we managed to finish out the hour having introduced everyone to everyone else, explained the project, and gotten a few ideas down for next week. Next time I'll be taking the equipment along, probably imposing a little artificial consensus ("yeah, we all agreed we were going to do X, remember?"), and maybe even get something shot. That's my hope, anyway.

The main point from my perspective is to ensure that these girls get to make this thing as much by themselves as possible. I hand over my camera (though I stand very close by), I hand over the mic, I show them how they work and then I let them do their own thing. I'm a facilitator more than anything. And the resulting films are, frankly, awful; they look like they were shot by 11-year-olds who didn't know what the hell they were doing. But who cares? The point is that they get a chance to do something that nobody ever tells them they can do. The first question they always ask when I tell them about the camera is whether they'll be able to use it -- especially when they see it they tend to feel intimidated initially. But I let them look through the viewfinder, I show them how to focus as zoom and pan, and suddenly something that seemed much too difficult is ridiculously easy and they start giggling and making faces in the lens, and they're very proud of themselves.

But mostly, it's just a lot of fun to give them a chance to play at making films and have something to show for it at the end. Particularly given my own misgivings about the whole film thing right now, it's a nice break, and a chance to just enjoy the process without all the usual accompanying bullshit. It's one of the best things I did last year; I'd do a lot more of it if I could.
7:50 PM ::
Amy :: permalink
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