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Modern Media Makers (M3) Archive: Project Philly 2011

[ 0 ] August 18, 2011 |

M3 Video Archive

The 2011 student productions, a meta documentary on the experience, Q&A footage, and bonus behind-the-scenes clips, and an excerpt of their conversation with Mohammed Bilal.

M3 Process & Round-up by Annelise Wunderlich

M3 Video Productions 2011What happens when you take 16 teenagers from all over the country, put them into a small, hot room, give them video cameras and set them loose in the streets of Philadelphia? Oh, and give them just 48 hours to produce, shoot and edit videos worthy of a screening before some of the world’s leading media literacy education minds? Not many sane people over the age of 20 would care to find out. But our Modern Media Makers (M3) team was ready for the challenge.

I jumped into planning M3 at this year’s conference with little idea of what to expect. I knew that the youth media component has always been a vital part of the NAMLE biennial conference, but had varied in format and scope throughout the conference’s history. This year, my M3 co-directors Henry Cohn-Geltner and Rhys Daunic and I decided to try something different yet again: a 48-Hour Film Festival. Participants would be divided into teams, pick a media genre out of a hat (in this case: news magazine, action/adventure show, reality TV, and music video). Simple idea, right? Well, I don’t think any of us fully realized what we were getting ourselves into.

We all arrived to Philadelphia on a sweltering hot afternoon. Kara Clayton – long time NAMLE member and former Board Director – brought four young men from her high school media program near Detroit. Emily Bonilla, a Video & Television Production teacher in Essex County, NJ also came with four young women. Henry invited four youth from WHYY’s Public Media Commons and another four students from the Philadelphia youth media org, Poppyn. It was a diverse group, with 16 kids with unique skill sets and life experiences. We mixed them up right away by splitting them up into four teams of four – nobody knowing the other people on their team. There was a lot of grumbling about this at first. “I know how to work with the people I came here with – I don’t want to spend the next 48 hours working with total strangers,” was the sentiment around the room.

We started by discussing with the group what media literacy education means to them, and how it relates to the conference theme of Global Visions, Local Connections. We asked the four production teams to define media literacy on their own, then we compared them to NAMLE’s 6 core principles (see the mind map below to see how our discussion took shape). There was a lot of overlap, and the kids saw how their experiences as budding critical media consumers connected with the core ideas NAMLE is built upon.  Then the teams chose their genres randomly and began brainstorming story ideas.

The next morning at 8 AM sharp, the youth showed up at the M3 headquarters, ready for action. After a quick introduction to the production equipment donated by our awesome chaperones, the teams raced outside into 100+ degree temperatures to shoot.  From Philly cheese steaks to a rap duel, from a near drowning in the hotel pool to a mysterious quest, the M3 youth were there to capture the moment. We equipped them with water bottles and our cell phone numbers and hoped that they would all make it back safe and sound for the edit…and a Chinese food dinner. They did, and clocked more than 12 hours before they retired to their hotel rooms…to get their beauty rest (in theory).

The second day was another unrelenting scorcher. After some last minute re-shoots, everyone began editing that afternoon. They had a visit from keynote speaker Mohammad Bilal, who listened to the story concepts and gave his advice about storytelling from a seasoned television and film producer’s perspective. But most of the day was spent honing their rough cuts for an evening screening with NAMLE Board member Paul Milhailidis, and media scholars and NAMLE members Jaime Cohen, and Moses Shumow in attendance to give their feedback. Our guests explained that the media literacy concepts were strong, and the stories creative, but the execution of the productions needed work to insure that everything would come across to our audience. As they headed out for a nightcap, we all started to sweat at the thought of the final screening in less than 24 hours.

But miraculously, after another rough cut screening, computer crashes, missing media and down-to-the-last-minute edits, each team managed to produce an impressive story by the following afternoon’s deadline. By that time, each group had bonded together – forming new friendships, and some drama (of course). We were all racing to the finish line, and began the screening without the media fully uploaded for projection. Emily – our mentor and editor extraordinaire – ran breathlessly into the presentation before 60 or so audience members and handed off the final shows. Inevitably there were a few technical glitches, but overall the screening was a success.

For me, the most gratifying moment was the Q&A with the audience after the screening. The viewers asked thoughtful questions of the M3 youth about what they took away from the experience, and advice they had for media literacy educators.  All of the mishaps and stress of the past 48 hours faded away, and the youth responded with eloquence and passion about how they would now think more critically about the media they consume, and how they emerged from the camp feeling more empowered as media producers. They collectively acknowledged that more important than the end result was the process. Emily Bonilla wrote to us later: “This was one of the first overnight field trips that my district allowed, so this was a whole new experience for them.  One the bus way home, Najeedah and Shaneissa said that this conference gave them confidence in their own skills, but also the communicators that they can become.”  And that is what M3 is all about.

As for improvements for the next time around, we all agreed that M3 should be better integrated into the overall conference experience in 2013. Perhaps we can invite more NAMLE members to attend rough cut screenings and provide feedback throughout the process, rather than waiting for the final screening to interact with the youth. We should also coordinate equipment ahead of time to make sure each team is working with similar tools, and be more strategic with how we assign the groups in terms of their skill level. We hope to build on our successes from this year to ensure that youth voices are front and center at our conversations around the future of MLE – both at the conference and beyond.

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Category: 2011 Conference

About NAMLE Board of Directors: NAMLE is governed by an all-volunteer Board of Directors that works through an active committee structure to conduct the business of the organization and plan its future. Members are elected for two year terms and may serve three terms before rotating off for at least one year. View author profile.

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