September 2016: M-Passioned Member Kerith Lemon

Kerith Lemon Headshot Square1) What do you do?
I am a writer, director and creator with a love for character driven narratives and multi-platform storytelling.  I’ve had a diverse career having worked as a programming and production executive at CBS Radio, Nickelodeon and MTV Games and most recently the OWN Network, where, as Vice President of Digital Video, I created and directed a full slate of original digital series for the networks digital platforms.

I’ve always had a passion for stories that emotionally connect, and I’m particularly drawn to projects that elevate women, mirror societal complications and create dialogues amongst a broad audience. It was that passion that led me to my create my directorial debut, A Social Life, which premiered at the Canberra International Short Film Festival and where it was awarded the prize for Best International Actor.  After traveling the festival circuit, it won Best Ladies First Short at the Lady Filmmakers Festival in Los Angeles, Best Short Film at the Monarch Film Festival in Pacific Grove, CA and Best Film at the Los Angeles Independent Artists Film Festival, I released it online and it garnered over 500,000 views in its first week. It was featured by Engadget, Gizmodo, Bust Magazine and Indiewire as well as shared socially by Oprah Magazine, Arianna Huffington, The Skimm and many more.

2) Tell me about your latest work or project in media literacy.
A Social Life is the story of Meredith, a career focused young woman who understands the importance of keeping up an active social media profile. She strives to live a balanced life: staying fit, working hard and connecting with friends. Sharing these moments online is an important part of her day-to-day; she is creating her “image” within her broader social media friend base.

She awakes one day and realizes that her reflection is merely the collection of photos that she has shared with others. Is this her life? Or just a carefully curated brand?

A Social Life seeks to ask the question, “are we truly living the life that we post?” Whether we are, or are not, we want to discuss what effect does this have on one’s self-esteem and that of our extended community.

3) Why is media literacy important to you?
I wanted to dig into the conversation about the way social media is impacting our lives, and start a dialogue in the very place it is happening… online.

The character Meredith is someone that is close to my heart. She works and plays hard. Like many of us, she feels the pressure to keep up her personal “brand”.  Over 70% of the United States uses social media, but it’s women that lead the way. We love personal stories and we love the connectivity, but at the same time I feel that we continue to be judged by what we share in a way that men are not. I would go so far as to argue that we think far more about what we’re putting out there and how it will be perceived. I wanted to take a closer look at this; to explore our new social media culture, how we frame our social lives, and how we allow the perceptions – and approval – of others to define us.

It is very important to me to mention that A Social Life isn’t meant to be a cautionary tale, I believe that social media can be used positively in our lives. It is however, a mirror of what I know that I look like and what I know is happening to me emotionally by being connected 24/7. I was curious if we’re really living the life that we post and wanted to explore what this is doing to our self-image. I hope that viewers will watch this film with an open mind and be inspired to live now and post later.

While researching options to release the film online I was connected with NAMLE and I worked together with Jaclyn Siegel to develop discussion questions so that educators could be used to open a constructive dialogue around positive social media usage in the classroom. We now host a section for educators on our site with the questionnaire and encourage teachers to show their film as part of their media literacy curriculum.

4) What are you most excited about in the media literacy field?
I firmly believe that being a responsible citizen extends to our actions online. In order to be a conscientious consumer of media today it requires the skills to be able to critically think about what we’re consuming. I am excited about being a part of this engaged connected society and am thrilled at the chance to help shape the discussions that will educate our future leaders.

5) Why did you become a NAMLE member, what benefits do you see to membership, and how will it support your work?
I’m a new member to NAMLE. Having studied Communications as an undergraduate, I’ve always been interested in technology, entertainment and its effects on our social interactions. It became very apparent to me throughout the process of making this film that it’s an important subject at all ages and especially during the formative years. The NAMLE membership allowed me access to educators in the field and helped bring my film to a whole new audience.

As our youth is increasingly growing up with a device in their hands it’s important to provide them tools that will allow them to think critically about what they’re consuming and empower them to contribute and create in the digital space with integrity.  I look forward to continuing to be part of the dialogue around media literacy and finding more opportunities to collaborate with NAMLE and their educators.

 

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