Saturday was Camp Reel Stories’ short film showing at the New Parkway Theatre, the culmination of five days of collaboration between high school girls,interested in exploring the possibilities within the male-dominated media sector. The girls were placed on media teams based on their interests in creating either a documentary or a narrative film. From there, they wrote the scripts, filmed, acted, edited, produced, animated and illustrated up until they had their finished products.
Women who worked in the field, helped with some of the editing processes, taught girls how to use animation programs and were there as resources. The girls worked hard! Their films encompassed themes such as social media’s role in teens’ lives, imagination, gender gaps and norms, voice, anarchy, loneliness, opportunity, and depression.
Esther Pearl, the founder of Camp Reel Stories, introduced the groups and the show got underway.
There were moments of comedy I particularly enjoyed, such as during the film “Object Head,” by Broken Table. In an Amelie-esque use of an endearing main character and an oblivious parent, the teenager tells her mother, “I’m going to get my boyfriend’s name tattooed on my forehead,” to which her mother, clearly not listening, replies, “That’s my girl!” Another member, played a boy in the film. She told us that she “had to sag with skinny jeans…I googled that.”
“Rose,” an experimental silent short about a teen girl, who we learn through the voice over “is 14 years old and has never spoken a word,” meditates on the idea of voice, using a haunting song featuring her name, that repeats throughout the film. There is also a thread about Dadaism and Anarchy, building an artsy and interesting inquiry into life’s bigger questions. The main actress in the film, clarified in the Q & A following the film that “for the record, I do speak” and “I am 16 years old, not 14.”
Eyespot Films presented a piece entitled “Filtered,” which one of the girls eloquently relayed was “based off the teenage struggle to separate from social media” and she referenced the “cell phone sea” at concerts.” The film started with a pile of photographs, hands taking individual shots from the mass. The main character, a bit of a loner and not a popular girl, battles depression. The character states, “I wished I could wear their lives as easily as a sweater,” beautifully capturing the voyeurism and insider\outsider divide that can so easily be created by social media. The character admires others’ exciting lives via instagram and one day posts a drawing she has made as a way to share her feelings. This becomes an avenue for her to meet someone that relates, which she does. An audience member asks the girls after the film, “is this subject matter discussed at all, in school?” “Not at all.” Was the response. After delving into the topic for the film, perhaps now these girls will have a platform from which to start the conversation in their schools, and offer guidance to, as another camper said, “use technology as an avenue but not as a way of living your life.”
XIII Studios created a movie called “Bean” that delved into the concept of imaginary friends and asked the question, where do they go, instead of the reverse, what happens to the person who out-grows the imaginary friend. The film was a sweet and playful twist on this childhood to adulthood transition.
Dream Reels focused on creating a film that represented a “strange version of stranger danger.” The film, “365 B”, was a thriller, that at first seemed like a teenage flirtation, involving locker note exchanging and intrigue. As one member of the group said “there are a lot of love stories that end happy…they don’t always end that way… just by the way.”
Then there was Reel Women, who put together a mini-documentary called “Society Today,” to discuss the gender gap.They spotlighted a conversation about gender, from the teen perspective, which is a very important population to be having this conversation in. A very self-possessed and well-spoken camper, declared that “media does have responsibility.” The film captured teenagers with enlightened perspectives, such as one girl who said, “if women aren’t making the movies they can’t help to create strong women for the future” as well as adult views that were a bit limited. One man replied that “yes there should be a gender gap” because men and women do different things. he used the example of wearing a dress. Men can’t do that, he said, because “it’s not a good idea.” when asked why it wasn’t a good idea, his reply was “it’s not traditional.” The girls reported that it was frustrating to see the limitations, to be ignored by people and to have men stare at their chests rather than their faces. About the latter individuals,one of the girls told us is was surprising because, “you seem really nice…but you kind of suck.”