An earthquake, a hurricane and a tornado couldn’t stop Big Picture Alliance from having its most exciting summer yet!
BPA kicked off the season with “Film Jam 2011”, a FREE citywide screening highlighting BPA student work from the many communities BPA served throughout the 2010-2011 year both all around Philly as well as in Camden, NJ. Students from all BPA learning communities converged to share their work with the public. The event was held at the Asian Arts Initiative on Vine Street in Center City where the gallery and theatre space was bursting at the seams with BPA young media makers, friends and family.
The evening began with refreshments in the gallery where attendees enjoyed summer-favorites such as Rita’s Water Ice and an assortment of Philadelphia Pretzel Factory pretzels. The screening itself featured over 15 student-produced films with genres ranging from public service announcements to short feature films, including MiND TV Philadelphia Stories 8 winner “The Jerk”.
To date, BPA students have created over 520 films, many of which have garnered awards at nationally recognized film festivals like the Chicago International Children’s Film Festival and the Los Angeles Film Festival. BPA media-instructors have mentored more than 5,300 students throughout Philadelphia, Montgomery, Chester and Camden Counties. “Film Jam” was a vibrant portrait of this impact that will eventually be shared with an even broader community, travelling to various communities around the City and to Camden, NJ.
BPA implemented our newest curriculum, The REEL Film Experience, to two programs sites: The Philadelphia Center For Arts and Technology (PCAT) and the Asian Arts Initiative (AAI). Most impressive was the extensive breadth and depth of the curriculum where students were able to develop their technical film skills with added media-literacy and community-awareness components.
At PCAT, 16 students gathered for six hours a day, five days per week, to begin their short documentary about the Mt. Airy community in North-West Philadelphia. They interviewed key Mt. Airyans such as Community Activist Susan Cook, as well as other leaders in the greater Philadelphia area including Ms. Patty Jackson from WDAS-FM. Additionally, BPA Media-Instructor Nuala Cabral introduced the students to blogging and created an official “REEL Film” blog through BPA’s website. This allowed students to blog daily about their real experiences in the program through articles, poems (link), lyrics and video-highlights (link: http://reelfilmexperience.wordpress.com/2011/07/13/week-two-exploring-media-representations-of-gender/).
“The REEL Film Experience Program is awesome,” blogged Michael Adkins, “it allows us to speak our true feelings about main important topics and they help build our intellects.”
The REEL Film Experience at Asian Arts Initiative (AAI) was led by BPA Media-Instructor Walker Zavareei who worked closely with AAI staff to incorporate their focus on immigration into the lesson plans. Students honed their video skills (script-writing, acting, directing, sound & camera work and editing) while learning about the many issues that face Asian-American immigrants. One of the final student-group films, DeportASIAN, creatively focused on deportation as they told the story of an Asian man facing deportation based on a minor charge from his teenage years.
In addition to PCAT and AAI, BPA celebrated its 11th year of collaboration and long-time partnership with the Philadelphia Museum of Art, Nueva Esperanza Academy Charter High School and Taller Puertorriqueno in bringing the Delphi Summer Teen Media Program to a new cohort of young media makers. 18 students gathered for six hours, five days per week, to learn lessons about media literacy interlaced with lessons in production. From Baked To The Past, a film about maintaining traditional values in an untraditional era to the thriller-suspense Divided Loyalties; to The Mistaken which delivered not only one but two plot twists; this six-week summer intensive was a meaningful one to the youth participants.
“I’m not much of an editor; I’m an actor,” says Jennylee Burgos, “but I like to learn new things so I decided to edit this [group] film. It was a lot of work, sweat and tears and I realized that I have a lot of patience… The challenge that I came above was for me not to just quit. A lot of times I just wanted to quit but I said ‘No, I’m not letting my team down.’”
This summer alone, BPA programs served 55 teens from over 25 schools in underserved communities around the City. Over 50 personal films and nine short films were created in total. Our BPA Media-Instructors also conducted written feedback surveys and video-dialogue sessions with each student to gauge their experiences. It was here that BPA’s impact on Philadelphia youth became crystal clear. A funder sitting in the audience at the culminating Delphi Summer screening asked, “What would you tell a funder about whether this program is worth funding or not?”
“If a funder asked ‘is this program worth funding?’ I would say yes,” says BPA Student Reginald Coleman, “it keeps children off the streets. We have something to do every summer and we go out places and get to know other people inside of work and outside of our work. And also because it shows our creative side and we make positive impacts around our community and then branch it worldwide through YouTube and things like that.”
A jam-packed program line-up wasn’t the end of BPA’s summer. Excitement continued to bubble with the filming of GATEWAY, a documentary about The City of Philadelphia Mural Arts Program’s How Philly Moves mural installment along the airport parking garage facing Interstate 95 South. The last panel of the mural was laid on Tuesday, July 12 and was undoubtedly a chapter marker in Philadelphia history. However, the culmination of the project will be on October 12 when the official unveiling of the mural will take place alongside a rooftop dance party.
After the mural dedication, BPA’s production of GATEWAY will continue with interviews and additional pick up shots around the City. Starting in mid-October, a temporary five to seven minute excerpt from GATEWAY (teaser-style) will become part of a permanent exhibit of How Philly Moves inside the airport. An official exhibit opening will take place later on this year so stay tuned for details!
GATEWAY is Produced by BPA Executive Director Teri Yago Ryan and Directed by former BPA media-instructor, Christopher Ambolino. BPA media instructors have served as camera operators adding this history-making doc to their filmographies. Additionally, BPA students visit on production days to work side-by-side with BPA staff to set up equipment, run cameras and collaborate with the actors. They also use BPA flip-cameras to do their own documenting of their work.
The beauty of both projects, How Philly Moves and GATEWAY, extends beyond the initial façade of the mural; the intricate stories of the people and organizations involved in this project are a brilliant display of civic engagement and community. Best of all, BPA media-instructors and students are collaborating on a real, work-ready production and, in this case, one that will make history.
“This is exactly why this project is so exciting to us,” says BPA Executive Director Teri Yago-Ryan, “our students are able to be a part of one of the largest public art projects the world has ever seen. We’re building REEL to REAL experiences here.”