As the 2014-15 school year comes to a close, we wanted to look back at one of The LAMP’s most unique programs: Adobe Youth Voices, which engaged a small team of students from United Nations International School (UNIS) to produce a short documentary over the course of three months. The resulting documentary, #Every28Hours, can be viewed on The LAMP’s YouTube channel.
In the spring of 2014, The LAMP was approached by Adobe Youth Voices and TakingITGlobal to participate in their exciting initiative to connect NGOs, educational institutions, and youth organizations from around the world to provide opportunities and tools for youth to use their voices and express themselves. We were ecstatic and jumped at the chance to connect with other youth development organizations – the virtual training provided by AYV and TIG included educators from every region of the world.
This opportunity allowed us the freedom to design a program for ourselves, to take it at our own pace, and to focus on a cultural issue we cared about. The most important national issue at the time was the ongoing debate about policing and race, stoked by the Michael Brown and Eric Garner cases, among many others. We wanted to gather a small group of students who were interested in exploring this issue and, most importantly, the ways in which the media shape these stories and influence the national conversation.
AYV and TIG connected us with Amnesty International in Italy, who had a group of young volunteers also interested in exploring this issue, both globally and in Italy, where they were debating their own issues with policing. We then reached out to UNIS in order to recruit a group of eight students interested in media production and critically exploring media and cultural issues.
The UNIS students involved in the program themselves were a global bunch – we had students from Australia, Israel, Canada, New Zealand, and Ohio! Few of them had production experience, but they were all eager to get their hands on a camera and learn to edit audio and video. Best of all, the students wanted to learn production skills in order to tell their own stories, and to construct messages that they cared about.
As we began to explore media messages around police violence, the students quickly realized that the stories they cared about weren’t being produced. And the stories that were being produced certainly weren’t interested in the perspective of teenagers. They also realized that many of the messages they were consuming were incredibly biased and even offensive in some cases. It was important for the students to talk back to those messages and change the conversation.
Eight students. Three months. You want to create a short documentary about a subject as large and complicated as police violence. You want to show a different side to the story for the perspective of young people. You also want to collaborate with a group of young Italians from Amnesty International Italy. And you also have to learn how to produce a documentary. And shoot a documentary. And edit a documentary. Go!
Time was the biggest obstacle for the students. They wanted to do and learn so much, but only 1 ½ hours every week isn’t nearly enough for a project of such scope. The students really had to learn to manage their time at the program, to communicate effectively with each other outside of the program, and to divide up roles and responsibilities. This was the most exciting aspect of the program – watching the students find hidden skills and talents within themselves and effectively collaborate with a production team.
One of the young women in the program discovered the brilliant producer within herself. She was able to effectively organize and delegate amongst her colleagues, and schedule some amazing interviews completely on her own. Another young woman was a natural interviewer in front of the camera. On the first day of the program, however, she couldn’t even look at herself on screen. Two young men were able to master Adobe After Effects on their own and produce a dynamic and powerful title graphic. One student didn’t want to be on camera, and she didn’t want to edit. But then she picked up a camera and had a natural, instinctive eye for framing and composition. Another student showed off his language skills and did all the translating during our live Skype-chats with the Amnesty International Italy students. And the last young man was able to learn Adobe Premiere from scratch, assemble a rough cut on his own, and spent several Saturday afternoons in The LAMP office crafting the final cut.
In the end, the students were able to produce a documentary far more nuanced and skillfully crafted than they ever should have, given the subject matter and timeframe. The documentary is a testament to the students’ determination, critical curiosity, and flexibility. It was a joy for The LAMP to collaborate with Adobe Youth Voices, Taking It Global, and UNIS, and we look forward to seeing what these students produce in the future.