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Student Offers Free Film Workshop for Youth on the South Side
A young woman sits in an office chair with her laptop on her lap. She opens the laptop. The camera pans across the back of the laptop, then zooms in on the woman’s eyes. Her eyes are wide open; she appears to be shocked. The screen goes black. This is: “Instagram Thriller.”
“Instagram Thriller” was one of three short videos created by Syracuse youth at a free film workshop at Syracuse University’s South Side Communication Center on Friday, April 19. The workshop, hosted by Simone Girma ’19, worked the middle school-aged students through writing scripts, storyboarding concepts, participating in a table read, pitching their ideas and creating videos. By the end of the day, the students’ vocabulary grew to include such words as “zoom,” “pan” and “extreme close up.”
For Girma, the day was a culmination of a semester of hard work, and four years of community building. Her big idea: leveraging campus resources to benefit the greater Syracuse community. As a television, radio and film (TRF) major in the Newhouse School and a citizenship and civic engagement (CCE) major in the Maxwell School and the College of Arts and Sciences, this project blended her passions perfectly.
“Syracuse has the highest rate of concentrated poverty for black and Latinos. People from underrepresented communities aren’t telling their stories in Hollywood. I saw all of the resources on campus as an opportunity to chip away at these problems,” says Girma. “I know when I was younger, I would have wanted to participate in a program like this, but it didn’t exist.”
So, Girma brought it into existence.
To make the event happen, Girma needed to figure out the logistics of the event and also plan the content of the event. To do so, she spent most of her time connecting resources.
Girma used her capstone CCE class, which tasks students with implementing a community project, to help bring her idea to reality. Girma’s professor guided her through strategic thinking and planning. After learning from professors in the School of Education that a class in the Syracuse City School District would come with a lot of red tape, Girma found the Office of Community Engagement. The office’s vision of building and fostering lasting and mutually supportive connections between the University and the community aligned perfectly with Girma’s vision. Therefore, Girma was connected with the South Side Communication Center; the location of the eventual event. Girma secured funding from the CCE department to provide lunch for the attendees.
“Everyone at Syracuse University was so willing to help. Most people want to see projects like this happen. It’s just about getting a conversation going,” says Girma.
To plan the event, Girma worked with members of her fraternity, Delta Kappa Alpha, the professional cinema fraternity. The members stepped up to plan the content of the event and three members, Audra Linsner ’19, Evin Figen ’19 and Maya Quiñones ’19, volunteered at the event. Michael Schoonmaker, associate professor and chair of television, radio and film in the Newhouse School, assisted with the process and helped Girma rent equipment from Newhouse’s Cage to use at the event.
“Film is one of the more compelling forms of telling stories, which is why it is so important to make it accessible to as many people as possible,” says Schoonmaker. “Everyone watches film, but not as many make it. It’s an exhilarating experience to share stories, whether about ourselves or the worlds that we see in front of us.”
Once partnered with the South Side Communication Center, Girma found support, guidance and help from Rachielle Scrivens, site coordinator at the South Side Communication Center.
All of the collaboration was worth it when Girma witnessed the impact the event had on the students that attended the free film workshop. Each step of the way, the students were excited, engaged and felt agency over their ability to to create. While the process was challenging, Scrivens says the looks of accomplishment on the students’ faces while viewing their film was “priceless.”
“This film workshop was impactful because it brought college students and high school students from all over the city together to a place where they bonded and formed friendships,” says Scrivens. “Students were inspired to get in touch with their creative side and were given the freedom to make their film about what they as a team wanted it to be.”
“The mission of allowing communities of colors to tell their own story is so important because there’s so much creativity. Young people are so creative; they just need the tools to tell their stories,” says Girma.