Go now, and take flight!

It’s amazing how quickly 8 weeks goes by when you’re immersed in work you’re passionate about. The Cabrini Connections Reel Talent Productions internship ran successfully and 3 teenage girls emerged with a renewed sense of confidence about who they are and what they can achieve. Here’s a peek at what went down.


Our interns Alicia Ward, Melissa Young and Marquita Fisher

In Summer 2011, 3 teenage interns came together to produce a short documentary about health and sports participation in their communities. With the generous help of Girls In The Game and Kartemquin Films, the result was 8 weeks of immersive, hands-on learning for the girls. Their finished film “Girls In Action” premiered on Aug 24, 2011 to over 50 people, and the screening was followed by a thoughtful Q&A session about the issues. Girls In Action will also be featured as a companion web video for In The Game, a Kartemquin Films doc-in-progress about Title IX, gender equality in sports, and how change takes place in a democracy.

Summer Squad

Teaching the younger generation that sports can be fun and that it's good to stay active!

In order for our interns to produce a well-informed and thoughtful documentary, they had to first learn about the issue at hand – why there is a lack of participation in sports among girls in their community. So we kicked things off by sending them to spend a week at Girls In The Game’s Summer Squad. There, our girls not only participated in daily workouts, but also learned about the media’s role in influencing perceptions of sports participation. They had to think about important questions like:

• How much coverage are women’s sports given in the media?
• How does the media portray sportswomen?
• How does that influence a teenage girl’s desire to be active?
• What can I as a filmmaker to do change perceptions and encourage more girls to be active?

Field Trip: Chicago Premiere of The Interrupters

Getting an autograph from Ameena Matthews of CeaseFire at The Interrupters premiere

To give our interns an understanding of how social issue documentary can inform audiences and affect change, we took them to the Gene Siskel Film Center for the Chicago premiere of The Interrupters, the newest film from Kartemquin Films (Hoop Dreams). It was an eye-opening experience for them to see a documentary film by the legendary Steve James, and to witness great audience discussion after with the filmmakers and subjects.

The Big Premiere

After weeks of hard work, Girls In Action was finally complete.

Our girls hard at work out in the field!

Our interns had the opportunity to screen their new documentary to the award-winning filmmakers at Kartemquin Films. The big day began with a special sit-down lunch with the producers and director of In The Game, where the girls got to share their experience and ask questions of Kartemquin’s Executive Director Justine Nagan, Producer Mary Morrissette, and Director Maria Finitzo herself.

After screening Girls In Action to the wonderful folks at Kartemquin Films

That same evening, our interns planned a big screening at Cabrini Connections itself. There was an overwhelming turnout of support from the interns’ friends, family members, subjects of the film, internship mentors, representatives from Girls In The Game, and staff of Cabrini Connections. The place was bustling with excitement as the girls geared up to screen their film a second time that day.

The crowd at Cabrini Connections listens carefully during the Q&A session after watching Girls In Action

Following the screening, the interns invited representatives from Girls In The Game up front to join in the Q&A session. Questions from audience members came fast and furious – first about issues covered in the film and what we can do about it, and later about the filmmakers’ experience. Our girls had set a goal for their film to inform, inspire and influence, and based on the questions audience members were asking, we can say they’ve achieved it. They handled the Q&A very well and we are very proud of what they’d accomplished in such a short period of time.

Summing Up

Our three interns had, over the course of 8 weeks, learned so much more than how to use a camera. They learned:

  • how to think critically about an issue and structure their story in a manner that would convey a positive message to their audience.
  • professional communication skills such as how to set up interviews, how to send a professional e-mail, and how to follow-up with a thank you note after.
  • basic job responsibilities such as showing up punctually, completing tasks on time, and communicating with teammates clearly and effectively.
  • to exercise their public speaking skills by standing in front of an audience, presenting their work, and taking questions after.
  • how to carry on as champions of healthy living and keeping an active lifestyle.

As with all good things, the internship had to come to an end. We sent our girls off with the hope for bright futures ahead for them all. Go now, and take flight!

Group photo on the last day. Melissa, Marquita and Alicia hold special DVD copies of their work and photographs for memories.

Of course, none of this would have been possible without the help of my two fellow instructors, Jane Wang and Jonathan Vogel. I couldn’t have asked for a better team to take this adventure on with me.

Announcing the Reel Talent Productions Summer Interns!

They applied, they were interviewed, and they conquered! We’re happy to announce the 3 budding filmmakers who’ll be going through an intense 8 weeks working on their own documentary about health and fitness in their communities.

Melissa Young, Marquita Fisher and Alicia Ward

We’re kicking off the first week with an immersive learning experience by sending our interns to participate in the Girls In The Game Summer Squad, where they’ll be playing sports, going on field trips and learning about issues around Sports and the Media.

Keep a lookout for the girls’ updates and reflections on their filmmaking journeys on our Reel Talent Productions blog at www.cabrinifilms.blogspot.com

Much love and gratitude goes out to my amazing team for leading this with me. Jonathan, Jane and I are going to work our butts off to make this as memorable and fulfilling of an internship for the girls as possible. :)

Me with my awesome teammates Jonathan and Jane

Reel Talent Productions takes on Health & Fitness Issues

First Lady Michelle Obama made it clear:

“The physical and emotional health of an entire generation and the economic health and security of our nation is at stake.”

With a mission of solving the challenge of childhood obesity within a generation, Michelle Obama launched Let’s Move!, a nationwide initiative to put children on a path to a healthy future. 

One of the 4 pillars of the campaign is in Increasing Physical Activity, because our young people now live in a world where it’s easy to be sedentary, and inconvenient to be active. In a report to President Obama, adolescents spend more than 7 hours/day watching television, DVDs, movies, or using a computer/cell phone/MP3 Player. 56% of boys and 74% of girls are not getting sufficient exercise.

That’s why I’m excited to announce that three Reel Talent Productions teens will spend 8 weeks on a summer filmmaking internship producing short documentary to examine what the situation is like within their community. How’d things get this way? And more importantly, what can we do together to reverse it?

The finished piece will be used to inspire, inform, and fuel discussions about these pertinent issues, adding a small (but mighty!) puzzle piece to the larger picture that is Let’s Move!

My co-leader Jon and I are in the midst of conducting interviews with applicants this week. With only 3 spots available, making the final decision will be tough. Results will be announced next week.

Keep your eyes peeled for updates on the kids’ journey here. Ask them questions, send them encouragement and suggest ideas for improvement! Let’s do this together.

Featured – Cabrini Connections Volunteer Spotlight

Cabrini Connections, where I spend my Monday evenings teaching teens about the magic of filmmaking as one of the volunteer club leaders of Reel Talent Productions (the video & filmmakers club there), has put me in the spotlight! You can check out the post here.

Thanks to Bradley Troast for writing the article.

It’s nice that they do this to recognize the hard work that their volunteers put in, but honestly, it’s the staff who truly deserve more recognition. Brad, El, Karina, Daniel and Mike (and formerly Nicole) are the friendly folks I get to work with at Cabrini who’re always more than willing to provide any assistance I need with running the program for the kids. Having to coordinate over 150 volunteers and students each week is definitely no easy feat. But having seen the change and impact this program is truly making on the kids’ lives, I can understand why each one of them remains so committed to their jobs.

Thank you, Cabrini Connections. The kids are really lucky to have a place like this.