Busy Little Bee.

I realize it’s been almost a month since my last update! Been taking on lots of exciting projects lately! Apart from the managing-my-life aspect (work visa to stay in the US longer, mourning Germany’s loss at the World Cup), here’re some updates on what’s been keeping me busy.

Kartemquin Films

Been pretty involved in the production of Maria Finitzo’s Invisible Seasons, a documentary that explores how change takes place in a democracy and the effects of Title IX on women’s athletics. Absolutely love going on shoots with the team doing 2nd camera, still photography, and filming behind-the-scenes footage. It’s always a blast when you put Maria, DP Peter Gilbert and Sound Recordist John Mathie together in one car. :) We’ve had opportunities to be a part of events like the Chicago Sky Opening Night at the Allstate Arena, the farewell banquet for the Kelly High School Women’s Soccer Team, and just learn so much through interviews with some really amazing people! Look out for the new demo that Editor Leslie Simmer’s been hard at work on, coming out mid August!

I’ve also had the pleasure of working the talented folks at Modea on the Invisible Seasons website. The initial draft concept they’ve sent me looks beautiful! It’s going to be such a fun and interactive website, I cannot wait for its official launch. :D

Innovations For Learning

I’m deep in post-production for the videos showcasing the company’s wonderful Online Tutoring program that brings together working professionals in the corporate world with 1st graders who need help with learning to read. They truly make it easy for the tutor because it only takes 30 minutes a week and he/she doesn’t even need to leave the office! All you really need is a phone line and an internet connection. Neat huh? I hope to be able to showcase all that through compelling stories told by our interviewees at the elementary schools and corporations we’ve visited. It’s so much fun exploring the various institutions and learning about what they do. It also gives me a great peek into the world of elementary education here in the US, since I didn’t grow up here. Plus it’s always heartwarming to be surrounded by 6 year-olds. :) Many thanks to my friends/DPs Karl, Alex, Trevor & Josh for coming on these journeys with me.

Studio BE

I got a random phonecall from Karl one day asking if I’d wanted to teach theater kids about film for a week-long summer program. Having no experience in the world of theater, I thought this would be a good chance to learn a little about it, while sharing what I know with a group of very expressive kids. Working with Aaron Shapiro and Tamara Drew at Studio BE was a ton of fun. We came up with a weeklong plan that would enable the kids to plan and shoot their very own promo video for their upcoming musical, RagTime!


Reel Talent Productions

That’s what my Cabrini Connections Film Club kids have decided to name our production company. We’re currently in the midst of an 8-week long summer course where they’ll learn filmmaking techniques through producing their very own music videos! The kids chose, right from day one, that they’d be working on music videos for Lil Mama’s Lip Gloss, and the opening theme song for the anime Air Gear. Two very different pieces, with very different feels.

Just earlier this week, the kids had 3.5 hours to shoot everything they needed. While one group had scenes with dancers, make-up and lots of attitude, the other group had shots of an intense card game, reminding me of casino scenes from James Bond.¬†Over the next 4 weeks, we’ll be hard at work on editing, finishing and summing up with our big screening party. Whee!

Manchester United Soccer School & 1World Sports

The Manchester United Soccer School started off their US tour in Chicago, where kids from all over had to compete for the opportunity to spend a day with coaches from one of the world’s best soccer teams around. How exciting it was for Jane, Jenny and I to be there to capture all the action on video at UIC. :)

1World Sports knows that’s a lot of life lessons that can be taught through sports, so they designed the “Responsibilities of an Athlete” program to teach kids about them. Mixed that with running around under the sun doing soccer drills with the Man U coaches, and the kids went home with smiles on their faces (and plenty of cool Man U merchandise!).

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An evening with Kartemquin Films

hoop-dreams-15-cardTonight, with the wonderful company of Karl and Mario, I attended the 15th anniversary celebration of the iconic documentary – Hoop Dreams.

The crowd was a great mix of people – some who’ve been long-time supporters of Kartemquin Films since it was founded over 40 years ago, and some new friends coming out to support one of our national treasures. All that, coupled with the opportunity to mix and mingle with Kartemquin filmmakers in the beautiful Gene Siskel Film Center in the heart of Chicago, made the night one to remember.

I’ve personally been a great admirer of KTQ Films for a couple of years. JJ Hanley spoke to us about the documentary she produced, Refrigerator Mothers, in my ‘Community Integration of Labeled People’ class about a year ago. I was tremendously moved by the message it was trying to put across and decided to look up Kartemquin on the internet (thanks to the hint i got when she wore the KTQ t-shirt that day). To my excitement, i discovered that my TA for the RTVF 280 class i took the year before, Maria Finitzo, was also a Kartemquin Filmmaker. I remember how much I loved the clip of Terra Incognita she screened in class! And that beautiful moment of realization sparked a purchase of several KTQ DVDs. Hoop Dreams included.

Having followed the incredible journey of the two 14-year old boys featured in Hoop Dreams, it was so surreal watching them return as almost 40-year olds to speak at the event. KTQ1I think that’s one of the most beautiful parts of documentary though. The stories are so real and engaging that it makes you care about the futures of the characters featured. I loved learning about where William Gates and Arthur Agee are today and how being in the movie had affected their lives. It’s great that William, who’s now a pastor at Living Faith Church in Cabrini Green, and Arthur, who’s teaching youths about following their dreams through the ‘Hoop Dreams’ Curriculum, are out there being positive role models for people. When we had the opportunity to chat with Arthur after the event, it was really nice to see some of that boyish charm we’ve all seen in the movie, still in him. :)

After the keynote address by Peabody Award-winning author Alex Kotlowitz, we got to hear from Joanna Rudnick and the impact that In The Family has made. Now this showed us another one of the great beauties of documentary – exposing what’s unjust and pushing for change! The short clip she showed taught us about how some private company has patented a gene, and hence denied its access to women with a life-threatening genetic mutation, unless they’re able to fork out $3000 for it. That ruffled many feathers in the room instantly. As Joanna put it, how can you patent something we all grow? It’s like patenting the human thumb!

The night drew to a close as KTQ Films Founder, Gordon Quinn, made his way to the rostrum with a rousing standing ovation from the crowd, and introduced the board chairman, Steve Whisnant to give his closing remarks.

There was no better way to end the celebration, than by getting us all looking forward to Kartemquin’s next films! Watching snippets from The Interrupters and Invisible Seasons kept us glued to our seats and left us wanting more.

Oh boy. Over 40 years and counting. Kartemquin Films is truly a gem and will continue to be my source of inspiration for a long time. They’re doing exactly what i want to do in life – using the art of storytelling to bring together communities and to foster positive social change. I love it!

Thank you, Viva Doc of Columbia College Chicago for giving me the opportunity to be a part of this.