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Archive for November, 2006

Filming For The Last Time

Wednesday, November 22nd, 2006

My last film experience was on Friday October 13th. The whole day before I just sat down and reflected on the two years of filming. I thought about all the footage that I had contributed through diaries and with the camera crew. It’s been a thrilling and scary experience at the same time. Most people don’t think about all the random things they’ve done in life or the random things that they’ve done and would like to forget that they’ve done. That was all I could think about. I was at a point where I was like, “Man this is the last chance I have to come up with an excuse for the random clothes I was wearing, the random songs I was singing and the random language I speak with my little sister”. And yet I couldn’t form an excuse because at those moments I was myself. I think about it now and I hope that they captured as much off the lax Malikka as possible. I realized somewhere in there that I’m a real person. Who would have thought? Everybody has a quirkiness about them, the only difference is I agreed to let my moments be forever archived in film.

On the 13th I woke up got dressed and for the first time I was actually calm about being on camera no butterflies, no nervousness. For a long time I planned my life out and I saw my future happening with no twists and turns. I wanted my freshman year in college to be at Temple University but for some reason God saw it differently. I’ve accepted that life is out of my control and sometimes there is more than one way to a goal. The hard part was actually finding a way to express that on film so that the people that were rooting and praying for me the whole way would understand that even though I resented the fact that I wasn’t accepted into Temple University I wasn’t giving up. We’ll see how I did when the feature film comes out.

So far I’ve begun to adjust to life on community’s campus. I’ve found some of my Girls High Girls and the TV room (My new hangout in between classes) the library and the Pc lab. It’s not Temple but it’s starting to feel like home. My biggest adjustment is just adapting to the teaching styles and the atmosphere because community is geared at education all ages and sexes. The first week I was in shock. After spending Four years at Girls High seeing guys all day was a big adjustment. I’m going to try to go through community’s nursing program and then transfer it seems like the more economical route.
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A filmmaker?

Tuesday, November 21st, 2006

With production complete, postproduction well underway, and the hustle of trying to position First Person for market revving up, I figure its time for me to begin a blog of my own. If I’m going to have to sell my soul in order to get this movie finished and seen, I want there to at least be a record of the transaction.

To this point, Ive been able to more or less make First Person an extension of myself, of who I am as a person and what I believe is right and how I think things should be done. In part, that has meant actively resisting identifying myself as a filmmaker. Much of the time, this is no trouble at all. As my crew can surely attest, I know very little about filmmaking. But not thinking of myself as a filmmaker goes well beyond wanting to avoid the scorn of those who actually know something about making movies. It goes to the heart of what I have always wanted First Person to be: a direct path from the hearts and minds of our ‘subjects’ to the eyes and ears of our audience.

Of course, the first and most important step in trying to create this path has always been never–NEVER–thinking of the students and families I’ve worked with as my ‘subjects.’ Which kind of gets at the whole problem Ive had with working hard to NOT turn into a ‘filmmaker’ even as Ive been killing myself to make this film. Kurtis, Shalisa, Fresh, Steve, Macho and Malikka are all like little brothers and sisters to me. Their families are all like family to me. Just like family, we are in this together. And just like family, we have an obligation to each other, come hell or high water. I have always embraced this, despite the prevailing sentiment among the filmmaking crowd that such an approach threatens my objectivity, my capacity to tell a powerful story, the established forms of the genre, and who knows what else.

During production, I never really had to worry about this too much. It was always immediately evident that when it came to figuring out what from their lives will make its way on camera, my first responsibility was to the kids and their families. Over the course of three years, making production decisions that have placed th interests of the kids and their families first has become commonplace, if not always easy.

But now, with production done and 150+ hours of amazing footage to sort through and with the cutthroat world of independent film distribution and broadcast looming, its a whole new set of decisions to be made. I find myself flirting with the ‘filmmaker’ role a little more here and a little more there in order to pursue that funding, get that distributor aware of the project, and to cover up my own insecurities about all the the things I dont know about getting a movie in front of an audience. Hell, I even started wearing a blazer with jeans on occassion. Im a beat-up baseball cap and a pair of horn-rimmed glasses away from being a cliche already.

The thing is, the goal has always been to get First Person seen by a wide audience, where it can have a broad impact. And I’m willing to become something of a ‘filmmaker’ if thats whats necessary to realize the bigger goal. But at the end of the day, I’m still accountable first to my kids and their families. I know myself, and I know that even if First Person never goes anywhere, I’ll be able to sleep at night if I can take the finished product into Shalisa’s or Kurt’s or Steve’s home, show it to them and their families, and feel good and right about how it turned out. I might not be happy if it doesnt reach a larger audience, but I wont lose sleep over it. If, on the other hand, First Person blew up and did all the things that I believe it can, but it had turned into something I was ashamed to show the kids or their families, I would never be able to live with myself.

I remind myself all the time who I’m ultimately accountable to. I believe that this approach is going to result in the best possible movie that I can make, even if it means never gaining any credibility among the filmmaker set. I also believe that my commitment to staying true to this approach is going to be tested repeatedly during postproduction and during my efforts to get the movie out there. Ive been delaying blogging on my own until I felt like I had something worthwhile to say. Using this space to keep a check on myself over the next 8 months is about the most useful thing Ive come up with. If you’re reading this, and you see me out there in 2007 wearing jeans, a blazer, and a beat-up baseball cap and talking about how First Person has positioned me for my next project, please punch me in the face. Hard. Or at least post a comment on my Director’s blog, reminding me of my good intentions back in oh-six.

For a reason

Saturday, November 11th, 2006

Kurtis is currently incarcerated. His blog posts come from his correspondence. The post below is Kurtis’ request for how First Person Director Ben Herold should respond to the question “Why did Kurtis make the decisions he made compared to the decisions made by the other students?”

On the question of why do you think Kurtis made decisions he made compared to the decisions of others? Make sure you state the fact that the object of First Person involved getting six different kids from six different backgrounds which includes six different types of daily struggles. There is no telling how any of the other 5 students or even ourselves would have reacted if faced with the situation Kurtis was faced with. Although I (may or may not) agree with Kurtis’ reaction, I do however understand that the decision he made was with and for a reason.

Pregnancy & the future

Saturday, November 11th, 2006

Being pregnant has affected my plans only by slowing them down now far as I can see. Because I have raised my three little sisters since they were babies so I kinda got the idea of how things are supposed go. But it may be a little different because with my sister I didn’t have to take care of them I didn’t have to provide for them. Also when I’m baby-sitting my little sister and other kids when I was tired of them pretty much I could give them back but I can’t do that now. But I am not so much worried because all of my family and friends are supporting and willing to help out as much as they can. And also my babyfather is trying to play his part. But as much as I appreciate that I am not depending on nobody to do anything for me. So I just know that when I go back college that I have to farther my education as much as I can so that I can start to provide a good life for me and my kid. When originally I just wanted to go to school for two years and get it over with. But I know the more I further my education the more money I can make. So I plan to go to school for the two years get an associates degree so that I can get started with a nice career, and then from community college transfer to a four year college. As far as my future goes it will only be different because I’m not alone I have another person to worry about. thats the only big thing thats getting to me because I’m kinda selfish and having someone else to worry about, and or take care of.

First Day of College

Saturday, November 11th, 2006

On September 5, 2006 I officially started my freshman year in college at the Community College of Philadelphia. My first day I woke up early, and went through my morning routine of showering up and getting dressed and ready for school. I left the house pretty early to make sure I got to school on time. So with no book bag, a folded up, coverless, old spiral notebook and one pen in my back pocket, I hopped on the train and made my way to school. I got there almost an hour and a half early which isn’t always a bad thing If you’ve got some studying or last minute homework to do; but in my case I had nothing to do. I walked around campus pretty nervous wondering if there was anyone that I knew coming to the same school, what my professors were going to be like, and if there was some memo everyone got that I didn’t get considering almost everyone else had on a book bag or were carrying books, and I had nothing so I was worried about being prepared for class.
My first class was Intro to business which basically teaches one how a business operates, do’s and don’ts, and many other aspects one should know about business if they are interested in an entrepreneurial position, or a position in a business setting. The class is about the same size as an average high school class, as are most at CCP, which is a positive because there is nothing worse than an oversized class in college because it makes the opportunity between student and professor virtually impossible. I like the class, we have discussions about different things in the market and how we feel about it in general and the professor is funny and friendly.
My second class on my first day was my English 101 class. I liked it too because the professor was friendly, but he maintained the student teacher line with the student. He was very honest about how he conducted his course; he’s stern but fair and very helpful to those who inquire help. In this class we also have discussion about our text in this class. I liked this class because we get a background from the teacher about everything we read, so it’s like an English class and a History class wrapped into one.
Overall my first day of school went very well for me. I saw a few familiar faces, made new friends and finally feel like I’m going to school because I want to and not because I have to.

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