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Archive for February, 2007

Not unheard of

Tuesday, February 27th, 2007

The Education Law Center, Good Schools Pennsylvania (GSPA), and the Education Policy and Leadership Center (EPLC) are leading The Pennsylvania Education Funding Reform Campaign. This campaign will advocate for a state finance system that provides all children with the resources needed for an excellent public education. The results could lead to significant legislative changes in the inequitable funding formula the state uses now. First Person is pleased to support this effort by participating in the Campaign’s Share Your Stories effort.


I am eighteen years old and a recent graduate of Philadelphia High School for Girls. Coming from a magnet school, the imbalance in school funding was apparent and often a topic for discussion when addressing my peers who attended other schools. Girls High was glorified for its extracurriculars that other schools didn’t offer; however even Girls High was faced with a budget crunch.

The most pronounced area of underfunding that I saw during my duration there was in extracurricular and humanities. Everything from art to gym to stage crew were making due with what they had. As beautiful as our murals and works of art were, the students were the ones left with the bill when it came to paying for art supplies. In my tenth grade year at Girls High I took fashion design and I had to buy everything that we used in that class aside from the sewing machine: yarn, straight pins, sewing needles, embroidery supplies, and fabric. This hurt my pocket.

In the auditorium, when it came time for a show, things always went smoothly to the audience. But with extra funding, the tear in the curtains and the old ropes and lighting on the stage could been replaced, and even better props and costumes could have been constructed for the many wonderful stage production that the auditorium held.

January marks an important time in Girls High’s history “Contest Kickoff”. Seniors and freshman and sophomores and juniors compete in athletics and school spirit. The tradition of having Contest in the gym was broken when Girls High’s bleachers were labeled condemned. That also affected sports attendance. Girls High’s gymnasium couldn’t accommodate the fans of contest or sports games. Contest my senior year marked the first time in years that contest would be held in the gymnasium. “Rock the blue and gold” vibrated through the walls of the gym as past graduates and current students glorified the wonders of a little extra school funding.

School funding is important. It affects everything from the quality of the books to the likely hood of a student receiving an art scholarship. With better school funding Philadelphia schools could equal or better their charter and private school counterparts. It is not unheard of for a school to have air conditioning, new books, college access, a school wide wireless network, online classrooms, or more than four counselors. I say Philadelphia schools should have everything that money can buy for other schools.
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Back to where I was

Wednesday, February 14th, 2007

During the next two weeks, each of the young people featured in First Person will be getting a first look at one of their sample scenes from our developing rough cut, then blogging with their reaction.

Looking at the clip reminded me of how I used to be, with my job and keeping myself taken care of with my shoes, hair, etc. It encourages me to get back where I was. Since the baby, I haven’t worked or nothing. But I am trying. When I watched the video clip, I was thinking negative things such as how I would sound and look. Really, my negative things were about me–I was being self-conscious. I thought I was gonna sound funny, like in the trailer. But I liked it. I looked good, and it wasnt a time when I was depressed.

Waiting on ITVS…

Thursday, February 8th, 2007

Fucking grant cycles. Still waiting to hear if we made it to the second round of ITVS’ Open Call. Feeling more conflicted by the day. Of course, I really want the recognition of advancing, not to mention the continued possibility of all the money they could throw our way. But the longer the wait, the more time I have to think about where I really want First Person to go. The whole reason I wanted to do this film, what has guided my approach from the beginning, was the belief that the vast majority of “inner city public education” docs are fundamentally problematic in their approach: they focus on an external
intervention in people’s lives, rather than the people themselves. These films might garner critical acclaim or go over well with audiences who naturally relate to those doing the intervening. But they fail to speak to young people, and they fail to provide young people with a resource that is valuable and meaningful in trying to figure out their own lives. Rather than providing examples of how other young people perceive the conflicts they face and how they choose to deal
with them, these documentaries inevitably reinforce a narrative about good-hearted outsiders struggling against the fucked-up circumstances of the inner city to help kids “make it out” by overcoming the supposed deficiencies of their families and communities.

In general, I can make myself feel good about trying to make a film that runs counter to this typical cliched approach. But at the end of the day, I find myself craving the support and approval of the structures that historically support all the films that I am hoping to provide an alternative to. At the end of the day, I’ve checked my email 10,000 times hoping for word from ITVS. As a first-timer, getting broadcast and distribution feels like an incredibly huge hill to climb. Before I kill myself trying to navigate the road up, I wish I could get clearer in my convictions as to whether this is even the right hill to be climbing.

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