One of my Potty Talk favorites. Men are constantly telling me to smile and often rarely giving me something to smile about. Things that make me smile: the warmth and good nature of close friends, running with my dog, cake. Things that don’t make me smile: being cat-called and bullied… and then being told I should smile! Also having a cat thrown out me, that’s in the dislike pile. Enjoy!

There is an alternative.

There is an alternative. An alternative to the boy-crazy, money-mongering, bitch-slapping, beauty-driven women girls see on daytime TV. I’ve been volunteering for for Girls Inc., an organization dedicated to empowering girls and young women to be smart, strong, and bold, for the past two weeks. I joined specifically as a media partner within their media literacy curriculum. My role is to help the girls make a media project with that in mind: There is an alternative.

This is so much harder than it sounds. I want them to have ideas, to be in control, to imagine and implement–but to do this within a total of 4.5 hours spread over 3 weeks, and to do it battling against the creeping desire of the girls to emulate what has entertained them in the past…

These six girls, all about 10 years old, ARE boy-crazy, they care about shopping, they’re uncomfortable in their own skin, but they’ll tell you they don’t care what anyone else thinks. Easier said than done. They have no idea you can see right through them. So do you let them make a movie about the things they care about, or do you insist there are better things–stronger, smarter, bolder–things they should be making movies about? Did I mention they’re stubborn? There’s a compromise in there somewhere.

And just when you’re about to have a moral crisis, one girl just impresses the hell out of you. She’s shy, and worried the other girls won’t like her idea, but she’s willing to tell you about it while the others reenact some daytime talk show (getting in each others faces about some dude). Turns out it’s a great idea, it touches on stereotypes, on self-responsibility, and empathy. I mean come on, I teach them the word “empathy” one week, and the next I’m being given a dramatization on the topic-without asking mind you! After some reluctance she casts the whole thing herself (apologizing that I won’t be in it) and giving up the opportunity to star in her own film so she can focus on directing. ¬†And here, this is what blows me away, and it won’t completely touch you the way it did me if you haven’t been the director/producer/AD on a set before, but it was a brilliant:

This 10 year old girl suggested to me that while she is directing one scene, she’ll have me or one of the instructors setting up and preparing the set for the next scene so she won’t lose momentum. That kind of thinking is a real commitment to your idea, it’s also smart!

This girl went from shrugging off her idea because she thought the other girls were too tied up in the talk show to give it the time of day, to wrangling a cast and crew, and by the end of the day all the other girls were saying what a good idea she had.

We’ll be shooting that next week.