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.

Marathon

I woke up this morning grateful. Grateful for my creativity, for good company, for the man who wakes me in the morning. Grateful for the good weather.

Rather quickly, I mean when you think about it, the information showers in. It’s subtle, and sort of cryptic at first: “Stay safe,” “If you’re trying to get in touch with Boston friends, use text, cell towers are overwhelmed,” “Marathon updates.” Suddenly social media seems useful. Blogs give you a minute by minute update that reflects the confusion of the scene. There are first hand photos and video, plumes of smoke and blood spatters.

On the morning of September 11, 2001 I don’t remember how I woke. Another day of high school I suppose. I remember glimpsing the TV before I left for school. I didn’t realize quite what was happening, not even the simple fact that a plane crashed into one of the Twin Towers, let alone an attack. The morning was spent in World History watching the news (we were three hours behind on the west coast). I never cried over it. I suppose because when I thought of friends and family in New York, I never thought of them in the city or near the World Trade Center buildings.

Today though, I couldn’t mention the news. I couldn’t at all, I interrupted myself with gutteral sobs before I could say someone blew up the finish line. I covered my mouth like they do in bad films when unspeakable things happen. I guess this one was closer to home.

The only questions I want answered the news networks can’t report on. One, namely, that will never be satisfied.

Tonight I am grateful for the safety of friends and family that we left in Boston. My condolences for the killed and injured.