By now, most of us are settling into the routine of waking up early, going to classes, slaving through homework and, for an unlucky few, already pulling all-nighters.
As members of this nation, most of us are aware Canada’s vision to be a cultural mosaic. Canadian communities are seen as places where various cultures can come together to laugh, share and generally connect. The same type of communication occurs within the hallways of many secondary and post-secondary schools.
With so much pressure from the media to look a certain way, teens often succumb to the glamorous end result they expect to have after buying a certain product or getting a certain hairstyle. Trying to look our best isnâ€™t a bad thing, but the line must be drawn, and probably one of the most detrimental things you can do is getting a tan.
“The reason I try to be so involved is that it makes me so excited to be a part of a generation that is trying to make a difference!” These are the powerful words of our very accomplished youth of the month, 16 year old Selin Jessa.
Rather than sitting around waiting for my parents to look after me, I decided to pick myself up and apply for scholarships. Not only does it allow me to help my parents take care of our financial needs, it also maintains my grip of motivation and the sense of moving towards a goal.
With course selections rearing its daunting head upon many high school students this month, many are contemplating which courses to choose and eventually which careers to practice. Industry training programs are a great option for those who know which career path they want to take, or those who wish to sample a career before deciding to pursue it. Only qualifiers: be at least grade 11 or 12, and have a good attitude and passion for what you love.
Have you ever had this amazing thought or idea during the process of waking up in the morning- just as youâ€™re getting used to the subtle burn of morning light in your eyes- and you suddenly get this feeling that you just HAVE to write down, causing you to skip the next couple of steps in the â€œwaking upâ€ process so you can bolt for your laptop and just type it out?
Yah. Thatâ€™s what happened to me the morning that I thought after viewing Choose the Right Thing?, it was very obvious that I had â€˜chosen the right thingâ€™ to watch at the Vancouver International Film Festival this year.
Iâ€™m sorry, I just couldn’t help myself.
Choose the Right Thing? is a compilation of 8 short films from the USA, the UK, Germany, New Zealand, and Brazil as part of the High School Outreach Program at the Vancouver International Film Festival (VIFF). Â I liked everything about the films; from the scenery to camera angles, everything was so raw, fresh and exciting and youth centric.
It is impossible to watch any of these shorts passively. My mind was constantly in motion through the viewing of these shorts, for the storylines were layered and embedded with so much in regards to the youth experience. Each film details varying social, emotional, and cultural contexts that cannot go unnoticed in our world, and the steps taken to exemplify these issues in each short to the fullest is pretty remarkable. The execution of each story was unlike any other mainstream â€œbox office hitâ€ youâ€™d come across, and the feelings associated with these issues are very different. Take Opus for example: the issue of a student-teacher relationship is something that is not so new to the industry, however, Opus looks at it through a superficial-less and much more realistic lens of infatuation, and shows the mental and emotional (not the judicial ones) complications associated with such an affair. Â And in Just Like Her, when a teen girl has the opportunity to spend time with a model whom she idolizes, things un-spiral in a way unlike any other film has done beforeâ€¦but Iâ€™m not going to tell you what, because that will spoil the surprise!
One general note I feel compelled to make after watching each of the films is that the acting was fantastic. I kid you not; Iâ€™m pretty sure each and every character made me feel something. Whether it was wanting to beat the shit out of Micahâ€™s older brother in Crush, or hug poor Ahmad in Broken Cycle, it was crystal clear that the actors successfully completed their jobs in telling the story. There were plenty of times where I wanted to reach out to the characters in the film, and give them a hug or something, since they gave me the impression that they needed itâ€¦if that makes any sense.
I, too, felt the frustration and confusion dwelling within the teenage boy in Goalie, and IÂ so badly wanted to console the teenage boy in The Off Season who was grieving over the loss of his father. I was constantly on my toes anticipating the actions of each character, for it felt as though they were replicating real lifeâ€¦and we all know how erratic and spontaneous people in real life can be! There were instances in All Ages where I thought to myself, â€œstory of my lifeâ€, especially when the girls had to pee so bad at a party and had to squat outside, only to be caught by a smokinâ€™ hot guitarist (donâ€™t act like itâ€™s never happened to you). Each of the characters in each of the films are very relatable, which is something that I have always found to be pretty important; it was all very REAL, and that is what made these films so goddamn special.
Speaking of being â€œgoddamn specialâ€, I had the honor of interviewing (via email because we love utilizing technology these days, and of course, time zones) four of the film directors who will be in town for the festival: Matthew A. Brown (Crush), Clifton Archuleta (Broken Cycle), Laramie Dennis (All Ages), and Max Rousseau (Opus).Â I had planned to be all journalisty and incorporate their responses within the article, but the content within their responses was just too good and inspirational to pass up:
So tell me about yourselves! Please state your name, age, how long you have been involved in the film industry, howÂ you got started, when you did in fact start, what your films are usually about, etc.
Matthew (MB)- Matthew A. Brown. 37. Involved in the film industry since around 1997. Started as an actor. Did leads in some critically acclaimed American indie features like God’s Army (2000) and Brigham City (2001). But started writing very early on. Did English lit in university, where I started writing screenplays. And once I stepped behind the camera for the first time, I knew I’d never act again. Was ecstatic and so much more emotionally available and was always more interested in creating the entire world of the story than being a pawn to someone else’s vision. My stories vary. My first feature, which I’m shooting next year in Cape Town (I was born in Cape Town, immigrated to New York with my family at 16) is a South African coming-of-age gangster thriller, called STRONG BONES. Also have a psych-thriller in development. And another gangster movie with kids, but this one’s NY-based, called THE RISE AND FALL OF LORENZO THE KID. My shorts have displayed both these tendencies. Crush, my 4th short, deals with teenage violence, sexuality, revenge, love. And my previous short, Victim, is dark suspense thriller… Very much a genre piece.
Clifton (CA)- Hi, my name is Clifton Archuleta and I’m 32 years old.Â As a recent college graduate, my industry experience is just beginning.Â Four years ago, I decided to make a major career change.Â I had been working as a contract translator after serving 7 Â½ years in the U.S. Army as an Arabic linguist, but felt it was time to pursue my passion to pick up a camera and start making movies. That’s how I ended up in film school. Since graduation, I’ve been working with a commercial production house in Denver and doing some freelance work.Â It’s all been a great experience and I feel fortunate for the opportunities that have come my way.Â Most recently, I was able to spend ten days in Argentina on a shoot. My films often deal with social justice issues.Â Making such films is difficult for me though, because while I’m very opinionated, I’m not interested in beating people over the head with my message. I’d rather let issues present themselves in the circumstances surrounding an individual and focus on the human aspect of how one deals with them.Â I believe this helps to provoke thought and allows the viewer to reach their own conclusion about a given issue.
Laramie (LD)- I’m 38, but my psychic age is 17. After college, I spent ten years in New York directing theater before deciding on a whim to apply to film school. All Ages is my graduate thesis, and the first film I’ve ever screened publicly.
Max (MR)- I’m Max Rousseau, 23 and I’ve really been involved in the film industry since I was 9. I wanted to be a filmmaker ever since then and never jumped ship no matter what was thrown at me. It started mainly with me wanting to be a Producer (when I was 9, I used to watch big budget action films produced by Jerry Bruckheimer, he was my childhood hero) but that shifted to writing as I would write my own scripts on my free time. It wasn’t until high school that I actually picked up a camera and starting shooting my scripts. I interned on numerous low budget films shooting where I grew up in South Florida (Ft. Lauderdale to be specific).Â I decided to get my degree in film and I got into the Film B.F.A. program at the University of Central Florida. I directed four short films in undergrad, (one of which is Opus – which is playing/premiering at VIFF). Â Right now I’m at UCF getting an M.F.A., teaching Film Courses and directing my first feature which is in pre-production currently (check out www.pembrokecircle.com).Â My films to be honest are usually about outcasts of some sort, people who don’t fit into the “norm” due to social awkwardness, not relating to people their age, cultural differences or insecurities.Â That has been a running theme in all of my films including Opus and my up-coming feature Pembroke Circle.
All of these films revolve around youth (ages 15-25). Why was it important to you to create such a film using the demographic of teenagers? How do the issues in your film address real life, and why did you choose to create a piece on that specific issue addressed?
MB- I love working with teenagers because there’s so often a certain raw and burning emotional aliveness and immediacy. Also no bad acting habits from years of TV or theater or whatever. In Crush, I went through agencies in Berlin, and couldn’t find the right faces or rawness. In fact, many of the agencies were too scared of the material to even show their kids. But of course when the kids read the script, they loved it. Because it was real to them. But this was also due to working in Germany I think, where there’s a certain fear of violence. Unless it’s depicted in the past. I like to capture spirit on the screen. And teenagers are so often just exploding with all this life and desires and impulses going haywire… But that’s also why I like actors like Sean Penn. The unpredictability.
CA- I feel like teenagers are at a very vulnerable point in their lives.Â I remember being faced with split-second decisions that could have potentially changed the course of my life(drugs, vandalism, etc.).Â There was a night that I decided not to get in a car with some kids from school who had been drinking.Â Later that night, they crashed their car and two of the teens died.Â I feel that it’s important to address issues that teens are currently dealing with in order to help them see that a person doesn’t have to succumb to peer pressure or pretend to be something they’re not.Â Broken Cycle addresses several issues, but primarily racism and bullying.Â Several years ago, I read an article about a Sikh 9th grader in Queens, New York who had been assaulted by his classmates because of his appearance.Â That same year, there was a Muslim teen from Staten Island who finally spoke up about being beaten and bullied by his peers for over a year.Â Stories like these forced me to think more in depth about the potential consequences of such actions on the development of adolescents. There’s also my personal connection to these issues.Â My heritage is half hispanic, half irish.Â Growing up in an ethnically divided community, I found it difficult to find acceptance from my peers.Â Luckily, I was able to look past these things and not let it reflect negatively on the way I viewed myself, however, I can see how easily youth can get caught up in the conflict it causes.
LD- When I was in high school, my friends and I were obsessed with the movies John Hughes made with Molly Ringwald (Sixteen Candles, The Breakfast Club + Pretty in Pink). We wanted Molly’s clothes. We wanted to get the guy in the end, like Molly always did. We wanted to be her. But we also identified with Molly. Whether she was playing an awkward sophomore or a prom queen, she radiated this intense, teenage self-consciousness. This fear of acting like a dork. I really identified with that.
MD- I think it was important for me to make the protagonist of my film 17, because I wanted to show a character who felt alienated because of her passion (in this case classical music/ piano) which ultimately leads to her falling for her teacher. I think many of my peers, in my generation at least, have no idea what they want out of life or are afraid to follow their dreams (or passions).Â The main character in my film is following her passion (though she has temptations along the way) she does what many people my age seem to not be doing.Â They’re not willing to take risks.Â This could just be Florida though…
Do you think the teenage experience often exemplified in film and television is generally important? Why do you think the medium of film is so successful in raising awareness to teenage issues and struggles?
MB- I’m not sure the medium of film is so successful in raising awareness to teenage issues… Most of what I see nowadays that deals with teens in cinema has nothing at all to do with raising awareness… I see a lot of purely entertaining stories that involve teens kicking ass, sucking blood, flying broomsticks, talking about cocks and cunts, and generally living balls to the wall and loving life. In fact one my upcoming features is a teenage surfing vigilante movie called MY NAME IS CALIFF HUTCHINS. And it’s a balls to the wall and ecstatic celebration of living your dreams to the full. And yes, killing, or at least maiming, anyone who gets in the way.
CA- It’s definitely important.Â Teenagers are influenced by so much.Â The culture they experience through movies and on television helps to define their self-image.Â This can be bad, violence is a good example.Â Not that I’m against violence in media, I think it has its place, but I don’t agree with violence being gratuitous or glamorized.Â For this same reason, film and television can also be good. It has the ability to reach so many people, as well as, show youth that there are others who share their experience.
Why do you think it’s important for youth (ages 15-25) to be involved in the film industry, whether in front of the camera or behind the scenes.
MB- I think the teenage / young adult perspective will naturally bring a whole other energy/vision to the table. Harmony Korine’s writing KIDS for example. Or Catherine Hardwicke’s writing “13″ with the teenage girl. There’s an element of life there that’s raw/burning, like what I was talking about above. And the other major thing for me is that so often adults either forget or try to deny just how hardcore their thinking/dreaming/desires were as teenagers. I was so excited when I saw Chloe Moretz in KICK ASS. Firstly coz it felt like at least now there’s a precedent for some of the shit my kids get up to in LORENZO THE KID, which has a much darker, but ecstatic tone… But also I was thinking how brilliant it is that she was just allowed — by parents/guardians/agents/whoever — to do the role in the first place. I feel like it should be the kid’s decision. Sure, there are limits. But I think kids reach the age of discernment infinitely earlier than parents are willing to admit.
CA- I think it’s important for several reasons.Â One, it helps them to get their stories heard. A major problem with issues like bullying is that teens often feel that no one is listening. Two, filmmaking a hugely a collaborative effort.Â Becoming part of a team, such as a film crew, helps to instill a sense of belonging and confidence through accomplishment in people.Â It also allows people to express themselves creatively, which can help break down barriers and inhibitions.
LD- Make movies if that sounds like fun to you. Or act in a play. Or play basketball. Play violin in the dork-ass ORCHESTRA, if that’s what you’re into. (Do schools even have orchestras anymore??) Tell your mom you’re going “out for coffee” and go to rock shows instead.
If you have anything at all, whether it be advice or something important about your film that you would like revealed in the article.
MB- Do what you love.
Agreed. Do what you love, people. Just like Ellie did in Ellie. Not sure of what she did? Then go see Choose the Right Thing? and be inspired to create and do the things it is that you love. Speaking of which, Iâ€™m going to eat now. Thank you very much to VIFF for accommodating Youth in 57 Minutes Media, and an even greater thank you to those directors who shared a word or two with usâ€¦we appreciate it, and look forward to seeing more of you in the future!
Photos from www.viff.org
There are many things in life that piss me off: driving, people reading and not replying to my BBMâ€™s, and working are among the extensive list. But the number one thing on my ongoing and ever-growing list is the way in which the Catholic community suppresses very real issues about sexuality and being in high school, which then leads to ignorant children and teenagers who will forever go on in life hating or being uncomfortable around certain types of people…like the homosexual community, for instance. I went to a catholic school all of my life, so Iâ€™d like to deem myself entitled to make claims like that. Anyhow, since I graduated and moved onto university where I was faced with â€œdifferentâ€ people, Iâ€™ve been struggling with the fact that being gay is strongly frowned upon in a Catholic/Christian (whatâ€™s the difference, anyway?!) setting, and is what causes the students and followers of the faith to not view these lifestyles with an open mind.
Iâ€™m not totally pessimistic. There are also many things in life that I love, like sushi, sleeping, and- my ultimate favorite- Musical Theatre. When my good friend, Imelda Gaborno, told me earlier this year that she had been cast in Fighting Chance Productionsâ€™ BARE: A Pop Opera, I was excited that I had an excuse to go see a show (not that you ever need an excuse to see theatre!). Then she told me what the show was about, and I was ecstatic as it combined my love for theatre with that issue I bitched about earlier; I was all in and had high expectations for how this show would be tackled.
BARE, under the direction of the multi-talented Ryan Mooney, takes us through the complicated, secret relationship between high school students Jason (Lucas Blaney) and Peter (Braeden Cox) at a Catholic boarding school. Keeping it under wraps from their friends, teachers, and parents, Jason and Peter sing their way through a complicated story-line as they are thrown many curve-balls and surprises along the way (Iâ€™d tell you, but then it wouldnâ€™t be a surprise..duh.). The love between them draws many parallels to the story and relationship of Romeo and Juliet; lovers who could not be together. Using Romeo and Juliet in its plot line, a tale about two star-crossed lovers who could not be together under certain circumstances, was great symbolism that helped the audience to digest the tough situation happening in front of their eyes easier.
Besides the relationship between Peter and Jason, the partying, drug use, alcohol consumption, and sexual tendencies amongst all characters were things that couldnâ€™t go unnoticed. It was, from my point of view, an accurate portrayal of what happens when you take a bunch of kids, lock them up away from the bigger world around them, and tellthem what to believe in and control everyone of their movements. Iâ€™ve been going to a catholic school since Kindergarten, and to say that that stuff doesnâ€™t happen is bullshit (sorry, mom and dad…).
The singing was incredible. Letâ€™s be honest…in every show thereâ€™s usually that one person who doesnâ€™t really deliver vocally. Again, I deem myself eligible to say this because I am usually that person (fuck my life). It felt as though there was barely any speaking lines, but I am NOT complaining. The songs told the story, and the youth vocals made that story all the more enjoyable. I do need to put the spotlight on the character Nadia (played by Emma Leigh Hillier) who sang a song called “Plain Jane Fat Ass” that immediately became my new favorite musical theatre song.
A performance so real and raw, BARE made me leave the theatre feeling more passionate about the issues of oppression which adolescents deal with in a Catholic community, and also super inspired by the mesmerizing cast of 20 who stayed completely committed to the story and its truth. Did I mention they were all considered youth? No?! Well now you know that we are capable of being the key players in such dramaâ€™s like BARE, and can portray any issue on stage…no matter how hard it is to bare. Thank you to Fighting Chance Productions for accommodating Youth in 57 Minutes, and I look forward to seeing more of your productions!
Photo from http://fightingchanceproductions.ca/
Public school teachers across the province have been negotiating with their employers on a contract extension since March. The negotiations themselves seem to have reached a stalemate, thus enlarging the rift between the two parties, and the imminent outcome is now job action. In short, this tentative decision calls for actions less severe than a strike, but as much as this is an employee vs. employer battle, high school students will nonetheless feel the impact.
In aÂ memoÂ that leaked from the President of the North Vancouver’s Teacher’s Association, plans of what job action would look like were revealed. The first article states that “[m]embers will not undertake any mandated supervision of students outside regularly scheduled classes.” In other words, students will most likely not have the chance to receive any out-of-class help from teachers. Although extracurricular activities are not officially on the cutting block just yet, if the situation escalates, clubs and sports may not fully run in the coming year. One high school student says, “It’s going to be disappointing if there are no more extracurriculars at school, but I also think that this is also an opportunity for students to step up and take on more leadership roles.”
Another article states: “Members will not provide administrative officers with any routine printed, written or electronic communications.” For the academically struggling, this may be a good thing; report cards won’t be issued. For the academically stellar, this will be stressful. Â However, this article does maintain that Grade 12 students will for the most part be unaffected. Marks required for graduation are still to be written. How much else they’ll get out of teachers, such as recommendation letters for scholarships and university applications, are questionable though.
Even with these plans laid out, no one will know the real courses of action and consequences until September rolls around. Standing from a student’s perspective however, I’m just hoping things will play out smoothly behind the scenes; I’m not depending on a blessing in disguise.
Photo credit:Â www.soldonroswell.com