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Life on 'My Block' 

AWOL kids find a creative outlet through film

While much of Savannah was getting all worked up because a Spongebob movie crew was coming to town, a group of aspiring local filmmakers prepared to screen the proud results of months of hard work.

All Walks of Life, Inc., the mentorship program that introduces at-risk youth to disparate creative outlets, began a still photography and filmmaking program in the spring. Between 20 and 30 students, ages 12-19, participated in the "My Block" classes, and they'll show the video results to Savannah Sunday, July 21 at the Sentient Bean.

"With the films, there were two production teams, and each team had an assignment to make a fictional piece and a non-fictional piece," explains artist facilitator Linda Reno, who oversaw the "My Block" program. "The non-fiction film is a PSA that had to come in at under two minutes. And as a class, we made a collaborative piece all together."

It was the first AWOL project for Reno, who holds a Masters in photojournalism from the University of Texas. The first half of "My Block" consisted of still photography — the results will be on view at the Bean for the month of September — and the second was all about filmmaking.

"I let them tell me what role they wanted to play on the production team, and give me an alternate position," Reno explains. "And then I guided them. For the most part, what they wanted to do was what their skills were best suited for."

Making a film, of course, requires more than someone in front of the camera, and another person behind it.

At the July 21 event, the students will stand up and describe their roles on the production team.

Here's what you'll see on the screen:

Telephone (8 minutes). "Rolanda, a student at Ratchetville High, has never had a problem with her hair before. This all changes when she arrives to school with a hair-do that isn't pleasing to the other students. See what they think of her new appearance and watch as she experiences teasing, bullying, and learns of how rumors can morph stories into the untrue. Why is hair so important in our community? Why do we attack our own kind and tease over appearance?"

Love (2 minutes). "A short public service announcement that explores the ways in which teen relationships can be damaging, and why teens should look for healthy relationships instead."

Singled Out (10 minutes). "A fictional interpretation of the effects of bullying starts this film off. As a past outcast of the AWOL community, Theresa invites her now-grown peers to her home, and everyone disappears mysteriously as her thirst for revenge gets the better of her. Following the fictional interpretation is a documentary-style series of interviews with real-life bullies, the bullied and bystanders to explore this important issue in our world."

According to Reno, the films are thought-provoking, informative and (in some instances) funny.

"There were a lot of lessons learned," she says. "A lot of intense conversations. Because of the nature of our medium, the things I was able to show them in the beginning sparked a lot of interesting conversations. About stereotypes, for example. That ended up becoming a recurring theme for us — the power of stereotypes and the power of words that you use.

"In terms of the skills that they learned, I would say that it's not only the technical skills but the idea of storytelling. What is the craft of storytelling? How do you tell your own story? And utilizing different mediums to do that."

The free program begins at 7 p.m.

CS

My Block: AWOL Youth Film Festival

Where: The Sentient Bean, 13 E. Park Ave.

When: At 7 p.m. Sunday, July 21

Admission: Free

Online: awolinc.org

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Bill DeYoung

Bill DeYoung

Bio:
Bill DeYoung was Connect's Arts & Entertainment Editor from May 2009 to August 2014.

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