Reel Works Teens Make First Feature Film!

Screen Shot 2014-05-16 at 5.19.33 PMWhy don’t teens we see in movies and on TV reflect the complexity, talent, struggles, humor and ambition of real young people?  Maybe it’s because the wrong people are telling their stories.

Of course, at Reel Works, teens tell their stories every day.  Last July as we graduated our Spring 2013 Lab at Time Warner, Stephanie and I were once again struck by the talent and passion of our filmmakers.  The stories were complex and powerful – documenting real dreams and real struggles – like Ferrod Lille’s film about raising his two little brothers alone or Roshanna Paul’s depiction of the intense love and family dynamics she shares with her sister and mother.  And so many more.

One film that stood out for me was Bilal Ndongo’s – 72 Hours:  A Love Story?  which follows the filmmaker and his friend Cesar on a journey through Brownsville in search of… a girl.  I thought: when was the last time we saw a depiction of young black men searching the ‘hood for love?  Bilal and Cesar are hilarious and streetwise  – but they are not gangbangers. In fact that are smart and ambitious young men whose life journeys are likely going to take them far away from Brooklyn and the poverty and distress that currently surrounds them.   Also, it was a great story.

So, I thought. Let’s make a movie!

This winter we hired an amazing theater director – Jenna Weinberg – who taught our teens to improvise and develop their documentaries info fictional characters and stories.   Not surprisingly, we found we had some great young actors who also had a wonderful sense of story – because they lived it.   Over ten weeks, the team created a story of interwoven characters and plotlines – sort of an American Graffiti.  In Brownsville. In 2014.

In April we hired filmmaker Raafi Rivero who is now collaborating with our teens to craft a screenplay.  Production is slated for August.

But first, we need to raise money.  Starting next week, we will launch a Kickstarter campaign to raise $20,000 to pay for production – which will include professional actors and crew working side by side with Reel Works teens.  Reel Works Productions will oversee the project that we hope to premier in January 2015.

What excites me about 72 Hours is that will something we’ve never done before – create an original feature film – and it will be a community effort of Reel Works teens, alumni and professional mentors.  And all our friends and donors.  In fact, we need everyone who believes in our mission and cares about our teens to lend their support to make this happen.

So, stay tuned.  Our Kickstarter begins on Friday 5/23 and pledges start at $1.  Join us.  Let’s make a movie – and train tomorrow’s storytellers – this summer.

Best,

John Williams


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