Reel Works Goes International!

“Going to Paris was a dream come true…The experience of shooting a film with French students was one of the most challenging yet rewarding things I’ve ever done. We taught each other so much more than expected.” — Justin Consquejo, Reel Works Student Filmmaker.

Over the past fifteen years, Reel Works teens have brought their own rich and diverse cultural experiences to millions through their powerful, personal storytelling.  It has been a personal goal of ours to introduce our young Brooklynites to the wider world.  Last year, our teens partnered with teens in Stockholm, Sweden to meet and create original media together online.   This summer, Reel Works partnered with a Paris-based youth media nonprofit, Mille Visages (1,000 Faces) bringing together French and American students to conceive, plan, produce and complete two original short films – one produced in NYC, and the other in Paris.  Reel Works International was born.

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Sponsored by Vivendi Create Joy – along with over 150 Kickstarter backers – the project began last June when each organization selected teams of five teen filmmakers to lead the project.   Meeting via Skype, Facebook and Tumblr, team members from each country met and explored common experiences.

“While our groups come from two completely different countries, and from completely different backgrounds within those countries, it was really interesting to discover that the French students were not so different from us after all.” — Orges Bakalli, Reel Works Student Filmmaker

Before meeting face to face, the teams developed two scripts. The first, lead by Mille Visage, is a comedy about a French Arab youth who dreams of being African American – imagining Brooklyn as a mecca of black culture where prejudice and discrimination do not exist.   Reel Works teens, drawing on their documentary experience, created a film that explores the Muslim experience in the US and France.

Our students connected instantly with their Parisian counterparts, but they also faced real-world, cross-cultural challenges in working together.

The experience required considerable patience, flexibility and letting go of individual pursuits for a common goal. They had to learn to listen carefully and consider new perspectives, while also asserting their own opinions when necessary.“ — Laurel Gwizdak, Reel Works Education Director.

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In mid-August, the Mille Visage team came to Brooklyn for a week of filmmaking and discovery in NYC.  Staying in the homes of four host families (Thank you!), our guests explored the city of Coney Island to DUMBO to Harlem.  Their visit was chronicled by Sandy Kenyon of WABC Eyewitness News. Thanks to our friends at NBCUniversal, the students got a free tour of 30 Rock, with visits to the sets of SNL, The Tonight Show and NBC News.

Then it was off to Paris for a week to complete production and introduce Reel Works teens to the cinema capital of Europe.  While the traveling and filmmaking and sight seeing filled their days, the most rewarding part was experiencing the two teams become one.                                                                                                 

“While the two teams were very different from each other we did find common ground. Both sides of this project were committed and motivated. We taught each other film related skills, such as how to direct and keep a set flowing smoothly, and life skills such as being true to who you are and what you believe in.”  — Mie Abouelkheir, Reel Works Student Filmmaker

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