WHO DO YOU THINK YOU ARE workshop and exposition
At the start of 2009 I was approached by Karlijn Koenen (project designer) to be one of three artists (alongside Anouk Bax and Tijs Rooijakkers) give a workshop to a group of 12 year old children. We had seven weeks (one day a week) to make a short film together. The name of the project was ID CIRKELS (ID CIRCLES) and was organised together with The Krabbedans (platform for professional artists, located in Eindhoven, The Netherlands) and Advicepoint Discrimination (Adviespunt discriminatie) and The Safetyhouse (het Veiligheidshuis). The main theme was to introduce the children to the creative arts and have them reflect on issues such as self-identity and prejudices.
Granted, these were in my opinion heavy subject matters to discuss with children of such a young age, but during the course of the seven weeks we managed to make a 15 minute short film. The first few classes were spent discussing the themes and what they thought it represented in their case, how they felt about themselves and how they thought other people viewed them. The nationalities of the children included Dutch, Turkish, Moroccan and Kurdish, but it was interesting to see that the only people that hardly made an issue out of that were other people. They’d all been really intent on showing how they thought “that didn’t matter that much between friends”.
I had made a rough plan of what we were going to shoot (a classroom, a principal and six kids who were on detention) and off we went. The title of the film was WHO DO YOU THINK YOU ARE (WIE DENK JE WEL DAT JIJ BENT). As long as we were actually ‘doing’ instead of ‘talking about it’ they were into it. Hesitation about having the camera ‘in your face’ was a given, but I made them feel like it wasn’t an issue, like their wasn’t anything that could go wrong and if it did, it was only video, we could always shoot another take. Even though they all signed up voluntarily, shooting for three hours proved to be taxing for them and we had to break up the momentum to let them unwind. The main thing was also to let them enjoy the process.
During the whole process I was assisted by Freddy van de Laar and John van Eewijk. They are the social workers who already had much contact with the children with other projects. I have worked with many people who are new to filmmaking and have usually no problem quickly explaining to them how the process works, but twelve year olds can be mighty distracted and extremely busy. Without them, I don’t think I would’ve been able to manage six of them on my own.
For first time actors and for such a young age, I found the children to be very naturalistic and they were able to forget about the camera real fast. We weren’t able to write out dialogue, as I think, that for amateur actors it can be a crutch. So what we did is we talked about the intent of the scene or the shot and I let them say their dialogue in their own words.
The editing and sound mixing process was done without them, as we were very short on overall time and I think it would have been a little bit of an overkill to impress that much information on them in such a small time frame. I was very fortunate to have found a new actor I could put in my file of ‘potential new talent’ because of the project. And as always, shooting on no budget and with a restricted time frame and a deadline forced me to think on my toes for the whole duration of the shoot.
At the end of the journey, The Krabbedans held an exposition to show the film we made and the works done by Anouk and Thijs’ classes. The exposition lasted three weeks and the opening night was visited by many of the children’s parents and friends. And interesting for the children, it was good to see many other interested people showing up to see what we had made. The screening of the film got a big turnout and many of the children had to hide themselves because they were slightly embarrassed to see themselves act in a film. But the positive crowd reaction and talks afterwards hopefully gave them an idea of what was possible if they’d were interested in pursuing something in the creative arts. It was pretty heartening to see them being put in the spotlight.
Unfortunately the film isn’t online as of yet.
More info on The Krabbedans site.
(top two pictures were taken by Boudewijn Bollman of Twisted Streets)
For a behind the scenes video on the project, go to the ID CIRCLES post.