I remember the first time I picked-up a video camera and created a story. It was an empowering experience that opened up a new world to me and allowed me to creatively express myself and share my ideas and passions with others. With the Adobe Youth Voice’s (AYV) Aspire Awards competition, Adobe is creating the opportunity for youth to come together and share original digital media projects that bravely and creatively address issues most important to them in their communities and beyond.
My personal passion for filmmaking was sparked in high school when I tried out for my senior year’s dance theatre workshop and did not make it. I was devastated, but when I found out that I could still participate by creating a documentary film about the process of choreography a seed was planted inside me. As that idea germinated, I became more and more excited to be able to combine my passion for dance with the art of storytelling and filmmaking.
Today, I am the Director of the Film Forward Initiative for the Sundance Institute and a filmmaker. I am also the founder of Swirl Productions, an independent production company focusing on documentary films for the theatrical and broadcast markets. I have been very fortunate to work as both a filmmaker and film professional supporting directors and producers in their art and craft. Having the opportunity to be the artist, mentor and executive has afforded me the insight that the key to success is not losing sight of your story. We each have many stories to tell and finding your authentic voice and staying true to your vision is what makes your story rise above the rest.
I am excited to be a judge for the Aspire Awards and be involved in a program that has the potential to help inspire and facilitate the development of the next generation of storytellers. As adults, we have to remind each other how important it is to listen and learn from youth. It is incredibly rewarding to work with youth as they discover their voice and that sense of empowerment from creating and sharing their unique digital work. These are valuable and practical skills that will translate into their next pursuit and/or career path.
Digital art making not only allows for participant’s stories to be expressed but provides a valuable entrée into the minds and concerns of young people today. What are they consumed by? What do they feel strongly about? And who is captivating their interest? It’s exciting to see so many youth concerned about community, social and global issues from women’s health and safety issues in India to managing physical disabilities in Morocco to standing up to bullies in Canada. Film is a powerful medium to connect people and effect change, and it is quite clear, through this year’s finalists, that there are more than a few “changemakers” out there.
It is an honor to be involved in the Aspire Awards as a judge and I look forward to the tremendous task ahead of helping to select a winner in each of the content categories.
I encourage you to participate as well and help select the Audience Award winners. Not only will you be part of this engaging process, but you will learn more about the issues that truly matter to today’s youth. Please visit the Aspire Awards Website to watch the extraordinary talent of our AYV youth and vote for your favorite entries!