Especially with the support of seasoned educators, youth media producers grow and expand their acumen. Youth media isn’t about the absence of adult input, but rather strong behind-the-scenes presence of a facilitator, who empowers youth to make their own artistic choices.
This philosophy drives the work of people like Peter Pheap, an Adobe Youth Voices trainer, educator, and mentor, who facilitates media making at Boys and Girls Clubs in northern California. Peter took a break from his regular gig to lead a one-day workshop at the Adobe Youth Voices Summit 2009. His task was to guide an international group of youth in making a music video. Given the time constraints, good facilitation would be key.
He came prepared – “I brought a few beats with me that some of the youths from my clubhouse made, to see which ones might work best.”
And, as much as possible, he built in opportunities for the youth to make different choices and take ownership of the piece. “I left it up to the teens to come up with their style – whether that is singing, rapping, or spoken words – because I knew that if they couldn’t sing or rap they could at least talk into a mic and read their poem over some music.”
By setting the project up this way, he notes, “the youths felt really comfortable knowing that if they weren’t musically inclined they could still participate.”
“I formed three groups and made sure they took turns videotaping while switching roles so they each had a chance to be the director, cameraman, audio, and talent,” Peter goes on to explain.
To supply a common frame of reference and orient them to the project, Peter showed the students a couple music videos in the styles that his groups have done in the past. He explained the steps of the production process and talked about basic song structure. To “help me facilitate and coach some of the other teens on song structure and writing lyrics,” Peter brought along a young person from his program who he’s worked with many times.
Providing adequate support and advising on the scope of a project are important functions of a facilitator. Given only one day to complete the piece, Peter had to structure the work so that the tasks were achievable, while still very much a youth production. He recalls, “I decided to go with a slower instrumental; it would be easier for the youths who never wrote a song before to catch on and sing or rap to the beat. If I had more time, we probably would have been able to compose and produce the beat during the sessions.”
Also as part of the pre-planning, Peter came up with the topic of “identity” for the music video, which he figured would be accessible but open-ended – and provide the structure they needed to move quickly through the production steps. Each person contributed lyrics for 4 measures, or 8 if they liked.
Individuals in the group had the opportunity to express themselves not only through their lyrics, but also in how they appeared on screen. “I made sure they taped themselves multiple times,” explains Peter, “using the different types of shots that I was asking for, such as close-up, medium shots, long shots, and b-roll.” As facilitator, he endeavored to give them a range of opportunities to shape the final media work. He adds, “once they had their own footage, they were able to edit their part of the music video, and I just pieced them all together.”
When young people have the responsibility to edit their parts, to make choices about their work, it enhances their sense of ownership – and investment in the project. Whether it’s a collaborative music video created in one day (i.e., “Identity”), or a media work months in the making (i.e., “I Am the Difference”), facilitation makes a difference.