After hearing Ava DuVernay speak about diversity in media at the Essence Festival and seeing a diverse number of independent filmmakers in and out of our office, I am proud to be a summer intern for an organization that is about making filmmaking and community media accessible for all members of society. At its core, NOVAC is about giving the citizens of New Orleans access to channels of communication so they can tell their personal narratives. NOVAC provides the tools necessary for digital storytelling to its local community by forming workforce training programs, digital storytelling camps, filmmaker workshops, and free conferences.
Since late June, my responsibilities includes designing logos for non-profit organizations, creating slideshows and short videos for NOVAC and taking notes in meetings with NOVAC affiliates. But lately everyone at NOVAC has been trying to spread awareness about the detrimental effects of the HB 289 Bill that just passed through the Louisiana state legislature. The HB 289 Bill caps tax incentives at 180 million dollars for film production companies. This bill would increase unemployment and displace film professionals out of their profession because film studios would rather produce films in areas that do not cap tax incentives, like Atlanta. The HBO/Cinemax Quarry Internship program was an amazing opportunity that provide 15 individuals with an internship based on their interests, but now their industry worthy skills may be under utilized because of the the HB 289 Bill. NOVAC’s workforce training workshops are economic opportunities for local residents. After New Orleanians complete our training programs, they gain access to jobs in the film industry through our job referral program and they can use their newly acquired skills to gain social mobility but the HB 289 Bill may hinder that.
Despite worrying about the effects of the HB 289 Bill, NOVAC has been preoccupied with New Orleans youth! Earlier this month, I checked in with parents to confirmed their children’s spot in NOVAC’s Youth Digital Storytelling Summer Camp. These young aspiring filmmakers spent one week creating a PSA about the harmful effects of smoking. From creating their own props to adding the credits, our campers had a say in the creative process and in deciding what issue they wanted to tackle with their video. Through digital storytelling, these students were able to disseminate a powerful message about the effects of smoking, and here at NOVAC we think it is imperative that community members, young and old, learn how to use mediums of communication to inform citizens about social justice issues. After all, in 1972, when NOVAC was founded, one of their aims was to use videos to spread awareness about poverty in New Orleans. Now, NOVAC provides outlets for New Orleans youth to tackle issues of domestic violence, drug abuse, homelessness, abuse, and other issues they are passionate about.
I’ve worked closely with Clark Prep High School rising senior Bernisha Hooker since she joined NOVAC as a summer intern. The city of New Orleans offers an internship program for teenagers in New Orleans, however most of these internships do not correlate with the students’ future career aspirations. Through a special program called Youth Force, Bernisha was placed at an internship site that matches her career interests: photography and filmmaking. Bernisha and I work side by side and I aid her with her duties. Since she is a New Orleanian, I thought it would be interesting to hear about her experience with Hurricane Katrina, especially since this year is the 10th anniversary. I interviewed and recorded her story for NOVAC Project 10. Project 10 is a digital storytelling initiative from NOVAC and the Greater New Orleans Foundation. Representatives from local community organizations and New Orleans citizens tell us their stories about one of the most devastating events in America. The project has taught me about documentary and social justice filmmaking as well as the non-exciting part of filmmaking: planning and working with people’s schedules. There are ALWAYS last minute changes and you have to adapt accordingly. In college, you are aware of deadlines and you usually have enough time to prepare for assignments and projects. I’m realizing in the independent filmmaking world, you just always have to be ready for the next opportunity, especially when working on documentaries based on people volunteering their time to help you with your work.
My internship is providing me with the technical skills necessary for documentary filmmaking and community media. Since I have been in New Orleans, I’ve met state senators, representatives from the Urban League New Orleans Chapter, independent filmmakers and creative problem-solvers. Meeting these people emphasized the importance of teamwork and collaborative practices. As a college student, I am use to working solo, aside from the dreaded group project, and I like working by myself because I make all the decisions and I do not have to work with people’s schedules. However, this summer I was brought into projects, so I could add my own vision and my mentors have pushed me to think critically about the work I am doing, whether it is editing my logo designs or finding an issue to tackle for my final project. Working with other talented individuals makes my work better and I am excited to engage with more community members for my final video project on Gentrification in the Upper Ninth Ward New Orleans!
Karen Seymour ’17
Social Justice WOW Fellow