If you’re interested in how American Indian (Native American) teenagers get hooked on meth instead of alcohol and how they recover or need to know about this topic, attend the excellent film co-written by Auburn resident, 19-year old Janessa Starkey, who co-directed and co-wrote the screeplay, “Behind the Door of a Secret Girl.” The film will be shown at 7 p.m., Monday at the Landmark Embarcadero Center Cinema, Promenade Level, San Franscisco. Admission is $9 general and $8 for seniors and students. For more information, check out the website of the American Indian Film Festival.
Starkey co-directed the film with the United Auburn tribe’s media arts teacher, Jack Kohler, a Stanford-educated Hoopa Indian who lives on the Hoopa Valley Reservation, Humboldt County. The tribal government operates Thunder Valley casino, near the Sacramento area.
Casino revenues fund a tribal school where among other courses and cultural traditions, including native languages, instruction in film making and animation also are taught. Starkey began writing the film script about American Indian life when she was only 13 years old. Check out the November 7, 2010 Sacramento Bee article by Stephen Magagnini, “Meth targeted in film by teen.”
The film tells the story of a teenage girl and her meth-addicted mom who lives in a trailer on a Native American reservation with an abusive meth dealer working for a Mexican cartel. In Sacramento, numerous schools are teaching film making, script writing, media, and culture where teenagers can draw on their own lives to dramatize threats to a variety of Native American tribes in the Sacramento area and nearby lands.
When you study culture and media in Sacramento, you have to realize that film is one excellent way to show the community what is happening to tribal communities in the area and how problems can be solved. The film has a goal and a means. Media and culture should be encouraged among a variety of cultures living in or near the Sacramento area.
Whether students are making a film of what happened to any given minority group during the Gold Rush or what is happening in current times, teaching film making and animation or screenplay writing in schools provide teenagers with a means to expressing what’s happening in the lives of their communities and families. More film making opportunities need to be funded. Starkey was raised in Roseville and Lincoln by her single mom. The film deals with issues that Native Americans have encountered for centuries.
The process of writing screenplays helps a variety of teenagers from Native American or any other ethnic group to find their life experiences and solve problems they and their community or family deals with on a daily basis. Film making and/or screenplay writing is one of the subjects taught in some tribal schools. Self-expression opens a whole new road to teenagers, regardless of their community affiliations.
Casino revenues have helped to create a first-rate tribal school where students can learn skills such as film-making along with their other studies. Self-expression through screenplay writing also helps teens to solve their problems or deal with some of life’s issues.
How Diverse Sacramento Homeless Teens Make Documentary Videos/Films
Among Sacramento’s homeless children are a troupe of film producers and actors that make documentary films on what it’s like to be a homeless kid in Sacramento. Their first film, “Sweet Lemonade,” is a 10-minute film on what to do when you’re a local homeless kid living with a homeless family. The message is their life stories. Through Skylab Youth Development Studio, a program of Serna Village, they are trained and ready to make documentary films and are working on their second film.
For those that want to work with helping children to create documentary films or plays, a helpful paperback book on involving youth in making films or writing plays or monologues from real life stories is Ethno-playography.
The Skylab Youth Development studio is in Serna Village, which provides long-term supportive housing in Sacramento’s McClellan Park for recently homeless families, according to the April 11, 2010 Sacramento Bee article by Niesha Lofing, “Homeless kids’ film gains new fans.”
For those interested in Serna Village, it’s part of Cottage Housing, Inc., which is a nonprofit organization that also runs Quinn Cottages in midtown Sacramento. Quinn Cottages is a transitional housing community.
At least there are projects for the homeless children of homeless families that are preparing them while they are still children to help make and act in the films that document life as homeless kids. Skylab has other programs in addition to film making. They also offer bike clubs and sports.
What’s different about making films is that kids get used to what real-job skills are like when applied to creativity and telling either your own life story or a snapshot and intimate glimpse of what life is like in Sacramento for homeless kids. It’s all about accomplishment and achievements.
And the children at the same time are channeled into constructive projects rather than dwelling on being homeless. The film offers solutions such as how to make sweet lemonade out of the lemons life has handed your homeless family when you’re an innocent child born into a situation that puts you into homelessness in the present.
The film was made for Access Sacramento when they ran a contest in 2008 called, “A Place Called Sacramento.” The homeless kids’ film won the award for best “ensemble acting” in Access Sacramento’s 2008 film festival. But the film gets shown time and time again. The Crocker Art Museum’s Teen Film Festival showed “Sweet Lemonade,” the young people’s film on April 10, 2010.
Alison Wells, Skylab’s program coordinator wrote the film with the support of the children. It’s time to teach the children to write, produce, and promote their own films. This will give them job skills they’ll use later in life at all levels of leadership. Wells also coordinated film mentors and professionals to pair up with the children interested in making the film.
Adult mentors are great for homeless kids learning film production or acting. But there should be a lot of creativity encouraged in the areas of writing, editing, and promotion of the film as well as in acting and leadership skills. Kids at least learned what life behind a video camera is like.
Instead of having an adult write the film, the children should be learning to do this. It may require help in the beginning, but the creativity of children needs to be brought out and encouraged.
It takes a lot of talent to act in a documentary film, but job skills and leadership can be learned in childhood as part of play behavior and be educational at the same time. By also learning to write a script for a 10-minute film, the kids can learn to write real dialogue or what questions to ask in interviews for a documentary.
The latest film from the homeless children of Serna Village is a documentary about Serna Village. It’s in the process of being made. When it’s done, the homeless children will have had the advantage of channeling their creativity into a voice of resilience and self confidence that will go with them through life.
Picture yourself as a 12 year old living with your homeless family. Think of how much it means to get control of making a film and how you could transfer those skills into getting control of your life. Serna, at least has opportunities for homeless kids to channel their skills.
Whether it’s acting in a short film about the homeless life, a documentary about real life as a homeless kid in Sacramento, or putting the film together, what a homeless kid learns is to do the best you can with what you have. At least the children are learning what it takes to produce and edit documentary films.
When you put a child of any ethnic background behind a video camera, what happens first is that self-esteem goes up. The kid or teenager feels important and good about himself. With that confidence can come leadership and job skills. With experience the child grows more confident of mastering whatever the child is good at in life.
It can bring out public speaking skills in the children doing the acting. Or it can lead to volunteer work producing all different types of films while one is homeless. Whether the child grows up to host film festivals, act, do public speaking, edit films, write, promote documentaries or just takes control of life in a homeless family or in transitional housing, it’s a way to channel abilities so homeless children can plan their future and realize their abilities. The whole idea for kids is to go from the streets to sustainability.
The Teen Action Team at the Crocker Art Museum
The Teen Action Team (TAT) provides ways for young people ages 13-17 to voice their thoughts, explore ideas and become involved with the Crocker Art Museum. According to its website, through TAT, events and programs are conceived, designed and organized by teens in collaboration with the Crocker’s Education staff. To join, download the application or send an email to Emma Moore with Teen Action Team as the subject. Sign up now. You are the new Crocker.