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"If you're going to make a series that represents a certain geographical area and its community, then it is vital to incorporate the people into the process." That's what Juan Devis, the creator of Departures (now Executive Producer) once told me when I joined the series. This struck me as an incredibly intuitive approach to media production, yet it's one not very commonly practiced.
This ground-up model perfectly builds upon Paolo Freire's Pedagogy of the Oppressed and other Popular Education models where a group of people are taught how to use tools that will allow them to give voice to their experiences, this rather than being represented by an outside agent with limited knowledge of what makes that community special. And that is exactly what the Departures Educational Program aims to do.
Departures is a media conversation. The Departures Production Team researches a given area and identifies some of the people and places that make up the community, while the Departures Education Team - that's me - goes into the local school or community center and teaches teenagers the skills to go out and essentially do the same thing. These youth train to become student producers and learn to describe their relationship to their community in their own, multimedia voice. Through this process, we aim to empower teenagers by introducing them to the ideas and application of new media tools, thereby helping create a path for them to become active voices in their community.
We applied this model in our work with the students at Venice High School's New Media Academy, who co-produced our recently concluded Departures Venice Installment. The students' work illustrates a side of Venice that would have other otherwise remained unknown, a side that both represents the youth of today while also echoing the changing voices of Venice youth over the last half century.
Ever since the 1950s, Venice has represented a sub-cultural haven for young people, an outlet away from the mainstream. We've understood Venice in iconic terms of beatniks, hippies, surfers, skaters, and anyone in between. But what does Venice mean today for its youth? What scenes and places have grown out of the past and what new scenes and places have emerged in the present?
We invite you to follow us as we recap the process of the Departures Education track through our blog posts each week, as will be highlighting the exciting work that our students did both inside the walls of Venice High School and beyond.