Montréal Video Project Gets Results Keeping Kids in School
[Montréal, Québec, Canada 11°C] I can’t believe I’ve been offline for such a long time. Whatever, I’m back with a video reportage I edited and helped produce with a group of students from Louis-Joseph-Papineau High School in the St-Michel neighbourhood of Montréal. I was hired as a filmmaker/journalist to mentor this group of students make a documentary film / reportage. The subject they chose was themselves: Le Foyer 636, a special class of students that follow a particular curriculum to help them move forward with their learning and encourage them to stay in school and not drop out. They wanted to show a positive angle of themselves, contrary of what others in the school believe who often treat as “dimwits” or worse.
As their teachers reveal during interviews in the French-language film (embedded below), the students have a lack of academic motivation, problems with drug and alcohol consumption, street gang issues, atention deficit, among other distractions. During the two-month project, Simon (co-mentor) and I, met with the students nearly a dozen times to teach them how to develop their story, use the video/audio equipment, conduct an interview, scout locations, and most importantly, to trust in their abilities to complete the tasks we set before them. The usually met and often surpassed our expectations.
The biggest challenge was to keep everyone occupied and focused on a particular task, so we brought extra equipment and gave everyone a role, including: director, cameraman, soundwoman, producer, location scouts, ‘making-of’ camerawoman, ambient sound recorder, assistant producer, photographer, interviewer, etc. We gave each student a form to note the progress of their particular task, which kept their attention on their job and helped them notice their progress.
The 17 kids range in age from 13 to 15 years of age and all are struggling to finish their grade 6. Most are recent immigrants from Latin American countries and their knowledge of French is still emerging. It took the students a few meetings to warm up to us and to actually trust in Simon and I but, more importantly, in their ability to actually accomplish what their project required.
On the first school visit, we introduced them to the equipment, distributed the roles and defined their tasks. They had a bit of time to investigate the equipment. After looking at the video footage and photographs that evening, I noticed that most of the photos were blurred and the video images jumped from one scene to another without aim or purpose as the students attention deficit was captured in the images they took. Their lenses flew from one incident to another reflecting the low level pandemonium that is omnipresent in the class. With each consecutive visit, their ability to focus on their specific tasks increased and the quality of their output followed suit. So did their confidence and their trust of Simon and I.
In all, there were seven school groups involved and their final five-minute video reportages can now be viewed online at CitizenSHIFT and Parole citoyenne, where viewers are encouraged to rate the videos from one to five stars. The group whose video gets the highest rating after the June 14, 5:00 p.m. deadline will win a day’s visit to CBC studios in Montréal. The Foyer 636 video that I worked on is embedded below. I encourage you to rate the video and view the others as well. If the Clip Your 514 project is repeated again next year, I will certainly try to get involved and ask for the new Foyer 636 class to mentor. I thik I got as much from the process as the kids themselves. Bravo to them!