Global exploration in film


What: Filmbuilding Virtual Screening of Resemblances

When: 9:00 pm Sun., May. 2

Where: Online

Cost: Free; please register for the livestream. The screening will also be recorded and available on the websites listed below.

Info: or

Wednesday, April 28, 2021

Lauren McClanahan apologizes in advance to those tuning in to watch a Sunday night virtual screening of Resemblances—the end result of a cross-cultural workshop she’s co-creating using discovery-based filmmaking for high school students in Bellingham and sister cities Tateyama, Japan; Vassa, Finland; and Port Stephens, Australia. Scheduling a global workshop with three teams comprised of students from four different countries has been a challenge in terms of time zones, McClanahan says, acknowledging that a 9pm livestream might not be the best time for everyone to tune in. Nevertheless, she hopes they do.

Cascadia Weekly: You’ve pulled off plenty of ambitious film projects with students before this. Is there one that sticks with you?

Lauren McClanahan: As the director of the Bellingham Youth Media Project, I’ve worked on many film projects with K-12 students in and around Bellingham. The biggest so far was working with Kulshan Middle School in 2019. With the help of teachers Jodie Schoolcraft and Tim Cosgrove, the entire 7th grade worked to host an end-of-the-year film festival. Students worked in teams to not only create short, documentary-style films, but also planned, marketed and executed the film festival, complete with concessions, lobby decoration, T-shirts—the works! We ended up having to add shows at the last minute as we had more than 400 community members attend our festival at the Pickford Film Center.

CW: The theme for the workshop is “Resemblances,” pertaining to how the students’ respective cities are like and unlike each other. What other prompts did the teams get?

LM: The beauty of the Resemblances workshop is that the students weren’t given many parameters, only the theme. Unlike traditional “filmmaking,” with predetermined scripts and storyboards, what my co-creator Tom Flint and I are engaging in is better thought of as “filmbuilding.” In fact, Tom’s organization, located in Boston, is called just that. By allowing students to make all of their creative choices as they go along, films are allowed to emerge organically. The final product may not be as “polished” as a more traditionally constructed film, but is oftentimes more personally meaningful to the filmmakers themselves.

CW: How do team members from different countries deal with language barriers?

LM: The students in both Finland and Japan are quite proficient in English, as they study English in school from an early age. For concepts that can’t be communicated verbally, students tend to figure out how to get their message across—that’s part of the creativity of the workshop.

CW: With everybody participating remotely, how is the formatting and editing process going to work?

LM: Students will be using a cloud-based video editing platform called WeVideo. With WeVideo, since all of the editing takes place online, multiple students can edit a video regardless of their location. I’ve used WeVideo for other projects, including at Kulshan Middle School, and it really is the best way to go when students can’t be huddled around the same computer at the same time.

CW: During a time when countries—and communities—are isolated from each other, do you think projects like this help remind people of their shared humanity?

LM: This is my hope, and the intention behind the project. The tagline for the Bellingham Sister Cities Association is “citizen to citizen diplomacy,” meaning that true understanding of another culture is built from the bottom up, by developing friendships with individuals in another culture rather than mandates coming from the top down. Especially during these times of isolation, building relationships is key.

CW: What do you want students to get out of participating in this workshop? What about people watching the screening?

LM: What I hope the students get from the workshop are, first and foremost, enduring friendships with fellow students from other countries. How wonderful would it be if the friendships made in workshops like this carried over into adulthood, and participants traveled to one another’s home countries and expanded their views of what it means to be global citizens? Additionally, I would hope that the students come away from the experience feeling proud of the films they create. Art is subjective, and filmmaking even more so.

I hope that the films the students create are personally meaningful to them, and that some of that meaning transfers to the audience. I firmly believe that art saves lives, and that students need spaces, either digital or in person, to create art not only for self-expression, but for the sake of creating art. Hopefully the audience will appreciate that, and also learn a bit more about the youth in our sister cities.

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