I just returned from Silverdocs where Brittney Barbour, one of the filmmakers from my youth media project, Our Stories DC, was asked to screen her film and participate in a panel discussion. The panel was made up of five other youth, some of who traveled to the festival from as far as Mozambique. They demonstrated a diversity of experience that has not historically been a part of public media. Youth media production tends to be used as an educational device in urban nonprofits (with the exception of Appalshop and similar groups). As a result, youth of color are commonly the creators of youth media but rarely transition to careers in media production. However, this trend may be changing. These panelists each demonstrated a confidence that they would continue to produce content outside of their involvement with the programs that brought them to Silverdocs. For example, Brittney spoke about how she uses the camera that she received from the Our Stories DC Project to continue making films. Other participants noted that they do not foresee problems accessing equipment or post-production tools in the future.
The democratization of production tools reflects a drastic change in the field of youth media. Now that participants are coming to programming with increased access to equipment and editing applications, youth media organizations will hopefully be able to focus more specifically on media literacy, technical instruction, and storytelling techniques.
This shift also opens the youth media distribution world. Through a Future of Public Media Demonstration grant I was able to launch an interactive website where visitors can connect with filmmakers around issues addressed in their films. To facilitate the formation of youth-focused publics, the site was marketed to youth of color enrolled in local after school programs. By choosing this method of distribution I have been able to inexpensively draw attention to the project, which has led to recognition by The Shorty Awards and later to Silverdocs.