Guest Post: Listen To Their Voices

2 Aug 2016 - By James Chinn, Cultural Investments

For almost its entire 10-year history, Time Warner Foundation has been a supporter of Reel Works, a leader in discovering and nurturing new and diverse voices in film.  As an extracurricular and after-school program for high school students, Reel Works puts a unique emphasis on education, and each member of the Spring Class of 2016 was tasked with making a nine-minute documentary about his or her life. 

Last week, eight of those young storytellers presented films they completed in the program at a screening and graduation event hosted at the Time Warner Center. As Reel Works Co-Founder and Executive Director John C. Williams put it in addressing the class: “The remarkable truth – and what has made this work so rewarding and refreshing for 16 years – is that every class is special and every filmmaker unique."

Beginning with an introduction by Diahann Billings-Burford -- Time Warner’s executive director of cultural investments and vice president of the Foundation -- the event celebrated the distinct voices of these young artists, who used their short films to raise complex questions about status and identity. Discussions of gender, personal, cultural and racial identity as well as ambition, heroism, and emotional development were all represented in the 50-minute collection, with each filmmaker presenting his or her own unique perspective.

What all of the films had in common -- from the most dramatic to the most comedic -- was a sense of optimism. Time Warner Foundation, a nonprofit foundation wholly funded by Time Warner Inc., is dedicated to seeking innovative ways to effectively incubate and celebrate the next generation of storytellers. That the future of filmmaking is vibrant and full of diverse voices was made evident by the widely varying narratives, structures and styles of the shorts as well as the ensuing Q&A. 

Time Warner Foundation is proud to continue to support the work of Reel Works​ and its dedicated leaders: Lab Instructor, Amanda Madden; Student Teacher, Alvis Rojas; and Reel Works Co-Founders and Directors, Stephanie Walter Williams and John C. Williams.  Congratulations to filmmakers Hilary Safadi, Gianna Gomez, Jensen Fresnel, Amber Picon, Dennis Anderson, Destiny Blackwell, Monet Massac, and Veronica Vasquez -- both on their achievements and their refreshingly hopeful art. 

See the Spring 2016 Lab Documentaries here.

Photograph by Sarah Stacke