MetroFocus: May 21, 2021

“REEL WORKS” MENTORING YOUNG BIPOC FILMMAKERS TO SUCCESS

Reel Works is a Brooklyn based youth media and workforce readiness program that matches underprivileged BIPOC young adults with professional filmmaker-mentors as a pathway to success and into an industry that is notoriously difficult to break into. In the last year alone they have worked with 775 young adults from all over the country and paired 66 filmmakers with mentors to create 28 films that have exceeded all expectations. This year marks their landmark 20th anniversary with a virtual gala hosted by Broadway star Bryan Terrell Clark who joins us tonight as part of our Chasing The Dream initiative along with student filmmaker Maya Velazquez and Reel Works masters of media, Co-Directors John and Stephanie Williams.

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Chasing the Dream: Poverty and Opportunity in America is a multi-platform public media initiative that provides a deeper understanding of the impact of poverty on American society. Major funding for this initiative is provided by The JPB Foundation. Additional funding is provided by Ford Foundation.

TRANSCRIPT

♪♪

> THIS IS 'METROFOCUS' WITH RAFAEL PI ROMAN, JACK FORD AND JENNA FLANAGAN.

♪♪

'METROFOCUS' IS MADE POSSIBLE BY -- SUE AND EDGAR WACHENHEIM III, SYLVIA A. AND SIMON B. POYTA PROGRAMING ENDOWMENT TO FIGHT ANTI-SEMITISM.

THE PETER G. PETERSON AND JOAN GANZ COONEY FUND.

BERNARD AND DENISE SCHWARTZ, BARBARA HOPE ZUCKERBERG, THE AMBROSE MONELL FOUNDATION AND BY -- JANET PRINDLE SEIDLER, JODY AND JOHN ARNHOLD, CHERYL AND PHILIP MILSTEIN FAMILY, JUDY AND JOSH WESTON, AND THE DR. ROBERT C.

AND TINA SOHN FOUNDATION, THE JPB FOUNDATION.

♪♪

> THIS IS MY FAMILY.

HOW LONG HAVE YOU GUYS BEEN TOGETHER?

12 YEARS.

12 YEARS.

I MET HER THROUGH A FRIEND AND HE INTRODUCED ME TO HER.

SHE WENT TO SEE ME AT A PLAY.

I SAW JEANETTE.

I LIKED HER.

RIGHT AFTER THAT PLAY, WE GOT TOGETHER AND THEN WE STARTED TALKING.

SINCE THEN, WE'VE BEEN TOGETHER.

IT'S BEEN GOOD.

♪♪

GOOD EVENING.

WELCOME TO 'METROFOCUS.'

I'M JACK FORD.

WHAT YOU JUST SAW WAS A CLIP FROM A SHORT FILM TITLED 'NORMAL FAMILY' BY STUDENT FILMMAKER RAYA VELASQUEZ.

A BROOKLYN BASED NONPROFIT MATCHES KID ACROSS THE COUNTRY WITH FILMMAKER MENTORS TO THEM PRODUCE THEIR OWN CONTENT, TEACH THEM PROFESSIONAL SKILLS AND PREPARE THEM TO ENTER THE MEDIA INDUSTRIAL.

THIS YEAR REELWORKS IS CELEBRATING ITS 25th ANNIVERSARY.

JOINING ME NOW AS PART OF OUR CHASING THE DREAM INITIATIVE ON POVERTY, JUSTICE AND ECONOMIC OPPORTUNITY IN THE AMERICA TO DISCUSS HOW REELWORKS HAVE BEEN WORKING ARE REELWORKS FOUNDERS AND CODIRECTORS JOHN AND STEPHANIE WILLIAMS.

HELLO.

ALSO JOINING US IS FILMMAKER MAYA VELASQUEZ AND BROADWAY STAR BRIAN TERRELL CLARK.

THANKS FOR JOINING ME.

THANKS FOR HAVING US.

IT'S A MARVELOUS ORGANIZATION, WHAT I'VE LEARNED ABOUT IT AND THE WORK THAT YOU'VE DONE IN 20 YEARS.

LET ME START, JOHN AND STEPHANIE, WITH YOU.

WHAT WAS IT THAT PROMPTED THE TWO OF YOU TO SAY WE NEED THIS ORGANIZATION AND THIS IS WHAT WE NEED IT TO DO?

WELL, IN 2001 STEPH AND I WERE NEWLY MARRIED AND WE WERE BOTH WORKING IN TELEVISION.

I THINK WE BOTH HAD A NEED THAT WE COULDN'T QUITE ARTICULATE THEN OF WANTING TO DO MORE FOR OUR COMMUNITY.

IT WASN'T REALLY PLANNED HOW WE GOT INTO IT.

WE GOT AN OPPORTUNITY.

OUR LOCAL YMCA IN PARK SLOPE BROOKLYN CALLED US AND SAID DO YOU WANT TO TEACH A FILM CLASS TO THESE TEENAGERS WE'VE RECRUITED.

WE BOTH SAID YES.

BECAUSE WE WERE BOTH WORKING, WE WOULD RUN TO THE Y ON THE AVERAGE WHEN WE'RE TEACHING AND THE ONE THAT GOT THERE FIRST TAUGHT THE CLASS.

WE WERE JUST FIGURING IT OUT AS WE WENT.

OF ALL THE THINGS THAT WE WERE DOING, THE WORK WITH TEENAGERS SORT OF JUST GRABBED OUR HEART.

WE TAUGHT A CLASS OF YOUNG DOCUMENTARY FILMMAKERS.

WHEN THE FILMS STARTED ROLLING OFF THE COMPUTER SCREEN AND WE STARTED SEEING THE STORIES THEY WERE TELLING, NOT ONLY WERE WE DEEPLY MOVED, WE THOUGHT WE HAD SOME GREAT FILMMAKING.

IN FACT, HBO PURCHASED TWO FILMS IN THAT FIRST CLASS.

THAT WAS A MESSAGE TO US THAT MAYBE WE WERE GOOD AT SOMETHING WE DIDN'T KNOW WE WERE GOOD AT, WHICH WAS TEACHING AND MENTORING KIDS.

WE BOTH FELT WE REALLY EMOTIONALLY CONNECTED TO HOW WE COULD USE OUR SKILLS AS FILMMAKERS, AS TV PRODUCERS TO DO SOMETHING FOR OUR COMMUNITY AND LIFT UP OTHER VOICES.

REALLY IT FOUND US.

MAYA I'M GOING TO GET TO YOU IN A SECOND AND, BRIAN, CERTAINLY TO YOU ALSO.

STEPHANIE, LET ME ASK YOU THIS QUESTION.

WHEN YOU GO TO YOUR WEBSITE, THE FIRST THING YOU SEE ON THE SCREEN IS AN EXPRESSION THAT SAYS CHANGE THE STORY TELLERS, CHANGE THE WORLD.

WHAT DO YOU MEAN BY THAT AND WHY IS THAT SO IMPORTANT TO YOUR MISSION, THAT NOTION?

WHEN YOU THINK ABOUT THE INDUSTRY, LET'S LOOK BACK EVEN A FEW YEARS AGO.

THE STORIES WERE CONSISTENTLY I FELT THE SAME AND I THINK JOHN FELT THE SAME WAY, WE FELT WE WERE WORKING WITH YOUNG FOLKS FROM VERY DIVERSE BACKGROUNDS.

THEIR STORIES WEREN'T JUST MOVING, THEY WERE EXCITING AND IMMEDIATE.

I THINK THAT WE BOTH REALIZED THAT WHAT WE WANTED TO DO IS REALLY PUSH FORWARD THE IDEA OF GETTING KIDS IN THE INDUSTRY.

CHANGE THE STORY TELLERS AND CHANGE THE WORLD.

I REALLY BELIEVE THAT.

FILM IS A VERY EFFECTIVE MEDIUM TO REACH AUDIENCES, RIGHT?

LOOK AT THE ACADEMY AWARDS THIS YEAR.

THE FILMS THAT WON WERE DEEPLY MOVING BUT THEY WERE FROM THE VOICES OF PEOPLE WE NEVER HEAR FROM.

SO THAT MISSION TO US IS IMPERATIVE AND I THINK ONCE WE REALLY GOT BEHIND IT AND UNDERSTOOD HOW TO GET BEHIND IT, WE ALWAYS WANTED TO BE ABLE TO CHANGE THE STORY TELLERS.

BUT HOW DO YOU DO IT?

YOU DO IT BE HAVING A REALLY EFFECTIVE STAFF OF PEOPLE, BY LISTENING TO OTHERS, BY BEING VERY OPEN TO CHANGE AND TO MOVING FORWARD IN YOUR VISION AND YOUR MISSION.

THAT'S WHERE WE ARE TODAY.

INCREASINGLY WE'RE PARTNERING WITH MEDIA COMPANIES AND OTHER FILMMAKERS TO AMPLIFY YOUNG PEOPLE'S VOICES.

THAT'S AN EXCITING MOMENT TO BE AT.

YEAH.

BRIAN, HOW ABOUT YOU?

YOU'RE AN ESTABLISHED ACTOR, AN ACCOMPLISHED PERFORMER.

MANY PEOPLE WHO KNOW YOU AS GEORGE WASHINGTON ON BROADWAY AND HAMILTON AMONG MANY OTHER ROLES.

AT YOUR STATURE IN THE INDUSTRY, I'M SURE THERE ARE A LOT OF FOLKS REACHING OUT TO YOU, SAYING HEY, WOULD YOU ALIGN WITH THIS GROUP OR THAT GROUP.

YOU'VE CHOSEN TO BE A PART OF THIS GROUP.

WHY?

I HAVE.

I MET JOHN TWO, THREE YEARS NOW.

I HAD AN AMAZING MANAGER KEITH ESTERBROOK WHO'S A BIT OF A GENIUS.

HE TOLD ME YOU'RE NOT JUST AN ACTOR, YOU'RE A STORY TELLER AT YOUR CORE, YOU'RE A PRODUCER AND YOU NEED TO ALIGN YOURSELF WITH ORGANIZATIONS THAT REFLECT YOUR PURPOSE.

HE'S SO RIGHT.

REELWORKS AT THE CORE OF WHAT THEY'RE TALKING ABOUT IS LITERALLY THE GIFT OF ART AND STORY TELLING TO YOUNG PEOPLE.

FOR ME, I WAS GROWING UP IN BALTIMORE, MARYLAND, IN MIDDLE SCHOOL AND MY PARENTS WERE GOING THROUGH A HORRIBLE DIVORCE AND MIDDLE SCHOOL IS ALREADY THAT WEIRD AGE WHERE YOUR HORMONES ARE CHANGING AND YOU'RE STILL PLAYING WITH ACTION FIGURES AND WATCHING POWER RANGERS.

YOU KNOW, YOUR BEST GIRLFRIEND HAS HEELS AND BOOBS NOW.

I DON'T KNOW WHAT'S HAPPENING, MY HORMONES ARE GOING NUTS, I DON'T KNOW WHAT'S GOING ON.

YOU KNOW, HELL IS GOING ON AT HOME AND I DON'T HAVE AN OUTLET FOR ANY OF THIS.

FOR ME IN MIDDLE SCHOOL, I BECAME VIRTUALLY SILENT.

I MEAN, I GET PAID TO TALK NOW, BUT I WAS VIRTUALLY SILENT UNTIL I WAS IN A GOSPEL CHOIR.

MY AUNT SAID IT SEEMS LIKE HE'S TAKING TO THE ARTS, WHAT IF WE PUT HIM IN AN IMPROV CLASS.

THAT REALLY GAVE ME A VOICE.

I WAS AROUND MAYA'S AGE WHEN I STARTED WRITING MY OWN STORIES.

I SAW THE WORK REELWORKS WAS DOING, HANDS IN THE CLAY.

THESE STORIES ARE IMMEDIATE.

I FOUND THAT NOW I'M IN THE INDUSTRY AND I'M A LITTLE OLDER AND MORE SEASONED, NOT SO BURNT OUT, NOT SO JADED, STILL KIND OF EXCITED ABOUT WHAT WE DO, WHAT I HAVE FOUND IS THAT OFTENTIMES THE PEOPLE IN POWER, THEY HAVE DISTANCED THEMSELVES SO MUCH FROM THE GROUND THAT THE WEALTH OF STORY AND THE WAY WE TELL STORY AND WHAT STORIES ARE BEING TOLD ARE OFTEN NOT GIVEN OPPORTUNITY TO HAVE VOICE.

SO WHEN I FOUND OUT THAT REELWORKS WAS THE KIND OF ORGANIZATION THAT I WISH I WOULD HAVE HAD IN MIDDLE SCHOOL OR HIGH SCHOOL, IT MADE PERFECT SENSE FOR ME TO BE A PART.

I'VE BEEN TRYING TO CONNECT WITH JOHN FOR THE LAST TWO, THREE YEARS.

IT SEEMS LIKE 2021 WAS OUR YEAR.

WE HAD AN AMAZING LIVE CONCERT, A LIVE LIVING ROOM CONCERT.

I GOT A CHANCE TO DO MY OWN TINY DESK.

WE DID REELWORKS LIVING ROOM CONCERT AND THEN I HAD THE AMAZING PRIVILEGE OF SEEING MAYA'S FILM AS I HOSTED THE SHORT FILM FESTIVAL.

I WAS DEEPLY, DEEPLY, DEEPLY MOVED BY YOUR STORY.

SO I ENCOURAGE EVERYONE WHO CAN TO BE A PART OF REELWORKS.

REELWORKS IS NOT ONLY CHANGING THE LIVES OF THE STORY TELLERS BUT THE LIVES OF THE AUDIENCES THAT GET TO HEAR AND SEE STORIES THAT ARE REAL AND RELEVANT.

MAYA, THAT BRINGS US TO YOU.

YOU'RE THE STAR OF THIS WHOLE THING.

WE HEARD RYAN TALK ABOUT HIS JOURNEY.

HOW ABOUT YOUR JOURNEY?

WHEN DID YOU GET A SENSE THAT MAYBE WHAT YOU'D LIKE TO DO IS BECOME IN SOME FASHION A STORYTELLER?

THANK YOU.

I WOULD SAY WHEN I FINISHED MY FILM I REALIZED THAT THE STORY I TOLD WAS REALLY POWERFUL.

YOU KNOW, IT'S ABOUT MY TWO MOMS, THE FIRST TIME I DISCOVERED THEIR COMING OUT STORY AND THE DISCRIMINATION THEY FACED.

AFTER THAT I REALIZED I WANT TO MAKE MORE STORIES LIKE THIS.

HOW ABOUT YOUR CONNECTION WITH REELWORKS?

HOW DID THAT HAPPEN?

I FOUND REELWORKS THROUGH THE SCHOOL.

I REMEMBER MY TEACHER WAS HANDING OUT FLYERS FOR THE DOCUMENTARY LAB.

I HAD NO PRIOR EXPERIENCE IN FILM, BUT I WAS INTERESTED AND I WANTED TO LEARN MORE.

CAN I INTERRUPT ONE SECOND?

WHAT WAS IT THEN THAT SAID TO YOU, YOU KNOW WHAT, THIS IS SOMETHING THAT COULD BE REALLY INTERESTING FOR ME?

WHAT WAS IT THAT GRABBED YOU?

HONESTLY I'M REALLY NOT TOO SURE, BECAUSE I HAD NO PRIOR EXPERIENCE, LIKE KNEW NOTHING ABOUT FILM CAMERAS.

I JUST HAD THAT FEELING THAT I WANTED TO APPLY.

WHAT DID YOU FIND -- MAYBE A BETTER QUESTION IS WHEN YOU FIRST BEGAN TO WORK WITH THE FOLKS AT REELWORKS, WHAT DID YOU THINK IT WAS GOING TO BE, AND WHAT DID YOU FIND IT ACTUALLY WAS?

I WASN'T REALLY SURE WHAT TO EXPECT FROM REELWORKS, BUT I WOULD SAY I FOUND A GREAT COMMUNITY OF PEOPLE THAT ALWAYS LIKE SUPPORTED ME FROM WHEN I TOLD THIS IDEA ABOUT MY FILM AND JUST GREAT PEOPLE TO BE AROUND.

STEPHANIE, LET ME COME BACK TO YOU.

IN TERMS OF HOW THE ORGANIZATION WORKS, WHAT SORT OF THINGS ARE YOU ABLE TO HELP SOMEBODY LIKE MAYA WITH?

I DON'T WANT TO SOUND TOO COMMERCIAL, BUT WHAT SORT OF PRODUCTS ARE THEY CREATING AS A CONSEQUENCE OF THEIR WORK HERE?

REELWORKS WOULDN'T EXIST WITHOUT OUR PARTNERSHIPS WITH THE DEPARTMENT OF EDUCATION IN NEW YORK AND THE 20 OR MORE SCHOOLS THAT WE PARTNER WITH THAT HELP US GET THAT FLYER OR NOTICE ABOUT THE LAB INTO THE HANDS OF STUDENTS LIKE MAYA TO APPLY.

WHEN STUDENTS APPLY, WE MAY GET 50, 60 OR 100 APPLICATIONS FOR 12 SPOTS.

WE SAW A LOT MORE THIS YEAR.

COVID HAS REALLY DEVASTATED AFTER SCHOOL OPPORTUNITIES FOR YOUNG PEOPLE.

WHEN WE MEET SOMEONE LIKE MAYA, WHAT WE WANT TO KNOW IS NOT DO YOU HAVE ANY FILM EXPERIENCE, IT'S WHAT IS YOUR STORY.

FROM THE BEGINNING OF REELWORKS, THAT WAS THE QUESTION.

YOU COULD TELL THE WORLD ANYTHING, TELL THE STORY TO THE WORLD, WHAT WOULD IT BE?

YOU KNOW, MAYA'S STORY -- I WASN'T AT THAT INTERVIEW, SO I DIDN'T KNOW YOUR STORY THEN.

YOU REACHED OUR TEAM AND YOU EXPRESSED A REAL CLARITY OF VISION.

THAT'S WHAT GETS YOU INTO THE CLASS.

LIKE FELL IN LOVE SECOND I MET HER, I THOUGHT THIS IS A VERY QUIET, INTROVERTED YOUNG WOMAN.

I CAN TELL SHE WANTS TO SAY SOMETHING.

SERIOUSLY, I MEAN THAT.

SHE WAS REALLY VERY COMPELLING TO ME.

ACTUALLY AS IT TURNED OUT ONE OF OUR TEACHERS HERE WHO WORKS FOR US WHO CAME FROM THE SCHOOL ORIGINALLY WORKED AS A TEACHER IN THE SCHOOL MAYA WAS IN, HE KNEW HER.

HE SAID TO ME, YOU'RE RIGHT, SHE REALLY HAS A LOT GOING, BUT SHE'S VERY QUIET.

LET'S HELP HER TO EXPRESS HERSELF.

AND SHE DID.

SHE DID AND DIDN'T JUST DO IT, SHE HIT THE GROUND RUNNING WHEN SHE REALIZED WHAT HER STORY WAS.

SHE'S BEEN WITH US NOW FOR TWO YEARS, MAYA, A YEAR AND A HALF.

YEAH.

AND NOW SHE WORKS WITH ME IN REELWORKS PRODUCTION.

SHE'S A POWERHOUSE FOR REAL.

JOHN AND STEPHANIE WILLIAMS ARE THE COFOUNDERS OF REELWORKS, ABOUT THE WORK THEY DO ALSO WITH FILMMAKER MAYA VELASQUEZ AND BROADWAY STAR BRIAN TERRELL CLARK.

BRIAN, I SAID IN THE INTRODUCTION, I MENTIONED HOW DIFFICULT IT IS TO BREAK INTO AND THEN TO BECOME SUCCESSFUL IN YOUR INDUSTRY.

I'M ALWAYS STRUCK BY -- AT 'METROFOCUS' WE DO A LOT OF BROADWAY STORIES.

WE FEEL IT'S IMPORTANT TO TALK ABOUT THE ARTS.

ONE OF THE GREAT CONSEQUENCES IS I GET TO GO TO A LOT OF THEM.

IF I HAD A CHANCE TO GO BACK IN MY LIFE, I'D SAY MAYBE I CAN GET ON STAGE.

IT'S WAY TOO LATE FOR THAT.

NEVER TOO LATE.

ONE OF THE THINGS I'M ALWAYS STRUCK BY IS THE VAST ARRAY OF TALENT.

MY WIFE AND I SAW A SHOW AND SOMEBODY WAS ANNOUNCED AS AN UNDERSTUDY TO PERFORM AND WE WALKED AWAY BLOWN AWAY BY THE UNDERSTUDY.

IT GETS US BACK TO THAT NOTION OF HOW DIFFICULT IT IS TO BREAK IN.

AND THE VALUE OF MENTORS, TALK ABOUT THAT A LITTLE BIT FOR ME IN TERMS OF WHAT REELWORKS DOES AND HOW VALUABLE A MENTOR CAN BE TO A YOUNG STORY TELLER SUCH AS MAYA OR EVEN SUCH AS A YOUNG BRIAN.

FOR SURE, JACK.

FOR ME, MENTORS ARE LIKE GUIDING LIGHTS.

THEY REALLY STAND LIKE LIGHTHOUSES.

THEY DON'T NECESSARILY HAVE TO SHOW YOU DIRECTLY EACH STEP, BUT THEY CAN DEFINITELY LIGHT THE WAY.

OUR ALMA MATER YALE, WE BOTH WENT TO YALE, WHEN I WAS DPRAJ GRADUATING I HAD COURTNEY B.

VANCE AND ANGELA BASSETT.

THEY WEREN'T ONLY MENTORS BUT WHEN I HAD TONS OF QUESTIONS GOING BACK TO WHAT YOU SAID ABOUT HOW DIFFICULT THE INDUSTRY IS, I WOULD SHIFT THAT NARRATIVE A LITTLE BIT.

I DON'T THINK THAT THE INDUSTRY IS NECESSARILY DIFFICULT.

I THINK YOU HAVE TO DECIDE VERY EARLY DO YOU WANT TO BE FAMOUS AND BE A STAR OR DO YOU WANT TO BE A WORKING ARTIST.

THERE ARE TONS OF AVENUES.

THAT'S WHY I LOVE THE ARTS SO MUCH.

I LOVE WHAT THEY'RE DOING WITH REELWORKS, BECAUSE IT GIVES A YOUNG PERSON A SET OF SKILLS THAT ARE ACTUALLY APPLICABLE IN MANY DIFFERENT SPACES.

THAT'S WHY THE INDUSTRY IS STARTING TO SEE MORE ARTISTS WITH ALL THESE MULTIHYPHENATES AS MAYA WILL BE.

FOR ME, I WORK PRIMARILY AS AN ACTOR.

I'VE DONE TONS OF STUFF ON BROADWAY.

BUT THAT SAME SKILL SET IS TRANSLATED IN TELEVISION, FILM, SPEAKING EVENTS AND WORKSHOPS I DO IN AND OUT OF SCHOOL.

IT WASN'T UNTIL I ENCOUNTERED REAL MENTORS THAT THEY COULD TURN AROUND AND SAY, HEY, I KNOW THIS NEXT HILL OF YOURS SEEMS DIFFICULT.

I'M ON THE OTHER SIDE OF THAT HILL AND I'M HERE TO TELL YOU THE CLIMB MIGHT SEEM MORE DIFFICULT THAN YOU THINK IT IS, IT'S ALL DOWNHILL ONCE YOU GET TO THE TOP.

ANOTHER THING THAT MAYA MENTIONED THAT I THINK IS SO BEAUTIFUL, MENTORS ARE A COMMUNITY.

COVID HAS TAUGHT US TO REEVALUATE WHAT SUCCESS IS AND HAPPINESS IS.

I THINK THAT WE'RE LEARNING THAT OUR FRIENDS, OUR FAMILY, THE SUPPORT SYSTEMS, THE FAMILIES THAT WE GET TO CHOOSE ARE JUST AS MUCH OF VALUE, IF NOT MORE, THAN KIND OF REACHING FOR THESE THINGS WE WERE CALLING DEFECT.

I THINK THAT THE COMMUNITY THAT MAYA GETS TO BE A PART OF BECAUSE SHE'S IN A COLLABORATIVE ART.

IT'S SOMETHING I WISH I COULD GIVE EVERY YOUNG PERSON BECAUSE OFTENTIMES IN LIFE SOME OF THESE CHAPTERS CAN BE VERY LONELY.

WHEN YOU WORK IN THEATER, TELEVISION AND FILM, NOBODY DOES IT BY THEMSELVES.

IT TAKES A TEAM TO CREATE EVERY SINGLE THING AN AUDIENCE SEES.

IT'S THAT COLLABORATION THAT I THINK MENTORS HELP A YOUNG ARTIST NAVIGATE.

ALL OF US HAVE BEEN INVOLVED IN THIS INDUSTRY AND ALWAYS SAY TO PEOPLE, ARTISTS MIGHT BE THE FACE THAT YOU SEE IN THE SCREEN, BUT THERE ARE LITERALLY AND FIGURATIVELY DOZENS, PERHAPS HUNDREDS OF PEOPLE WHO ARE BEHIND US TO MAKE SURE THAT ALL HAPPENS.

MAYA, HOW ABOUT THE IDEA OF MENTORS FOR YOU?

WHAT HAS THE VALUE BEEN FOR YOU OF PEOPLE WHO HAVE SAID LET'S TALK, LET ME TELL YOU ABOUT IT, HERE'S THE HILL, LET ME TELL YOU HOW YOU GET UP THAT HILL AND HOPEFULLY GET TO THE TOP OF IT.

WHAT'S THE VALUE BEEN FOR YOU?

HAVING A MENTOR IS SUCH A GREAT EXPERIENCE.

I THINK IT HELPED ME CREATE MY STORY.

MY MENTOR IS FRISCA EDWARDS.

HE'S BEEN WITH ME THROUGH THE WHOLE WAY.

EVEN DURING THE PANDEMIC, SHE STILL SUPPORTED ME.

IT'S GREAT TO KNOW YOU HAVE SOMEBODY YOU CAN TALK TO.

JOHN AND STEPHANIE, MAYA MENTIONED THE PANDEMIC PHASE.

IT SORT OF IMPACTED THAT PATH ON THE WORK THAT YOU WERE DOING.

WELL, OF COURSE, LIKE EVERYBODY, IT WAS TERRIFYING AT FIRST.

FIRST OF ALL, WE'RE SERVING YOUNG PEOPLE WHO LIVE IN COMMUNITIES THAT HAVE BEEN DEVASTATED ACROSS NEW YORK BY THIS DISEASE.

WHEN OUR CLASSES SHUT DOWN, WE DIDN'T KNOW HOW WE WERE GOING TO TEACH FILMMAKING ONLINE, BUT WE KNEW WE NEEDED TO CONNECT TO OUR YOUNG PEOPLE AND GIVE THEM A SAFE SPACE AND COMMUNITY.

MANY OF THEM WERE SUFFERING FROM ANXIETY, FAMILIES DEALING WITH HEALTH AND FINANCIAL PRESSURES AND FOOD INSECURITY AND HOUSING INSECURITY.

THERE WAS SO MUCH GOING ON IN THEIR LIVES, THE MINIMUM WE COULD DO WAS OPEN UP A WINDOW WHERE THEY COULD CONNECT WITH THEIR FRIENDS.

EVENTUALLY WE LEARNED HOW TO TEACH AND GET THROUGH FILMMAKING AGAIN.

EVENTUALLY WE WERE GETTING THEM INTERNSHIPS IN COMPANIES BUT STILL WORKING FROM HOME.

OVER THE SUMMER WE HAD A TEAM OF FILMMAKERS CREATE A FILM ENTIRELY ONLINE DIRECTING ACTORS THROUGH THIS INTERFACE, THROUGH ZOOM AND CREATE AN ENTIRE MOVIE BEGINNING TO END FILMED DURING COVID ABOUT THE COVID EXPERIENCE.

IT'S BEEN ULTIMATELY A REMARKABLE RIDE, REMARKABLE EXPERIENCE.

I FEEL LIKE WE'VE LEARNED NEW SUPER POWERS OF HOW TO TEACH AND NOW WE'RE TEACHING ACROSS THE COUNTRY.

WE'RE TEACHING JOB TRAINING PROGRAMS ACROSS THE COUNTRY.

REELWORKS IS NO LONGER JUST A BROOKLYN ORGANIZATION.

IRONICALLY SOME OF THAT IS HOW WE ADAPTED TO THE COVID PANDEMIC.

WITHOUT THE TEAMWORK THAT HAPPENED, WE WERE WORKING WITH OUR EDUCATION AND PROGRAMMING TEAMS.

THOSE GUYS HIT THE GROUND RUNNING.

I HAVE TO SAY WE WERE JUST TALKING ABOUT IT THIS MORNING, THERE WAS NEVER A MOMENT, I BELIEVE, WHERE WE FELT WE WOULD NOT BE ABLE TO SERVE OUR COMMUNITY.

WE ALL WERE -- EVERYBODY WAS TAKEN BY SURPRISE, YOU KNOW?

SUDDENLY WE WERE ON LOCKDOWN.

I MEAN, I WAS SHOOTING A DOCUMENTARY FOR REELWORKS WITH STUDENTS, A FEATURE FILM WE'RE DOING TWO WEEKS PRIOR TO LOCKDOWN, NO MASKS, HANGING OUT WITH HUNDREDS OF DANCERS IN A DANCE STUDIO.

THERE WAS WORD OF THIS THING COMING AND SUDDENLY, BOOM, TWO WEEKS LATER ON LOCKDOWN.

I REMEMBER GETTING ON ZOOM WITH MY STAFF AND SAYING, SO WHO'S GOING TO THROW IN FIRST, WHAT ARE WE GOING TO DO, HOW ARE WE GOING TO HANDLE THIS?

THERE WAS NEVER ONE MOMENT WHERE I FELT WE WEREN'T GOING TO PULL THIS OFF.

I MEAN, IT TAKES GUTS AND CREATIVITY AND ALSO A REAL BELIEF IN THE PEOPLE YOU'RE WORKING WITH TO KNOW THAT YOU CAN DO THIS.

WE FUMBLED, WE FAILED AND THEN WE ROSE.

SO IT WAS COOL IN A DEVASTATING KIND OF WAY AT FIRST.

I REMEMBER MAYA WAS A REAL LEADER IN THAT.

OUR FIRST VIRAL CHALLENGE, MAYA, YOU LED THE WAY IN GETTING KIDS CREATING A SERIES OF I MAY BE HOME BOUND, BUT MY CREATIVITY IS NOT.

I THINK THAT WAS THE ORIGINAL IDEA, JUST TO GET KIDS FILMING AT HOME.

YOU WERE ONE OF THE KIDS OUT OF THE GATE.

YEAH, YEAH.

MAYA MIGHT HAVE BEEN BETTER AT IT THAN THE REST OF US.

MAYA, YOU WERE THE LEADER GOING THROUGH THIS.

ONE OF THE THINGS, STEPHANIE, IT REENFORCES WHAT YOU SAID.

ONE OF THE GREAT THINGS ABOUT THEATER AND PRODUCTION IS THE SHOW MUST GO ON.

WE GO BACK TO THE OLD DAYS, THE OLD MICKEY ROONEY FILMS ABOUT PUTTING ON A SHOW NO MATTER WHAT THE OBSTACLES ARE, WE HAVE TO GET IT ON.

IT SOUNDS LIKE THAT'S WHAT WE WERE SEEING WITH YOUR ORGANIZATION.

BRIAN, TALK ABOUT THAT A LITTLE BIT.

I MENTIONED THE 25th ANNIVERSARY GALA AND YOU'RE GOING TO HAVE THE GREAT HONOR AND PLEASURE TO HOST IT.

WHAT'S THE MESSAGE THAT YOU THINK WILL COME FROM THAT?

FOR ME, I THINK EVEN WHO WE'RE HONORING TIES INTO A VERY BIG MESSAGE.

NOT ONLY MUST THE SHOW GO ON, BUT I THINK IT'S ABOUT CREATIVITY.

WE'RE HONORING ISSA RAY.

WHAT'S SO AMAZING ABOUT HER IS SHE CREATED A LANE IN THIS INDUSTRY THAT SHE COMPLETELY TRAIL BLAZED AND PIONEERED.

SHE WENT FROM CREATING WEB SERIES ONLINE TO A HUGE, YOU KNOW, PIONEERING SHOW ON HBO 'INSECURE.'

ONE OF MY BEST FRIENDS PLAYS SECOND FIDDLE TO HER ON 'INSECURE.'

SHE PLAYS HER BEST FRIEND MOLLY.

I DON'T THINK THAT OVEREXAGGERATING WHEN I SAY THAT I FEEL LIKE FILMMAKERS AND ARTISTS SAVED OUR SANITY DURING THIS PANDEMIC.

WE HAVE NEVER WATCHED SO MUCH TELEVISION, WE HAVE NEVER STREAMED SO MANY SHOWS, WE HAVE NEVER READ SO MANY NOVELS.

IT'S STORY TELLERS THAT ARE LEADING THE WAY.

WHAT I LOVE ABOUT THE GALA IS THAT IT'S HIGHLIGHTING INDIVIDUALS NOT ONLY THAT ARE STARTING THIS KIND OF WORK, BUT ALSO PEOPLE IN THE INDUSTRY WHO ARE LEADING THE WAY.

ABSOLUTELY RIGHT.

I THINK THEY HAVE BEEN OUR SALVATION HERE AND MAYA IS GOING TO BE THAT NEXT GENERATION OF OUR SALVATION.

I'M OUT OF TIME HERE.

JUST A QUICK REMINDER IF YOU'RE WATCHING THIS AND YOU WANT TO HELP OUT, GO TO REELWORKS.ORG.

OUR THANKS TO BRIAN, ALWAYS A PLEASURE TO SEE YOU HERE.

LOOK FORWARD TO SEEING YOU ON STAGE.

MAYA, CONGRATULATIONS TO YOU, FABULOUS FILM YOU'VE DONE.

THANKS TO ALL OF YOU.

ALL OF YOU STAY WELL.

THANK YOU.

THANKS, JACK.

♪♪

'METROFOCUS' IS MADE POSSIBLE BY -- SUE AND EDGAR WACHENHEIM III, SYLVIA A. AND SIMON B. POYTA PROGRAMING ENDOWMENT TO FIGHT ANTI-SEMITISM.

THE PETER G. PETERSON AND JOAN GANZ COONEY FUND.

BERNARD AND DENISE SCHWARTZ, BARBARA HOPE ZUCKERBERG, THE AMBROSE MONELL FOUNDATION AND BY -- JANET PRINDLE SEIDLER, JODY AND JOHN ARNHOLD, CHERYL AND PHILIP MILSTEIN FAMILY, JUDY AND JOSH WESTON, AND THE DR. ROBERT C.

AND TINA SOHN FOUNDATION, THE JPB FOUNDATION.

Funders

MetroFocus is made possible by Sue and Edgar Wachenheim III, the Sylvia A. and Simon B. Poyta Programming Endowment to Fight Anti-Semitism, The Peter G. Peterson and Joan Ganz Cooney Fund, Bernard and Denise Schwartz, Barbara Hope Zuckerberg, The Ambrose Monell Foundation, Janet Prindle Seidler, Jody and John Arnhold, the Cheryl and Philip Milstein Family, Judy and Josh Weston and the Dr. Robert C. and Tina Sohn Foundation.

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