Media Lab and Life Stories Join Forces to Ghetto Talks Response Project

On Saturday, May 1st the Media Lab crew spent the afternoon with Life Stories.  Life Stories is an advanced drama program sponsored by the Urban Arts Partnership in which high school students from across New York City learn acting techniques. We wanted to capture the actors’ reactions to our film Ghetto Talks, so we decided to shoot a response piece in which they acted upon the word ghetto.
I wasn’t sure what to expect because I’ve never worked with a drama crew. Until now, our team has been interviewing parents, educators and media professionals about their response to our film. It has always been non-fiction, one-on-one interview style. This experience really pushed us as filmmakers because we had to be very aware of the filmmakers’ space and the actors’ space. At one point, the two crews even switched roles!

The Life Stories crew performed a series of three acts. The first was the “I am, You are, Thou art” act, in which five students expressed their connection to the word ghetto with the opening lines “Ghetto, I am . . . Ghetto, you are . . . and Ghetto, thou art.” The second act was a rant, which was a kind of monologue in which each performer expressed his or her feelings about the word. The third act involved a series of improv skits inspired by information the Life Stories crew had picked up from our film. The skits were very funny and made both crews laugh a lot.

One of my favorite lines from all the acts was “Ghetto: you are 125th Street.” I liked this line because it not only evoked the negative side of the ghetto, such as the projects, but it also eluded to the ghetto’s powerful history, such as the contributions made by the leaders of the Harlem Renaissance and community activists today.

I really enjoyed working with the Life Stories crew because their stories were well portrayed. As youth of color, many members of the Media Lab crew felt a personal connection with them.

On behalf of the Media Lab team, I want to give a big thanks to the Life Stories crew for their work! . . . And to all our followers: the Editing Room is buzzing this month as we go into post-production on the Ghetto Talks Response Project. Keep checking back for news on how the response pieces are shaping up!