For some young people, growing up in New Orleans means seeing horrendous acts of violence so frequently it becomes commonplace. Now, a small group of teenagers is working to show the world how they feel about the experience, and what else they see happening in their lives and in their city.
Equipped with video cameras and led by local filmmakers with Scrub Brush Productions, 11 high school students are adding their own perspective to a unique documentary titled Murder Through the Eyes of a Child.
“They’re getting a voice. It’s showing them that their stories and their feelings and experiences matter,” says John Richie, who is directing and producing the film along with filmmaker Declan Ryan.
The idea came about while Richie was working on film projects with a group of students at the Studio at Colton, a now-disbanded artist colony and education outreach program. In one exercise, Richie asked students to write about a violent encounter in their lives. He was shocked at the result.
“Every one of them had a first-hand experience with someone being murdered,” Richie says. “All of them could talk about someone they knew being killed in this city.”
Richie, Ryan and others at Scrub Brush are now working with students through after-school classes at the New Orleans Video Access Center, a nonprofit media arts center in the Bywater. The students come from all over New Orleans, and together they’re gaining technical skills, honing interview techniques and learning how to tell stories through film.
Outside of the center, they make short documentaries about their lives, their neighborhoods and their friends and families. This material will be combined with the Scrub Brush producers’ own interviews with community leaders, advocates and others from the adult world.
“The idea is to juxtapose the two, because I think there’s a disconnect between the adult response to violence and what kids actually see and believe is happening,” Richie says. “As tragic as it is, these kids are still very much kids.
They’ve had to go through these experiences, but they still do what kids do. They’re funny, they’re ambitious, they’re always talking about the future and what they’re going to do”
Scrub Brush expects to complete Murder Through the Eyes of a Child in August. The production is being funded through contributions from the public and with volunteer assistance from people in the local film community.
For updates and more details, see www.crescentcityfilms.net.