Before students got back to class, some local youth had a chance to put their storytelling skills to the test and feature life amid COVID-19.
Matias Hartwig and Ryan Hudson are two young Vernon filmmakers who produced documentaries and films, despite the restrictions of the pandemic, through the Youth Community Stories program from Reel Youth and Telus Storyhive.
Hartwig and Hudson’s teams originally had different projects in progress, but once COVID-19 hit, these young filmmakers had to get creative and find new ways to pivot their project while staying safe and distant.
“With the restraints of COVID-19 we had to change our focus a bit,” said Hartwig, a Grade 12 W.L. Seaton student, originally from Golden. “It was over video calls and we had about two weeks to work on our video film idea, so we called pretty much every night and Dear Claire was born.”
Hartwig’s project Dear Clare visually re-imagines the impact of cyberbullying on modern teens, as the comments left on a photo of Clare start to become real and affect her physically. Hartwig and his team took inspiration from their own cyberbullying experiences and how it shapes their self-esteem and body image.
“Clare gets a photo from her friend and when Clare sends a photo back and is urged to post it on Instagram but it gets lots of hate comments, she can’t handle it,” Hartwig said. “The good part is the only actor we needed was her so it made it a lot easier to shoot with all the COVID-19 restrictions.”
The project helped bring the team of Hartwig, his twin Kaija, Bowen O’Brien and Madison Irwin closer together, even while physically apart.
“The whole thing was to show that we are in this together,” said Hartwig. “What kind of changes this quarantine has posed for us. It was focused on how we can’t really see each other in person and we’re isolated.”
But even connecting through Zoom the approximately 50 people involved made new friendships through the process.
“It was actually film making that actually got me through it (pandemic),” said Hartwig, who was supposed to take a trip to France during spring break, which got cancelled.
“But I’m thankful, because it got cancelled it really helped Dear Claire become what it was.”
The experience also helped launch Hartwig into a filmmaking process with his high school, shooting some snippets for a back-to-school video back in June at the request of his vice-principal. And he hopes to continue using his skills.
“I’m just beginning on the road to see where it takes to me. I hope with my filmmaking I can give back to the community and make films and inspire people.”
Another local taking part in the Storyhive project was aspiring filmmaker Hudson, creating T.A.R.A., a documentary diving into how queer relationships of all generations are affected by social media and what causes people to disconnect with one another. This documentary was inspired by personal experiences from the entire team, and the positive and negative experiences they’ve had while connecting online.
The films go live Thursday, Sept. 10 on YouTube.
Reel Youth and Telus Storyhive’s community development program provides a platform for young people to create films that positively impact their communities.
“Matias and Ryan are prime examples of the importance of mentoring and empowering young creators to tell stories they care about while providing outlets to express their voices and opinions,” said Tiffany Lee, with Reel Youth and Storyhive.
Traditionally there are also film festivals that take place in the Okanagan to showcase these young talents, But due to COVID-19 the events likely won’t take place.