Written by Yo Ann Martinez
Interviewed: Davin Thompson, Artist Mentor @ BUMP Records and Jason Jakaitis, Factory Manager
KQED and the Bay Area Video Coalition (BAVC) Factory and BUMP Records are working together to produce an original soundtrack and short film vignettes whose central purpose will be to counteract the high school drop out rate in Oakland from the youth’s perspective. Here are some of the questions we asked the coordinators of the program.
KQED will be uploading three vignettes before the final projects are due. Look out for them in this blog.
What is the students’ creative process?
JJ: First the filmmakers acquire stories - spoken word poetry from Queen Shabazz and Cesar Cruz, plus iPhone testimonials from OUSD youth - and then they begin to plan out who these stories can be told in an engaging, visually compelling fashion. Then they write a script, create shot lists and storyboards, cast their actors, shoot the film, edit the content into a rough for feedback, and finally polish their rough cut into a fine cut.
DT: These particular young artists came in to the project with their own opinions and ideas about what they wanted to say and how they wanted to say it. My job was more about helping to frame their thoughts and align the perspective with the larger mission of achieving a well rounded project. So the process consisted of a lot of group check-ins and one-on-one sessions with me and the artist involved.
What has been most exciting for them in this process?
JJ: It's definitely been taking the stories of individual like Cesar Cruz and Queen Shabazz and visualizing them stylistically - accentuating their voice with light, color, composition and sound.
DT: Aside from the stipend payment and being place one a national stage, I'd say it is the opportunities express themselves using an art form and the love on a topic they're passionate about. For some of the individuals involved some excitement came from the challenge having to talk about things they weren't used to. For our producers the excitement came from producing a whole project. Over all I'd say the whole process have been exciting though.
How many of them have been touched by this issue? Example.
JJ: All of our participants know young people who have dropped out of high school and all of them have seen the social and economic consequences of these students not having received their diploma. And many more of their friends are struggling with the choice - they fail to see their education as something that will benefit them.
DT: One of the producers of the BUMP/KQED collaboration project has had quite a few difficulties with school over the past couple of years, from the administration of the school to the actual location of the school he’s been through it. On the track "Perfect School" he gets a chance to thoroughly express his experience via his 1st recorded rhyme! I interpreted his process as being very cathartic.
What are their thoughts/experiences on the dropout issue? How are they translating that into film and music?
JJ: They believe deeply that the dropout crisis is something that is institutionally manufactured to perpetuate class inequity and maintain the status quo. They are creating stories that they hope will address young people directly and speak to their lived experiences while still providing them with helpful information and resources that will encourage them to stay in school.
DT: The artist in BUMP records definitely empathize with the students who drop out of school. They recognize how imperfect the educational system is in this country and dissect it with sharp criticism. These artists have done a wonderful job at looking at the whole picture and have attempted to incorporate this into the music and the writing. Even though the artist them selves can empathize with the dropouts they still value education and encourage their peers to stick it out and fight the good fight for a better life and a brighter future.