When Chicago high school student Antoinette Green and her team made their first short film last summer, they named it Southside Pride. That name, Green said, was intentional.
“South Side pride to me is showing the other aspects of Chicago that aren’t downtown,” said Green, who attends Lindblom Math and Science Academy in West Englewood. “Usually, when someone will talk about Chicago, they’ll talk about the main things like museums, the Water Tower and everything else. Nobody talks about the little things that go unrecognized like skating rinks, block parties, what really makes Chicago Chicago.”
Now a junior, Green is on the Chicago International Film Festival Youth Council and an active member of the local filmmaking community, but it was one particular program that planted the seed for her burgeoning interest: a joint film program for teen girls created by DePaul University and the Chicago Housing Authority.
The program will begin its fourth year this summer, and participants of the annual six-week training are high school girls who live in public housing all across Chicago. They break up into teams and decide on the themes for their short films. DePaul faculty and graduate student mentors guide them through the filmmaking process, including scheduling, production, interview techniques, sound equipment, camera operation and editing.
Program Director Liliane Calfee came up with the idea shortly after arriving at DePaul’s School of Cinematic Arts. Her proposal centered on the idea of an intensive camp to teach young women filmmaking skills to “share their perspectives on social topics important to them.”
“As a film school, we are always looking at how can we increase diversity and gender equality,” Calfee said.
Calfee soon connected with staff at the housing authority who had a similar goal. And now, the program is one of CHA’s many youth programs, geared at keeping its younger residents safe.
“We understand that youth violence peaks in the summer because young people are out of school,” said Ebony Campbell, CHA’s director of youth opportunities. “It's important for us to make sure that we have opportunities and supports for young people to keep them safe and engaged during out-of-school time, particularly during the summer.”
Antoinette Green and the other 15 girls in her group will premiere their films on Sunday and have a post-screening discussion with Chaz Ebert of RogerEbert.com. Green said that although she hopes to be a lawyer someday, she thinks all teens like her should have the opportunity to have creative experiences.
“Actually, everyone should get the experience to try new things,” Green said. “Being a person that directs movies, that isn't something normal. So I feel like it's good for people to try programs like that — not just moviemaking, [but activities] like singing and dancing and something to get us active.”
Arionne Nettles is a digital producer at WBEZ covering arts and culture. Follow her on Twitter at @arionnenettles.