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The next Martin Scorsese may be located right in the Bronx, among a group of teens who took their summer off from school as an opportunity to learn filmmaking.

The program, called the Visually Speaking series, was developed by The Drammeh Institute, and funded by the United Way of New York City. It entails youth creating short digital films and poetry pieces with leading industry leaders such as a veteran filmmaker Al Santana and Urban World NYC, while also giving them the opportunity to collaborate with a major recording artist on their final group project.

The students, who work out of space in the community center at Dreiser Loop in Co-op City through this month, first create poems dealing with some aspect of their everyday existence. Then they find images that are associated with the poem to put into their short, digital films.

According to project director I.M. Drammeh, the Visually Speaking series offers exciting challenges in critical thinking that deepens students’ understanding of film theory, history, and the stories they are exploring, all in a multi-disciplinary approach. 

“This is a pilot program which the United Way and another sponsor, Tekserve Mac, has asked us to do again,” said Drammeh. “We were invited to apply for grants through the United Way and this program seemed great for the children.”

The Visually Speaking students have taken field trips to Manhattan to shoot footage that goes along with the poems they have written, and have even recorded sound for their films in the studio of rapper Curtis Walker, more commonly known as Kurtis Blow. 

Drammeh started the institute several years ago to deal with pressing issues she felt was affecting her community. The grant for filmmaking is one of several projects the Institute is working on dealing with various artistic endeavors, including Gospel music.  

One of the students who involved in this year’s Visually Speaking series is 17-year-old Melanie Gonzalez, who is making a film about diversity in New York City, based on a poem she composed earlier in the summer.

“My poem is about New York and how there are so many different viewpoints in one place,” Gonzalez noted. “All my footage was shot around the city, showing how different our experiences are for all of us.”

Gonzalez said she is learning about using a digital camera, and with the help of Apple computers donated by Tekserve Mac, how to edit the digital footage and sound effects used in her film.

“The film is almost like a music video; you have many images related to the narrative of the spoken word poem around it,” Gonzalez stated. “For college, I think I may even major in film, so this is a good beginning for me. I learned a lot about using computer programs, cameras, and digital film editing in just a few weeks.”  

For more information about the Visually Speaking series or the Drammeh Institute, please call Elise Edwards at (718) 737-1976 or visit the institute on the web at www.thedrammehinstitute.com.

 

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