Connect with your audience

Last month, I participated in an online, social engagement chat around the documentary film A Lot Like You. The chat, hosted by AfroPop/Black Public Media and the Center for Asian American Media, was held on ITVS’ OVEE platform. OVEE is a new social screening platform for watching your favorite PBS and local public television programs. People from everywhere, locally, nationally, internationally, can join OVEE chats to watch films collectively, share responses, or even pose questions via live chat to the filmmakers or producers in attendance. A Lot Like You (ALLY) shares the story of Eliaichi Kimaro, a mixed-race, first-generation American with a Tanzanian father and Korean mother who is searching for a stronger connection to her African roots.
I was drawn to director Eliaichi Kimaros’ film because of the complexities of the issues raised, and because of the ways her team is engaging audiences around these issues. The interactive component on ALLY’s website allows people from everywhere to join the conversation around the sensitive subjects of interpersonal violence and racial and cultural identities. Users are invited to download this picture, write on it reflections inspired by the film, take a photo of what they wrote, and mail it in to the site admin.In my experience, I’ve found storytelling satisfies the human need for connection. People want to share and be heard, so what better way to activate people about important social issues than to connect to one another through shared experiences, creative expression, and resources.In my work as a filmmaker and story consultant I’m always researching and implementing new ways to engage audiences. The film I’m currently producing, You and Me and the Fruit TreesAqueila at grad pic 2012-11-05 at 9.22.55 AM, follows Angel, Aquiela and Tony who after years of childhood sexual (CSA) abuse, untangle the intergenerational forces that tainted their lives. Pictured to the left is Aqueila (in the film).

I learned that in order to get the conversation going and build collective action, one must start with mutually beneficial relationships. So, early on in the making of the film, I started partnering with many non-profit organizations.

I always suggest that filmmakers get to know their institutional partners. Once you have a solid idea of who your audience is and how you would like to use your media project to engage communities, you can begin to list who would benefit from your multimedia project, both at the level of audience and at the level of organizational partner. Your partners already know the audiences you’re trying to reach and can offer helpful advice on your audience’s needs, how to meet them, and on additional organizations in need of media to inspire dialogue around your issues of interest. I found that everyone, from rehabilitation centers to youth centers and educational institutions, seeks tools to deepen the conversation.

Learning about how our partners aim to serve their demographic helped our team begin to build a website that could meet that need by allowing community members to share their stories of how CSA has impacted them directly or indirectly. The website also includes mapping the impact CSA has on society, to bring awareness around this endemic.
More and more people are interested in using media as an educational tool. Whether it be a series of short video clips, an audio story, or even a curriculum that accompanies a film, educators and advocates value tools that will help their constituencies better understand — and even connect with — an issue. For You and Me and the Fruit Trees, we are building an engagement toolkit to be used with the film for educational institutions, rehabilitation centers and adult and youth prisons.

But always remember, that no matter how many partners you have or how strong your curricular materials, those can easily become moot if you don’t begin with powerful storytelling. Once you have mastered this, you can easily be on your way to raise collective action and empower audiences everywhere.

Tracey Quezada
Producer | Director | Filmmaker

Tracey Quezada Productions is a film and television production company that highlights stories of women, children and other under-represented communities. Through compelling story telling Tracey Quezada Productions increases awareness and inspires dialogue around the issues covered.

300,000 Screen shot 2011-01-10 at 5.24.22 PM

Survivors, Mother’s day and Mixed Emotions

dysfunctional mother daughter relationship
freedom in recovery

Mother’s Day can be a tough time for Survivors.  There are many reasons for this and often we don’t look at those reasons but rather wonder why there is some anxiety or even depression around that time of the year.

Sometimes deep down I felt that my mother didn’t protect me.  She didn’t listen to me when I tried to tell her things. She made light of some things and minimized other things.  She put me in danger with men and she didn’t pick up on the clues that there was sexual abuse going on. She was a flirt herself and communicated to me that my only value was sexual.  Having these deep down feelings and resentments about my mother caused me to feel guilty and ungrateful.

At the same time, I always felt sorry for my mother. I knew that she herself had a really tough childhood, and I felt for her. I excused her narcissistic behaviour towards me and our dysfunctional mother daughter relationship because of her own difficult childhood.  She put me in the role of establishing her value, and I tried to fulfill that need in her but no one can ever do that for another person. I was a child who was trying to prove to my mother that she was lovable. I thought that if I could love her enough, then she would love me. I tried harder and harder. That is what children do. It is one of the ways that we try to survive. Somehow I thought that if I failed to restore her value, that she would reject me and that I would die all alone; too young and too little to survive in the big world.

I was not aware of any of this while I was growing up and though I struggled with depressions and low self esteem I did not realize that my own depressions were not only related to child sexual abuse, but also related to this emotional abuse and emotional neglect. My mother did not have enough self esteem herself to help me to establish my own self esteem. Her mother did not have enough self esteem to help my mother establish hers either. So the mother daughter dysfunctional relationships were passed down from generation to generation.

It was in separating these two issues; that my mother was badly hurt by her own mother, AND that my mother did not parent me (both of which were true) that I found emotional healing in relation to my mother.

I also realized as an adult that I still had the childhood fears that if I didn’t find that key to prove my worth and hers, that she would reject me and I would die and in realizing that deep seated belief, I was able to realize that belief isn’t true; it is a lie. I can survive now. I am no longer that dependent child.  That truth opened doors to many other truths on my journey to freedom and full emotional recovery from trauma, depression and abuse.

Happy Mother’s Day ~

In the end I had to re-parent myself in order to put the missing building blocks in place. Today I have three teenage children whose lives are very different then mine was.

Please visit my blog and growing community at Emerging from Broken

Darlene Ouimet

Broken, Different, Shame Filled and Guilty ~ and Then…

The Journey, the Path to recovery

We find each other when we are ready to face some of the abuse that happened to us. We search for others in order not to feel so alone ourselves. We enjoy the camaraderie, the feeling of being understood and our common bonds. There is a unity, a common bond and an understanding that we don’t feel with everyone.

I felt different for so many years. I felt like I didn’t fit in, like I didn’t belong and I thought there was something wrong with me. I felt guilty for not being grateful, for not being happy and was ashamed of the depressions that I struggled with. I didn’t realize they were born out of the childhood abuse events that had not been taken care of properly.

I sought others who had suffered abuse worse than the abuse that I suffered so I could tell myself to stop complaining about what happened to me. This did not help me at all. I only talked about one abusive event in my life and I shrugged my shoulders when I even thought about some of the violence that I lived in, as if to say “ah, it was no big deal”. I had attempted to talk to a few professionals about my past, but I was often met with a neutral attitude, which really just affirmed to me that I was making too big a deal out of my story. I had always been told by my family that I was dramatic.  One day when I was at the end of my rope, I decided to try one last mental health professional and something happened that became the beginning of my recovery.

Last week I published a blog post on the blog “Emerging from Broken” about the first session I had with that same therapist who eventually took me from shattered and broken, to wholeness and freedom.  At the time of this writing there are 29 comments on that post. It really stirred up some feelings within my readers, and I thought I would share it with you here as well.

I called it “My Therapist Winced when I told him…..” I hope you stop by to read it and the comments that it generated from other survivors too.

Wishing you Freedom and Wholeness,

Darlene Ouimet