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Reel Grrls on a Mission: Bring diversity to the Director’s chairs

Their message empowers youth to use technology to express themselves



"We can provide the tools that make people responsible storytellers and critical storytellers,” says Nancy Chang, executive director of Reel Grrls.

PHOTO: SHUTTERSTOCK

Year after year, girls and women get short shrift in popular media. Nearly 70 percent of the characters in the top grossing films last year were male. Women were three times more likely than men to be shown in sexually revealing clothes in the movies, according to new research from USC’s Annenberg School for Communication and Journalism.

Seattle’s Reel Grrls would like to change that by getting more girls and other young, minority filmmakers behind the camera.  

Since 2001, Reel Grrls has offered a variety of programs to help underrepresented voices be heard through moviemaking. The nonprofit also teaches media literacy to help kids recognize bias, sexism and discrimination in media — and to learn not to perpetuate those attitudes in their own creations. 

“We can provide the tools that make people responsible storytellers and critical storytellers,” says Nancy Chang, executive director of Reel Grrls.

For elementary- and middle-school-age kids, there are workshops in which students use iPads and smartphones to create stop-motion animated films. Kids can use various mediums, including Legos, drawings, clay and toys, for the videos. 

Reel Grrls holds classes in partnership with the Seattle Public Library and the King County Library System. They’ve also organized afterschool workshops in partnership with PTA organizations. In the summer, Reel Grrls holds a variety of camps. 

The group is eager to support not only girls, but also kids who are gay or have different sexual or gender identities. Films and videos made by kids are more relatable for other youth, they explain. They can encourage conversations and respect for diverse ideas and identities.

Reel Grrls’ message for kids is that they’re empowered to use technology to express themselves. 

“You can do something that is really smart now,” Chang says, “and here is someone in your age range who has done it.”

reelgrrls.org

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