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At School of the Arts (SOTA) in San Francisco, film and video students set out to create independent projects twice a year. In spring semester of senior year, my friend Julian and I decided we would produce a movie so incredible, it would be remembered long after the freshmen of our graduating class were gone. Inventing the concept of our movie was no problem. But making the movie we imagined meant finding the right equipment, designing costumes, and scouting locations. Sadly, our pockets were not deep enough.
On one Friday afternoon in the middle of February, our circumstances began to change. When film class ended for the day, everyone was eager to head home and enjoy the weekend. Meanwhile, the impending doldrums of an after school job provided me with an excuse to take my time. On this serendipitous occasion, I overheard another film student talking to my film professor about applying for a grant to produce her project, a concept that quickly caught my attention. On my way to work, I could not stop thinking about this amazing opportunity. Finally I came home and googled “youth funding youth ideas.” I found a non-profit organization that provides funding to youth initiated projects four times a year. I had two weeks to apply. Instead of a due date, I saw pink and turquoise costumes covered in bronze and gold hues. I saw freshly cut high tops, too permanent perms and afros that would make a black panther proud. This was my chance to produce a movie that would set the school standard!
Julian and my teachers did not express the same excitement. In fact, they seemed outright doubtful. Why would an organization that usually supports programs for violence prevention and youth employment supply funding for a 15-minute student video project? I reassured Julian that we could do this. If we both brought our passions together on paper, how could anyone say no? The next day during lunch, we sat down in the library and took a good look at the application. It was long and demanding. It asked for a detailed breakdown of project steps, events, a budget narrative and an itemized budget list. They wondered how the world would benefit if we received the grant. I felt like I had an equal shot of winning the Miss America Pageant.
I kept moving forward. I filled the application and sent it the day it was due. When we dropped that envelope in the mail box I turned to Julian and said, “So do we have a plan B?” In short, the answer was no, there was no plan B. Our ability to complete our senior project fully depended on being approved for this grant. If we did not get it, then all of our planning, budgeting, casting, location scouting, and time would be wasted and we would be stuck at square one. As the deadline for SOTA film students to show their dailies approached, we still nervously anticipated a response to our application.
When I got my response, I was almost afraid to open it. With white knuckles, I ripped open the envelope. Dreams of legendary movie-making rode on this one tiny slip of paper — and it was good news. Youth Funding Youth Ideas granted me $5,200 for my project! “Pedestrian,” my short film about four young people’s lives intersecting at a 1980’s house party, received its green light. Sound equipment, period costumes, Madonna-worthy make-up, and even underwater housing for our fancy camera suddenly transformed from imagination to reality.
It remains to be seen whether or not our movie will stand the test of time to achieve the legendary status that my friend and I hoped for. Frankly, I want to revisit the project and make the Director’s Cut Special Edition. In the end, even in the face of doubtful teachers and friends, I refused to give up the pursuit of eternal glory.
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