Hi! I’m Courtney, co-founder and producing director of Look What SHE Did! Here’s a video of me being scrappy during last year’s Ebell Women’s Club shoot! I’m so proud to be building this organization with an incredible team of creative, industrious women. I love how we all seem to be at our best when we’re getting our hands dirty and figuring things out as we go. That can-do spirit fuels our organization and the lives of so many of the incredible women we’ve learned about over the years through our project. Help us keep growing and inspiring: DONATE!
My name is Farrel Levy and I am the lead editor and a director for Look What She did.
I came on board when Look What She Did was not officially launched but was actively germinating in Julie’s and Jill’s minds. I loved the idea of women talking passionately about women who have inspired them and then sharing those stories with the world. The concept became a reality the first day of actually shooting the videos in Julie’s glorious backyard and I did not want to miss it. As I watched those women sit and tell about the women who had moved them, I was captivated by these true stories I was hearing for the first time.
After these first interviews were shot, Julie and I played around with the editing, to try to come up with a signature style that would reflect how Look What She Did would present itself. We aimed to pack in as much as much as we could in a roughly 3 ½ minute video. As these important stories unfolded, we discovered that storytellers’ love for her subject was a compelling element that needed to be felt as well. We decided to make sure their personalities shine through by including their laughter, tone of voice or facial expressions. The backyard setting, and the casual style that runs throughout all the videos, is informal and we wanted the editing style to be loose and informal, too.
I work with a talented bunch of women editors to make these videos happen. Because we work from longer interviews, we have the opportunity to learn that much more about these amazing women. It is a treat, but there is so much really interesting stuff that we have to cut out. It’s always difficult to decide what will be left “on the cutting room floor” because these women have all contributed so much and the women who talk about them are always enthusiastic about sharing their accomplishments. The women doing the talking, all dynamic in their own right, are actually revealing their own values, so each time we edit an interview it is a fascinating revelation about the subject and the person who is on camera. Everyone on our editing team feels proud to be identified with all of these fabulous women.
As a professional television editor I know the power that good stories have over all of us. It is my hope that as viewers engage in our videos, the compelling stories of these real women will play a role in continuing to tilt the cultural landscape in favor of empowered females young and old. Like all great heroines, the women I was learning about that first day of shooting, and continue to learn about as I edit these interviews, are brave, they have a vision, they are smart, they believe in themselves, they persist against all kinds of odds and adversity, they have spunk, they are creative, they are compassionate, and if we pay attention, they can show us the way forward.
Here’s a behind-the-scenes snippet from our Look What SHE Did! shoot last year at the Ebell— you’ll see I’m not nearly as comfortable on camera as I am behind the camera! Watch, and if you support what we’re doing, please DONATE to our fundraising campaign, whatever you can give will be GREATLY APPRECIATED. We rely on you to keep doing this work. – Julie
It is a beautiful thing to finally see something you have spent so much time on come to life.
November 5th was a day I had been looking forward to for almost six months. As the four other Archer girls and I showed up to Julie’s house, we entered into a familiar, all-female environment. It was so odd to think that all the hard work and preparation was about to come down to the next five or six hours. We were excited to soak up as much information as possible from our Look What SHE Did! mentors and then begin working by ourselves.
These were our roles for the day:
Cat Oriel: Producer
Sophie Evans-Katz: Cinematographer
Lucia Barker: Director
Rose Shulman-Litwin: Photographer/Interviewed about artist Hannah Wilke
Nelly Rouzroch: Sound recordist/Interviewed about journalist Ethel L. Payne
Similar to the Ebell Shoot, my tasks included making sure we stayed on schedule, updating the slate and changing camera batteries. Since I had already shadowed Courtney, I got to work right away backing up data.
The plan was for us to watch the Look What SHE Did! crew do two interviews with social media influencers Brittany Ashley and Gaby Dunn, and then for us to take control for the last two.
First, we observed Sev Kastrati work behind the camera as Julie directed and interviewed Brittany Ashley. Brittany spoke about research professor Brené Brown, who is well known for her TED Talk entitled “The Power of Vulnerability.” For the second interview of the day, Gaby Dunn spoke about NASA aerospace engineer and mathematician Dr. Christine Darden.
In the afternoon, it was our turn. Rose spoke about artist Hannah Wilke, and then Nelly told us about journalist Ethel L. Payne. Lucia asked them questions, while Sophie filmed.
I liked how Rose and Nelly spoke about how those women have influenced their work as an artist and a journalist, respectively. It made me realize that Look What SHE Did! does more than simply tell the stories of women who deserve more credit. By talking about those who inspire us and sharing their stories, we are also talking about ourselves. We are revealing our own values and beliefs. The people we look up to give others insight into who we are and who we strive to be.
Rose and Nelly both spoke so gracefully, comfortably, candidly and passionately. I was impressed by Lucia, because I could tell she helped them feel comfortable. She made it feel as if they were having a normal conversation, just like Julie does. And when I transferred the data onto the computer, I admired Sophie’s beautiful camera work. I was so happy to have such a great team of girls working with me and making this all possible. I couldn’t help but feel extremely proud to be their fellow Archer girl and friend.
Although the shoot is complete, there is still a lot of work ahead. Once the videos are edited, we are going to plan a screening to further promote the organization. I hope we can create a model plan so that other schools could host a similar mentorship project themselves. And perhaps it is time for me to start planning my next video! Wherever the future takes us, I can’t wait to see what 2018 has in store. I know that there are big and exciting things coming for LookWhatSHEDid!
Planning the Archer Shoot
Looking back at our initial ideas, the actual shoot looked a lot different than we originally thought it would. From the time we started planning in September to filming day in November, a lot of things happened and changed. But, as I’ve written before, sometimes things don’t go according to plan, and it is usually for the better.
When thinking about the location for the shoot, our high school seemed like the perfect place to film, and we were excited about the idea of filming in Archer’s beautiful central courtyard. However, because of the amount of construction on campus, Archer was not able to accommodate this activity, but still offered to support us in any way possible. We decided to film in Julie’s backyard instead.
When writing the grant, we were planning to have 8 girls total on our team. These roles included a producer, director, cinematographer, sound recordist and 4 interviewees. I initially wanted to reach out to members of different leadership club who could fill out applications about why they should be selected to be interviewed, but I did not want to add more stress to girls’ already hectic workload.
I sent out an email to my entire grade of about 80 girls, and I reached out individually to the girls who attended our small meeting in May. I also approached girls who I thought would be interested, like if they were in the film class or theater. Since this time of the year is really hectic for seniors trying balance schoolwork and extracurriculars with meeting college application deadlines, a lot of girls who were interested simply did not have the time. I still was able to put together a team of 7 other girls that were very excited about the project.
A few weeks before the shoot, Courtney Graham reached out to me about how LWSD! started working with a few consultants at Buzzfeed to help the organization increase their social media presence. She told me that they offered to connect us with YouTubers/social influencers who wanted to be interviewed about the women who inspired them. This was perfect timing because three of the crew members were no longer able to make it. Plus, when I told the girls on the team that we would have the opportunity to work with members of Buzzfeed/YouTubers, they were even more excited to be part of the project.
After finally figuring out my team members and everyone’s roles, I also worked with our film teacher to borrow the necessary equipment, like cameras, SD/video cards, batteries and tripods.We figured it would be best to use Archer’s equipment, since girls should be learning on the cameras that we have available to us at school.
What was once a crew of 8 shrunk down to 5, but I always had complete faith that we were going to make it work. With everything ready to go, I left school on Friday with the cameras and other equipment from our media space and prepared for our shoot on Sunday, November 5.
Applying for the Center for Cultural Innovation’s Investing in Tomorrow Organizational Grant
On May 31, more than two months after attending my first Look What SHE Did! event, I received an email from Julie Hébert about applying for the Investing in Tomorrow Organizational Grant through the Center for Cultural Innovation (CCI).
With the support of the William and Flora Hewlett Foundation, CCI created this grant program to support new arts leadership in California. They were looking to invest in art/culture projects that would help address issues such as intergenerational leadership, multicultural leadership, inclusion and equity. The projects were required to be authored and led by diverse and/or junior-level leaders that are part-time or full-time employees or in some other way formally affiliated with the organization.
When Julie found out about the opportunity to apply for the grant, she thought of me and the Archer shoot that we had begun to talk about. Our idea was to approach the grant from an intergenerational point of view, because we wanted the shoot to be a mentorship program. Girls would have the opportunity to be mentored by a director, cinematographer, producer, etc. and then take on that role themselves. We also wanted to shoot to serve as a template for other schools in the future.
Since the grant writer was required to work for the organization, I became a youth blogger for LWSD! and wrote my first blog back in May then I began to work on the grant. I wrote about the project’s goals to encourage intergenerational leadership, foster new, diverse young female leadership in media arts and allow girls to improve their video making skills while introducing them to a large network of professionals. In addition to working on the writing portion of the grant, I helped create the budget. After a lot of drafting and a few revisions, I was really happy with the final narrative.
A few months later, we found out that we did not receive the grant. I spent so much time working on it during my summer vacation, so I was initially a bit disappointed. However, I know that everything happens for a reason. I still gained valuable knowledge from this experience — not many 16 year olds can say they’ve written a grant before!
Nevertheless, we continued planning the shoot.
As the News and Features editor of my school paper, I have interviewed countless classmates, teachers, administrators and even random strangers. I’ve always been a good listener, but I haven’t had a lot of experience being interviewed myself.
During Look What SHE Did!’s Ebell Theater shoot on August 13, I broke out of my comfort zone — I was interviewed about Dolores Huerta, Human Rights Activist and co-founder of the United Farm Workers. I was extremely nervous for my interview, but in the end, I thought it went really well. During the interviews before mine, I noticed that they get better as they went on because the subject calmed down and became more comfortable. Initially, I was worried about not saying the right thing, but I soon realized that it was just like having a normal conversation. Plus, I think the candidness and lack of continuity are what make Look What SHE Did! videos so unique.
Aside from being interviewed, I also shadowed Courtney Graham and learned about what a producer does. My tasks included keeping us on schedule, charging camera batteries, doing the slate and backing up data. When we ran into difficulties, like noise coming from the busy street next to us, car alarms going off and the sun ruining our lighting, Courtney was there to help problem solve and continue on. She taught me so much, and at the end of the day, I jokingly told Courtney I was ready to take over her job. I also joked with her that being a producer means waiting for things to go awry so that you can fix them. What I said was so wrong, but funny and sort of true. I think of producers as creative problem solvers that are ready to tackle any situation and let everyone know that everything is going okay.
I loved being on set and finally being part of the magic that happens during a Look What SHE Did! video shoot. It was great that this shoot allowed me to experience being both in front of and behind the camera. I’m excited to apply what I learned during that shoot to LWSD!’s upcoming mentorship shoot with other girls who attend Archer!
We completed our latest Look What She Did! shoot at the end of August in Julie’s backyard (and two in the front yard– we got wild). Our all-gal crew was amazing (!) and we filmed nine interviews in just one weekend, our biggest shoot ever. Two incredible, inspiring days filled with crazy-great women talking about other crazy-great women. Stay tuned, we’ll be posting new videos soon.
Here are some of our newest co-conspirators (click on image to enlarge):
Here are a few photos from our two-day Look What She Did! shoot in Julie’s Backyard…
We had Dr. Julie Sgarzi speaking about Jungian analyst Gilda Frantz who at 87 has just published her first book.
Activist attorney Ruth Cusick told us about Magdalena Aguirre a woman who escaped the civil war in El Salvador then sent money back to her family over the years to fund a family compound of four houses.
We had a blast listening to the stories of these amazing women and recording them for you. The edited interviews will be posted soon.
Meanwhile, hearty thanks to our generous and talented crew this time around, including DP Ellie Ann Fenton (seen here with Director Julie Hébert.)
The crew also includes Producer and Sound Engineer Courtney Graham, Producer and Bon Vivant Jill Klein, and thank-god-they-know-how-to-do-this-stuff Editors Farrel Levy and Franzis Muller.
This project couldn’t happen without a lot of women giving a lot of time and we are so grateful to you all. More fun to come!