Working with young people

Easily bored, no attention span, noisy, fussy eaters, expect the world, think adults don't know what they're doing, lack of appreciation - it turns out everything they say about Generation Y is true.

Until now I've managed to avoid working with young people and I still don't really know how it happened. A conversation between my administrator, Kayla, and our director of sales and youth projects, Lucy, a hastily composed funding application, some frantic policy writing and form filling and - poof! We had ourselves a youth film project.

Well, I'd worked with unemployed, homeless, depressed, disabled, incredibly intelligent and sometimes difficult people since I started Poached (and before that too). I figured I could handle it.

At first it was frustrating. They listened - I think - to the brilliant trainers we'd lined up for them. Experienced filmmakers and screenwriters who'd worked for the BBC and Ginger Productions had volunteered their time for us. But our young crew were bored, they hated the lunch we'd provided and were itching to get stuck in to the filming.

Then it was stressful. We had a film to make. They were lukewarm when it came to creating a script. It was starting to feel like we'd have to drag the young crew through a process they'd completely lost interest in - and this was only week 2!

Then I learnt something. We'd thought it was their project, told them it was their project, encouraged them to make it their project. But we hadn't acted like it was. And they felt like we weren't listening to them. After a morning working with our film production trainer they called me in.

"We're changing the script."

OK, I thought. Let's see where this goes.

"It's going to be more of a drama than a documentary."

Panic! That meant actors, mocking up locations, a full script.

"It's going to be a metaphor - you know what that means?"

I could barely contain my rage but I fought the urge to throw the Concise Oxford at them.

Then they went on to describe what they'd come up with. It was creative, ambitious, a hell of a lot of work. They referenced some of the techniques they'd learnt in some of our more "boring" sessions. I couldn't help but smile. I questioned them on why they thought it would work, if they'd watch it, if they were willing to put the work in. Their enthusiasm and commitment was evident. I couldn't have been more relieved.

They wrote the script, found the actors, agreed the locations, did all the paperwork, got all the filming done on an incredibly tight schedule and now we're in the editing phase. They've come up with a far more ambitious short film than I would have dreamt of doing in the time and they've pretty much pulled it off.

It will probably seem obvious to anyone who's used to working with young people (or any other group for that matter), but there's an incredibly powerful response when you stop trying to help people do what you want them to do and genuinely support them to do something that they believe in. Far too many projects, I believe, fall into the trap of the former. I'm just glad I had some Gen Ys around to jolt me out of it.

You can follow their progress and book tickets for the free screening at Rich Mix 0n 19 August on the Hackney Hounds website.

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