Brooklyn Youth No Longer Under the Bridge: Mythic Bridge Transforms Lives Through Film

By Barika Edwards

This upcoming week the Artsy Fartsy Show will transition from our music extravaganza The WBAI Artsy Fartsy Show Battle of the Bands and into the world of film (listen to our upcoming broadcast of the Artsy Fartsy Show 4/24 on WBAI 99.5FM at 2pm). I will be covering the Tribeca Film Festival here in NYC. Please feel free to share your thoughts on the festival. As the Tribeca Film Festival is reeves up into full-gear, a wonderful organization came across my desk that I think is an excellent example of filmmakers growing in their own artistry by assisting and encouraging others.   

Mythic Bridge is a nonprofit organization focused on giving disconnected, disadvantaged teens from Bushwick and Williamsburg (Brooklyn) an opportunity to learn about the film industry through hands-on workshops and mentoring. The participants range from age 13-18 and 18-24 year olds who are not in school or working. not in school or working.  For two years, Mythic Bridge's programs has reached budding storytellers who have  financial, emotional and/or situational hardships and inspirational deficits. What I find most intriguing about this organization is the sense of community encouragement the young filmmakers receive through public screenings. The mentors, who are budding filmmakers and  actors themselves, have worked with the participants to produce six short narrative films.

Artsy Fartsy Show: How did Mythic Bridge start?

Mythic Bridge: Mythic Bridge is a natural evolution of the unique life experiences of its two co-founders, Don Klein and Gage Cass Woodle. As a survivor of the Columbine tragedy, Don gained a unique insight into the difficult process of self-discovery and transformation that occurs during adolescence. He learned first-hand that through artistic endeavors he was able to examine and ultimately make sense of his tumultuous emotions. Then, on Sep 11, 2001 Don and Gage met while attending their first day of film school in Manhattan. In the ensuing chaos, they came together as leaders and realized that they shared a powerful desire to help those around them. Gage is the son of two predominant psychiatrists. He learned early how to empathize and relate to others, skills he took and began working with in teen crisis centers. During his work with these youth he taught them to communicate and face their fears in order to become the people they always dreamed of. Gage and Don knew they needed to build on their bond and create art that supported this kind of growth, but were quickly disenchanted by the extreme difficulties they faced in doing so. They realized that this was a common struggle for young filmmakers and set out to create a community where like-minded individuals could come together and support each other toward a common goal. That’s when Mythic Bridge was born.

Artsy Fartsy Show:  Why did you want your outreach program to target disadvantaged teens?

Mythic Bridge: Co-founder Gage Cass Woodle has numerous years of experience working with teens in crisis. During that work he always felt that rather than ‘dealing with the problem’, i.e. the young people who have already made the bad decisions which landed them in trouble; it would be more effective and have a more meaningful impact to find a way to interrupt those cycles of destruction, and instead provide a constructive and positive thing to care about. It's obvious... 13 year olds are in the middle of their years where their character is being shaped into the person that they're getting ready to become. The early teens years are those years when youngsters begin to identify with one another based on a combination of things: their peer to peer relationships start to become about sharing personal interests, they begin to take interest in why they are attracted to certain people or cultures and their desire to execute on their passion is at its most raw state. Being able to journey alongside these people who are absorbing so much of their worlds is why our program targets the specific age range from 13-24. (The disconnected youth).

The future of film making lies in the hands of average people who have reasonable access to the resources of production. Tomorrow's filmmakers are very hands-on, highly collaborative, exceptionally creative, and have to sacrifice less than the filmmakers of yesterday.

Artsy Fartsy Show: Why is it important for children to learn about the film industry?

Mythic Bridge: We are currently in the digital mass media age. Everywhere we look we are bombarded with ‘content’, whether it be on television, on the internet, in the back of taxis and subways, billboards and even now at kiosks while pumping gas. We are always absorbing and digesting some piece of new media. There is no denying this, and this media does not discriminate between class, creed, color or socio-economic status. It is always there, fighting to get into our psyche and conscious thought. But what does this constant content do to an individual who already feels disconnected? Does it alienate them further? Does it make them angry and frustrated that our culture celebrates the absurd and vain while allowing them to remain in a state of struggle and thus perpetuating the cycle of disconnection and negative behavior? We believe it does, but I don’t think that it has to. We at Mythic Bridge know first hand that everyone has a story to tell, a voice longing to be heard and acknowledged. It is our opinion that by helping these disconnected youth find their voice and sharing it, we can interrupt the cycle of familiarity and allow for new growth.

Artsy Fartsy Show: Are the participants learning about all aspects of the film industry? 

Mythic Bridge: Yes, at Mythic Bridge we teach all aspects of the filmmaking process, from creation to completion we say. We help participants cultivate a film idea, then flesh it out into a strong script complete with storyboards and shot list. Then we show them all the elements of production from setting lights, recording audio and videography, directing and dealing with a live set. We then show them how to edit using popular editing software. Finally, participants learn about marketing and advertising as they promote the screening event where we premier everyone’s projects.

It is our hope that after participating in our program, participants will go and create a new community for themselves of other like-minded, creative individuals.

Artsy Fartsy Show: What do the kids gravitate towards when they start and where do the end at their experience with Mythic Bridge?

Mythic Bridge: At first, most participants want to be either a cameraperson or a director, as these are the most widely recognized roles on a film set, but we have found that during the process some people are drawn to sound recording or editing or even set design and art direction. Each person has their own unique artistic traits and simply need exposure to those elements to unlock that passion.

 [vimeo http://www.vimeo.com/30509977 w=400&h=300]

Artsy Fartsy Show: What do you most enjoy about the film industry and hope the kids will take with them?

Mythic Bridge: Filmmaking is unique in that it is truly the only team art form. It takes a group of dedicated, creative, team-playing individuals to create a high quality production.  The whole process is so collaborative and anytime that you are around other creative minds you are able to learn and grow from one another. It is our hope that after participating in our program, participants will go and create a new community for themselves of other like-minded, creative individuals.

As a survivor of the Columbine tragedy, Don learned first-hand that through artistic endeavors he was able to examine and ultimately make sense of his tumultuous emotions.

Artsy Fartsy Show: What do you think will be the future of film making?

Mythic Bridge: The future of film making lies in the hands of average people who have reasonable access to the resources of production. Tomorrow's filmmakers are very hands-on, highly collaborative, exceptionally creative, and have to sacrifice less than the filmmakers of yesterday. The future of film is much more socially responsible, accessible, and less controlled by people who care NOT for its future. The storytellers of the years to come can come from anywhere, have any background, and be from any social sector. They simply only need the desire to create what they are passionate about and what they believe in. I see in the future new facilities in every city (think YMCAs for storytellers) that provide a home, technical resources, and creative support that allow a much broader section of the community to at least try to discover if storytelling is their true calling. The future of filmmaking is most definitely more towards the independent scene than it is with Hollywood. The ability to give access to those who are denied entrance to the "selective/ exclusive" crowd of Hollywood, is what we want for our community. We see in the future a community of inclusivity, a storytelling industry that opens its doors to the streets for anyone to have access. The only requirement for storytelling of the future is empowering your imagination!

Artsy Fartsy Show: What new ideas are you finding that the kids are bringing to their film work?

Mythic Bridge: We have found an explosive response in participant's writing and active pursuits to get into the entertainment industry. One of our participants is currently working on a new script to produce that is a direct result of his experience with Mythic Bridge. A lot of our participants have found new ways to view the world around them. As far as production is concerned, using found objects and local locations for their productions, creatively thinking outside the box in order to troubleshoot their production problems, and finding new solutions faster as they adapt to a larger scopes of possibilities from their experience in "Do-it-yourself (DIY)" filmmaking that Mythic Bridge provides.

Artsy Fartsy Show: How can a teens and young adults get involved?

Mythic Bridge: A child can get involved by attending any of our events (currently the April 20th event is the closest), by logging into our website and filling out a participant in-take form, contacting Gage or Don directly through our emails off the website, and by visiting any of our workshops, productions, or promotional events. We will have contacts with counselors in most Brooklyn public middle and high schools, and we do outreach at local film and art festivals. We want to encourage kids getting involved anyway they can and we put ourselves out there to be a visible as possible.

Support Mythic Bridge through their upcoming Fundraiser:

“Transformation Tank”, a fundraising party on April 20th featuring interactive art installations and film equipment. Friday, April 20, 2012 from 9 p.m. – midnight the address revealed when tickets are purchased.

For more information about Mythic Bridge check out their website www.ilovebridge.org and Follow them on twitter @mythicbridge.