In early May 2021 teenage students from four continents and in four different times zones excitedly awaited the screening of the videos their international teams had just finished producing. It was Sunday evening in Bellingham, Washington for the ZOOM premier although for three of Bellingham’s sister cities it was Monday at 7:00 AM for those in Vaasa, Finland and Monday at 1:00 PM for Tateyama, Japan and 3:00 PM for Port Stephens, Australia.
Under the direction of Tom Flint, founder and facilitator of Filmbuilding.org, and Lauren McClanahan, director of the Bellingham Youth Media Project, the 14 students had worked together in three teams to create videos around the theme of “Resemblances.” Resourceful teenagers that they are, they used a translator program to overcome any language barrier, and they used WhatsApp and Instagram to communicate with distant team members in other time zones. Good communication was essential as they encouraged each other to obtain still photos and video clips that fit their vision of lifestyle and geographic resemblances in their various cities.
After some initial “getting to know you” activities, Tom helped everyone download the link to WeVideo.com, the cloud-based software the students would use to edit their movie projects. Since the software is cloud-based, group members were able to load all their files in to one project timeline and then any group member could edit their work regardless of their location or time of day. This was a great example of sister city cooperation since each of the three groups had at least three different countries and languages represented.
The majority of time for the first two sessions was devoted to working in ZOOM “breakout rooms” where team members could collaborate apart from other groups to discuss what resemblances they shared in their lives, their schools, their hobbies, their foods, etc. Two other early, major decisions the team members had to make were what type of format they were going to use to tie together all their video material and what each person planned to videotape on his/her own time. Throughout the next few days they imported their personal clips in to their group’s WeVideo project timeline and did simple editing wherever needed. It was great seeing how quickly these strangers bonded in to a group to collaboratively create videos even though the group members were scattered around the world.
In the third ZOOM session the groups shared what they had completed so far. Each group had followed Tom’s advice and obtained more material than was necessary. This allowed them to be selective in choosing only the most appropriate clips to include in their five-minute final video presentation. Since the “premier” screening was to be done the following day, each group selected one or two members to do the final editing.
For the closing workshop session all participants were encouraged to invite family, friends, classmates, etc. to watch the video premiers via ZOOM. With over 40 spectators watching, Tom shared the first video, and then the creative students who produced that video were given an opportunity to reflect upon their production experience. Moreover, audience members were given an opportunity to ask questions or comment. This same procedure was followed for the showing of the second and third “Resemblances” videos.
Positive comments abounded regarding the fantastic effort the 14 students had put forth to successfully produce their thematic reflections. All three groups uniquely presented their view of “Resemblances” of life in these four sister cities, and it was great to hear the students comment on the beauty of each other’s locations, the various talents each member displayed, the foods they ate, etc. A number of them said they were going to miss working together with their group members and eagerly wanted to visit each other’s cities.
To view the three final videos, please visit: https://filmbuilding.org/resemblances. To contact Tom Flint of filmbuilding.org, please write to him at firstname.lastname@example.org. To contact Lauren McClanahan of the Bellingham Youth Media Project, please write to her at email@example.com.
Five typical comments from the participants’ program evaluations include:
- “It was super cool to see how alike we all are, despite living so far away from one another.”
- “I enjoyed talking to people with different cultures. I had fun explaining my culture to everyone else because it made me understand my culture a bit more.”
- “Through communication with friends, I was able to discover wonderful things about the city, which also helped improve my English ability.”
- “Working with people from other cultures is something that is of interest to me, and something I want to do more often!”
- “I discovered] That there is always a way to make other people understand you. Working together is key.”
In closing, this collaborative activity between Filmbuilding, the Bellingham Youth Media Project and the Bellingham Sister Cities Association was very successful due to the enormous efforts of the 14 students, the teachers who recruited them and the parents who helped the participants gather video material. It is hoped that similar worldwide collaborative endeavors will occur again.