Thursday, June 12, 2008

Storytelling Studio International!

Wow, I feel pretty nervous and scared and excited like a kind of an old timey newsreporter calling into his boss to give him the latest scoop about a weird mix of disturbing and somewhat heartwarming news. The storytelling studio is going SO WELL!

In case you are out of the loop, i have been making kid´s workshops, where we teach children from about 5-13 how to create their own stories and develop them across multiple media formats, eventually resulting in their own personal animated video that they get to act in. Check out :

for more info about past projects.

Anyway, back in March i began negotiations to implement this kind of program in Quito, and so now i am here working with Literature professor, Alvaro Aleman. We have only had two real days with the kids so far, but they were amazing. They are so into it. They actually showed up with their preliminary packets done, and their stories are so good and incredibly interesting!

All the kids come from this kind of squatter settlement that united a few years back and got kind legalized, but it is up on the side of the volcano overlooking the city, and is incredibly poor.

So one big aspect of all the kids´ stories comes from the fact that all the kids in this area have to work: either begging, selling things on the street, or performing on the street (or stealing).

For example, two of the kids are brothers and breathe fire on the street as performers and their story is about them being dragons and chasing away evil wizards.

Other examples of some of the really interesting/scary/neat stories they are doing based on weird real life experiences:

One kid has to get up at like 5 every morning to gather and recycle cardboard before he gets to go to school and so his story is about a time that the cardboard wants to go to school with him so he brings it and they all learn stuff together.

One girl wrote about her brother who i guess makes fires on the mountainside, but one time the fire got out of control, and the animals and the sun brought him to like nature court, with a bear lawyer, and like a Jaguar DA and all kinds of stuff

One girl´s mom makes meals everyday for a neighboring construction crew, and has to chop up vegetables all day. So one day the knife rebels and won´t go back to work until the mom apologizes for working the knife so hard.

One kid´s dad wanted to be a bullfighter, so one time his mom had him practice when he was little trying to bullfight the family pig, but the pig just got angry and threw him up in the air.

One is about a group of pigs they decide to be entreprenuerial and open up a Bacon shop, because they don´t know what bacon is, but then people come in and just eat them. (one interesting thing is that nearly half of all the stories involve a pig since all the kids houses have pigs)

One girl´s friend was a singer i think, and i guess one time she got really drunk and thrown into jail but then she sang and the cops let her go.

The most incredible thing is how engaged these kids are, they are the hardest working kids i have ever seen! And i guess it is because this is so much easier and actually fun than the rest of their poor little lives.

Here is a shot of alvaro teaching the kids about settings and characters.

I think these videos are going to be really terrifc, and we are going to visit the kids´works and get some footage of them breathing fire etc...

The whole community is really involved too, we got one volunteer per kid! And today we got a novelist to help teach writing the stories, and a graphic designer to help the kids with their drawings.

On top of this, I am compiling footage of what we are doing that we will combine with interviews with professionals and footage of the kids actual jobs on the street to form a documentary to send out to the government and stuff in order to strive for some sort of Child Labor reform.

One of the main ladies is a child psychologist who has been working with kids like this for 10 years and she is super excited about trying to get their stories out.

She made some interesting notes about how sad it was that we were trying to get the kids to come up with fantastic stories about anyplace and time but the kids weren´t able to think outside of the confines of their horrible jobs they have to work. Some of the older kids are able to dress it up in fantasy a bit, but the younger ones cannot and are stuck in the reality of what they do.

So, for example, there are 2 hermanos who both breathe fire on the street, and the older one made his story about him being a dragon and chasing away evil wizards, but the younger one just made his story about a time when he accidently lit his whole chest on fire, and no people would help him in the street and he had to just run around on fire until his brother got him and saved him. Really intense stuff like that.

Anyway these kids are incredibly smart and really fun to work with, I hope the documentary can be good enough to help them out. This whole project is getting way more incredible than i could have expected.


The Parenting 24/7 Team said...

Wow, can't wait to see the stories!

Linda said...

wow, Andy, everything you're doing there sounds amazing, and I'm sure you're making a great impact on the kids' lives. I hope the project continues to go well!

HomeBeer said...

Damn Andy, that is just amazing. I wish I could have come down there with you. Can't wait to hear more.