Students create film to inspire civic engagement

Aug 25, 2017

Some Buffalo high school students immersed themselves in a special film making project over the summer. They participated in the Buffalo Youth Media Institute. WBFO's senior reporter Eileen Buckley says they premiered their short film The Civic Heart at the Buffalo Center for Arts and Technology.  

The Civic Heart premiered at the Buffalo Center for Arts and Technology.
Credit WBFO News photo by Eileen Buckley

“Civic – to me civic is citizen.” The Civic Heart is a powerful, short film opening with video of a diverse group of citizens. It moves through parts of the city and jumps to some quick clips of students.  

The film also gives you the definition of civic – “relating to a city or town.” You will then hear from nearly a dozen area leaders. Some voices you will recognize.

“I think all too often too many people sit back waiting for other people to do things,” stated Buffalo Mayor Byron Brown in the film.

Mayor Brown,  New York State Assemblywoman Crystal Peoples-Stokes and Buffalo Common Council President Darrius Pridgen all appear in the student film. 

“You know it’s important for people to be engaged. Government – the main purpose of Government is about order,” said Pridgen in the film.          

The Civic Heart at the Buffalo Center for Arts and Technology.
Credit WBFO News photo by Eileen Buckley

You will also hear from former Common Council President James Pitts.  Sarah Wooten from the Partnership for the Public Good and Samantha Nephew with Citizen Action of New York.

“To participate in your community and have a voice,” said Nephew in the film. 

Each answering questions about the need for citizens be involved in their community and what inspires these activists and political leaders to be civically engaged in their community.

“These things were taught in school,” declared Pitts in the film.

Student Savannah Worth participated in the program. She’s heading into her second year Oracle Charter School.

We asked Worth what she learned from the film project.   

Breanna Roberts, Savannah Worth, Jordan Jackson & Zaire Maysaun Goodman created the film.
Credit WBFO News photo by Eileen Buckley

“The quote that I got was from Samantha Nephew – she was like you might not be into politics, but politics are totally into you and I totally learned from that,” replied Worth.

“Will this make you more engaged in the civic end of it?” asked Buckley. “I believe so,” responded Worth.

Over the last six weeks students shot all the material and spent hours editing. They were guided by the Squeaky Wheel's Kevin Kline.  

Student Breanna Roberts is heading into her second year at the Health Science Charter School. She conducted all the interviews and worked to turn it into a conversation.  

“I walk away with how to communicate better – so basically how to talk to people better,” Roberts said.       

When Roberts was asked what stood out to her the most from the film regarding the lesson in civic engagement she responded “just basically let’s do it – let’s get involved – that’s basically what they are all saying.”

This film was funded by AT&T and supported by Squeaky Wheel and BCAT. AT&T’s partnership with BCAT and Squeaky Wheel on this initiative is a creative way to expose local students to the skills and technology necessary to create film and multimedia projects.  

AT&T's Kevin Hanna greets State Assembly woman Crystal Peoples-Stokes at the film premier.
Credit WBFO News photo by Eileen Buckley

Kevin Hanna, area Manager of External Affairs at AT&T, noted the company has committed $400 million in philanthropic projects for education programs.

BCAT Board Chairman John Koelmel says the project is another home-run for students at BCAT. 

“As a result more than two dozen of our youth have had the opportunity over the summer months to dive head first into not only the skills and training needed in film and video production, but to also learn invaluable lessons on civic engagement and public service,” remarked Koelmel.

BCAT Board Chairman John Koelmel presents the students who created the film at BCAT.
Credit WBFO News photo by Eileen Buckley

Students tell WBFO they hope the community will use the film as a teaching tool to inspire civil engagement.

“Go out and help when you can – if you can. Whenever you have the time, just help out a little. Take out the trash for someone else,” responded Zaire Maysaun Goodman, a City Honors student, who also worked on the project.    

“I learned that there is a lot people in this community who actually care to represent other people and to help people. I learned that we need to build a stronger community for everybody, so that we can succeed further in life,” replied Jordan Jackson, a St. Joseph’s Collegiate Institute student.