By Hannah Lustyik–
Kate Abrams, a seventh grader from Irvington Middle School, has won an inaugural international film competition.
The award was given by Videos for Change, an Australian-based nonprofit filmmaking program. Kate was introduced to the program when Irvington Theater presented a virtual, collaborative, two-week filmmaking class for students last July. (After its successful launch, the theater ran a second after-school course in the fall and hopes to continue the program later this year.) Participants enrolled from communities in and outside of the rivertowns (including Yonkers, Brooklyn, and New Jersey); Irvington Theater provided scholarships for students who could not otherwise take the course, bringing together kids from a diversity of backgrounds and interests. At the close of each session, the theater produced a virtual festival for students and their families, where Kate’s video premiered.
Videos for Change seeks to teach and empower children ages 11-18 regarding issues related to human rights, social justice, and self-expression. Its founders seek accessibility, meaning anyone of any skill set can participate, ranging from amateur to intermediate filmmakers. Originally, the program was limited to Australia, but the growing pandemic prompted them to branch out and invite participants—virtually—from around the globe.
This year, Videos for Change held their first-ever filmmaking competitions open to middle and high school students in the United States. The contests were generally open-ended, with submissions related to social justice and human rights, allowing participants to shape their own storyline to their liking rather than being confined to a content requirement.
Kate’s film, “More Than,” which won for Best Middle School Video, focuses on women’s empowerment. While only one minute in length, it delivers a timeless message to its audience: women are more than extras in the background of a man’s story, they are anything that they strive to be. They are not defined by what people expect of them, they are more than their expectations.
Kate has long had an interest in tackling gender inequality. “I noticed a lot of the time that because of the way you are, you get unfair treatment,” she says. Kate invested a lot of time researching women’s inequality before creating her film, including a science fair project detailing how toys are marketed according to gender.
“We are more than models; we are role models,” Kate says off-screen in her video as visuals of strong women and girls emerge from previously blacked-out silhouettes.
Kate admits that she has had no previous experience with film. “I had never seriously tried to edit something before,” she said. She says she filmed “More Than” on a phone and edited using FinalCut Pro software.
After her positive experience with the Videos for Change program and her newly-realized talent, Kate says that she hopes to create more films in the future. “I want to try to use different softwares to try to film and edit.” She also hopes that her future films achieve broader outreach. Kate wants to focus on “worldwide topics, not just here in New York or America” to highlight under-reported global issues.
Kate praises Videos for Change: “You felt like ‘Oh, they’re teaching me stuff that’s important,’” she says in describing how the program was inclusive and collaborative. Prior to taking the two-week summer program, Kate did not know anyone else in the program. However, she found it was easy to get involved because students and teachers alike were supportive of one another. “I would definitely do it again.”
Asked what she wanted to do in the future, Kate explained she would love to work on the educational side of creative things like art or dance. “If I can help someone,” she says, “that would be really cool.”