I am a director and editor at PWPvideo. I started with the company in 2017 and bring with me over ten years of experience in the media business.
My work history is varied and includes stints in reality television, news, sports, and web video. As a director I’m interested in stories about people, the work they do and the lives they lead that often go unnoticed. As an editor, I’m tasked with structuring these stories in ways that make them emotionally resonant, compelling viewing, and stand out in an environment oversaturated with video content. Every project has its unique challenges, but over the years I’ve learned that the first step in any creative process with a client or subject is always the easiest. It simply requires showing up with an open mind and listening to a story that has yet to be told.
This is the first video I directed and edited for ACHIEVEability. After sitting down with the executive director and staff it was clear that the organization was looking for a fresh approach to communicating its mission. In short, that mission is to end the cycle of generational poverty for families in West Philadelphia through affordable housing, higher education, and job support programs.
Previous ACHIEVEability videos employed a voice-of-God-style narration to do this. To me, this was problematic for several reasons. For one, it created a distance between viewer and subject that made it difficult to truly empathize with what was being said and shown. Secondly, this creative decision denied the subject agency over her own story, agency that all the people who go through ACHIEVEability work so hard to achieve. Within the program this agency is called self-sufficiency.
Departing from this approach, the ACHIEVEability staff and I decided early on that it was important for the organization and its participants (the families enrolled in the program are called participants) to tell their stories in their own words. This process was two-pronged. For an organizational overview I interviewed Jamila, the Executive Director, and Harold, the Senior Self-Sufficiency Coach. For personal testimonials on what it’s like to go through the eight-year program and how life-changing it can be, I interviewed participants Alisha, Clissita, and Clissita’s daughter Janelle.
At the end of five interviews I had approximately three hours of footage. Three hours that needed to be edited down to five minutes. The challenge then became to give equal attention to both Clissita and Alisha’s experiences, while also providing context via Jamila and Harold and further emphasizing what these families must overcome to create better lives for themselves. It’s an amazing program, but it requires a tremendous amount of hard work, physical and emotional resiliency, and tenacity.
Lastly, once the interviews were edited, DP Dave Lamm and I spent additional time with the families shooting b-roll to round out the video. Here, I wanted to be as inconspicuous as possible so we could capture moments like the one that opens the video, where Clissita and her children prepare a meal and share laughs in their kitchen. Other moments were found that visually underscore their aspirations. Like Alisha watching her son Amari on his scooter, confidently riding ahead of her, and striking out on his own. Or Alisha ascending a tall staircase outside a college campus on her way to class. Or Clissita building a Jenga tower that doesn’t topple to the ground. Simple images that hopefully connect to a deeper truth and point to a brighter future.