Bringing Austin’s Vision to Life: How the community’s story came to the big screen and inspires young people


Originally published in issues 20/10/21 of the Austin Weekly News and Wednesday Journal

Seizing every opportunity to uplift and inspire each other is how we can make a real difference. So when the pandemic prevented Austin Coming Together (ACT) and local leaders from summoning hundreds of people to their annual summit celebrating the previous year’s progress towards their shared vision, they chose a new method that has already proven to affect even more people than in the past in person. events.

Austin’s premier quality of life plan Austin forward. Together. (AFT) The documentary was released on August 18, 2021 and gained over 1,000 views in the first month.

The 15-minute film allows viewers to hear directly from those implementing the plan, a set of goals created by and for the community designed to address 23 strategies with 84 total actions in 7 problem areas between the years 2019 and 2023: community storytelling, education, housing, youth empowerment, economic development, public safety and civic engagement.

ACT and AFT executives created a request for proposals to create the documentary which generated considerable interest with seventeen responses. Each proposal was carefully screened against criteria that included the company’s familiarity with Austin and ideas on how to offer local youth the chance to learn during the process of creating and editing the film. Two rounds of evaluation resulted in the hiring of Digifé for the project. Digifé is a black-owned and run production company whose vision, experience, and willingness to mentor a handful of Austin Has The Mic program participants earned them the two-month contract. According to the BUILD website, “Austin Has The Mic is a media partnership between BUILD and Westside Health Authority that uses digital media platforms and podcasts to grab the narrative from the West Side and tell the positive stories that the mainstream media overlooks too much. often.

A handful of young adults from Austin Has The Mic were able to interview prominent local leaders while bringing their own ideas and perspectives to the camera. After more than 280 hours on the project, the final product presented the history and challenges Austin faces as well as the successes achieved in carrying out the 84 actions of the plan.

Part of the documentary’s premiere included JaKayla Rogers sharing her experience working with other young adults and the nonprofit territory to create a quality of life plan for young people, a project inspired by Austin Forward. Together.

Not only did the young people receive hands-on training in the basics of using video equipment, composing a shot, conducting an effective interview and setting up lighting. appropriate, but they were inspired by seeing professionals who are like them.

Indeed, being part of the AFT documentary inspired Austin Has The Mic instructor and co-chair of Youth Empowerment AFT Task Force, D’elegance Lane, to ask Digifé if they would be willing to teach their students a little more so that they can create their own mini-documentaries on the subjects of their choice.

Programs like Austin Has The Mic and opportunities like working with Digifé are great examples of how we can empower and give hope to our young people while leveraging their gifts and talents to build a future. better for all of us.

“For twenty years, I didn’t really know where I lived or who was around me. [Recently] I discovered that this was not a lonely race against the dismantling of the nefarious system by which our people felt trapped. We all come together day in and day out to make incremental changes that will outlast us. said Ziolet Nellum, host of Austin Has The Mic podcast, writer, self-proclaimed imaginary and one of the students supervised by Digifé during the AFT documentary and the films made by young people that followed.

Another young person involved was a sophomore college student and Austinite Tobias Bell, who was grateful for the opportunity to learn skills transferable into other potential roles, hobbies or career paths. Bell said it’s extremely important for young people to express their creativity, but also to talk about how conditions are improving. In the film, Bell describes the Austin Has The Mic program as “a way to bring the mic back to Austin,” and the documentary serves the same purpose.

As a community gathering organization working with many partners, ACT recognizes that meaningful change through youth leadership takes time and continued investment.

This project is a storytelling tool showing the authentic Austin: an empowering community.

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