Through the generosity of PBS SoCal, The RightWay Foundation was able to send 8 film interns to help shoot, produce, and edit films that were screened at Real to Reel, an annual film festival held on October 7th this year. Real to Reel film festival, put on by Better Youth, Inc., focuses on bringing attention to youth perspectives on social issues through media arts and culture. Better Youth Inc. is a non-profit whose mission is to transform youth by validating skills through mentoring and media arts training. This year’s Real to Reel, the third annual installment in a growing tradition, was especially powerful because many of the featured films were created by foster youth. The two founders of the film festival, RightWay alumna Johna Rivers and her mentor Syd Stewart are passionate about allowing foster youth the chance to tell their own stories through film. Using film as a powerful tool for change, they hope to showcase the diverse, but often underrepresented voices of youth who have been through the foster care system.
The festival was a star-studded red carpet affair at the Los Angeles Film School. In the morning, youth had a chance to attend workshops hosted by experts in acting (Akuyoe Graham, award winning actress), new media (Ruben Garcia from AT&T), and financial literacy (Wells Fargo). After the workshops, everyone enjoyed a day of panels and screenings. Special guests included actors Caitlin Ashley Thompson (MTV's Scream Queens), Monique Coleman (Disney's High School Musical), Alex Cubis (Disney's Mako Mermaids), and Sara Barrett (CBS's Criminal Minds). Leah Daniels-Butler, casting Director of FOX's Empire, served as a panelist and was presented with a surprise award by Real to Reel acknowledging her work as a celebrity guest mentor.
For the film interns and other foster youth at The RightWay Foundation, having a chance to tell their own narratives is significant to their personal growth. Film and other forms of art are important tools for fulfilling our commitment to helping current and former foster youth "move from a point of pain and disappointment to a point of power, productivity, and self-sufficiency." By giving youth the agency to express themselves, The RightWay Foundation and Real to Reel hope to combat the feelings of pain and powerlessness that many former foster youth face. Arts programs like the film internship and Real to Reel not only allow our foster youth to share their narratives, but also shed a personal light on systemic issues in foster care. Through the creative process, youth find power and validation. Creative outlets are not always available to foster youth, but we believe that they should be.
The RightWay Foundation wants to thank PBS SoCal To Foster Change Initiative for sponsoring our film internship program. Through their internships, our youth had the opportunity to gain technical knowledge in the filmmaking industry. More importantly, they gained tools to continue to express themselves creatively. The RightWay Foundation would also like to thank Real to Reel film festival, Better Youth Inc., and all of the mentors for giving a voice to our youth and helping them share their perspectives. We are glad to know that there are platforms for the important stories they have to tell. To view the films from the festival, visit https://www.facebook.com/realtoreelglobal/. We are so excited to continue supporting our youth in their creative endeavors!