March 12, 2015

'We Starts With Me': The Story Behind The Film

The Obamas, getting ready to watch 'We Starts With Me'!
By now, you have heard our BIG news: our 2nd grade film We Starts With Me has been chosen as one of fifteen “Official Selections” and will be screened at the White House a week from today.  2nd grade teacher Diane Bramble will attend the screening in Washington D.C., along with one of her students Sadie Melendez, and Sadie’s mom Rachel Lederman.

The trio from Friends’ School will be welcomed by the President and the First Lady into the East Room of the White House, which will have been transformed into a movie theater.

When Diane first heard about the opportunity to enter the second annual White House Student Film Festival, she forwarded the information to Rachel, who is a parent in her class and a filmmaker. With the deadline fast approaching, the pair brainstormed ideas for what they could create quickly on school grounds, and what would illustrate the concept of giving back.

The Film Festival this year serves as an opportunity for K-12 students to produce short films on the idea of service and helping the community. Its theme is “The Impact of Giving Back.”  Diane did what all great teachers do when needing ideas – she asked her students. 

The 2nd graders, of course, had all kinds of ideas.  They talked about the importance of recycling, and of helping each other.  These ideas are clearly represented in the film.  They talked about the world map on the wall of their classroom and how everyone has roots in different places around the world. They feature a giant globe in their film. And they wanted to make it fun.

Rachel originally spent four days with the 2nd graders filming what she called ‘a fun film’.  However, as she spent time in editing her footage on the evening of the fourth day, she realized that the film lacked a certain depth.  Something was missing.

She returned another day and paired the students up, letting them film each other as they answered the questions: “How can you make a difference in the world?” and “What does ‘We Start With Me’ mean to you?” The film is strengthened and holds more meaning now that it includes some of the children’s thoughtful answers to these questions.

We Starts With Me, the song, was co-written by Rachel Lederman and was originally intended for another project for a corporate client.  When it ended up not being used, she kept it in her back pocket, knowing that she would find a great use for it one day. Our 2nd grade video is the perfect vehicle. Friends’ music teacher Monica Waterhouse rehearsed the song with the class. One Saturday, Monica accompanied all the kids, along with Rachel and many other parents, to Coupe Recording Studio in Boulder where the students recorded the song as you hear it on the video.

For Rachel, the making of the film was a fabulous experience.  No one was thinking that it might actually be selected to be screened at the White House. It was enough for Rachel and Diane that the class bonded well around a central project, that the kids got on so well together and cooperated so beautifully, and that most of the central ideas in the film came from the students. Rachel simply had a wonderful time in her daughter’s classroom getting to know Sadie’s friends.

The selection to appear at the White House is purely a bonus. Selections were chosen from more than 1,500 entrants in collaboration with the American Film Institute. Friends’ School was allowed to nominate three people to attend the screening and a reception in their honor afterwards. We were disappointed to limit the number to three – in our estimation, ALL the 2nd graders and Monica too should be in attendance!

Friends' parent Rachel Lederman
According the White House Film Festival website, “the audience will be comprised of students, parents, teachers, Hollywood leaders, and education advocates. In keeping with the President’s vision of giving every child the chance to reach their full potential, President Obama will discuss the ongoing progress towards the goals of his My Brother’s Keeper initiative which aims to close opportunity gaps still faced by young people.” The event in the East Room will streamed live on www.whitehouse.gov/live.

We Starts With Me is a timely topic. Just last weekend, President Obama gave a stirring speech in Selma, Alabama to commemorate the 50th anniversary of ‘Bloody Sunday’ when civil rights demonstrators were attacked by police as they attempted to march across the Edmund Pettus Bridge to the state capital in Montgomery in 1965. In his speech, the word “we” appears dozens of times. The President stated, “Because Selma shows us that America is not the project of any one person. Because the single most powerful word in our democracy is the word “We.” We The People. We Shall Overcome. Yes We Can. It is owned by no one. It belongs to everyone. Oh, what a glorious task we are given, to continually try to improve this great nation of ours.”

Congratulations to our entire 2nd grade class and everyone involved with this amazing project. We will keep you posted with photos and updates from the White House on our school’s Facebook page and Twitter feed.

We hope that Diane, Sadie and Rachel can continue the conversation about “We” in person with the President next week. Because we think that “We” is pretty important, and We Starts With Me.

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