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Girls Gain Dating Violence Awareness, Filmmaking Skills

Aired 12/5/12 on KPBS News.

A new program based in Linda Vista teaches girls filmmaking skills and how to spot the signs of an abusive relationship.

— Ominous electronic music provides most of the soundtrack for a one-minute long film that shows a girl struggling to get away from her abusive boyfriend.

Lily Correa (left) and Karla Duarte work with construction paper that came to life in teen dating violence public service announcement at Montgomery Middle School, Nov. 28, 2012.

As the online public service announcement played on a laptop on afternoon last week, the ten Montgomery Middle School girls who made the film try to get a sneak peak. They were laughing and chatting as they packed up the classroom turned mini studio where they learned how to make the stop-motion animation movie.

Thirteen-year-old Lily Correa was standing at a table covered in pieces of construction paper she used to design many of the short film’s characters.

“This is all the material we used for the film," she said. "There’s a lot of pieces and every single one is very important for the film because it all together makes a story. The pieces connect with each other, we don’t have to glue them or anything and we just move them one by one and then take a picture of it.”

Eighth-grader Daniela Soriano said it was fun to learn how to do stop-motion animation. She was one of the animators, moving the movie’s pieces little increments at a time between each camera flash. Producing the short movie took weeks of work. But that’s not what comes to mind when she thinks about what will stick with her from the project.

“I thought it was really amazing how girls are in violent relationships, not only them, but also guys," she said. "And how it’s really hard for them to get out of it – they don’t know how. And that’s why I decided it would be amazing to do this.”

Under the guidance of Karla Duarte, the girls learned about more than filmmaking. Duarte founded Girls! Camera! Action!, the organization behind the film workshop. For several weeks they went through workshops on teen dating violence, how to spot it and how to get out of abusive relationships.

The idea for the organization came to Duarte after she worked on a 2010 documentary about female immigrants from Mexico’s indigenous communities getting out of abusive relationships.

“We started doing a little bit of research in the community and there were already women gathering together support groups," she said. "But they needed another type of program, like more intervention and I thought that the best way for me to help was to really make it a prevention and target younger girls from 12 to 18.”

Eighth-grader Aubreyella Hernandez said she feels more prepared to protect herself and her friends after the 12-week program.

“We’re not at that point in life, in age to ever be in a relationship that could ever be abusive," she said. "But when I’m older and I ever see it going on, I’ll be sure to tell them that they need to find a way to get out of it as soon as possible, because someone that loves you, they’re not going to put their hands on you. They’re going to love you for who you are and how you act.”

The girls will get their first glimpse of the finished PSA along with a public audience at the Museum of Photographic Arts in Balboa Park Wednesday night. It will be one of three girl-made films being shown as part of a benefit for Girls! Camera! Action!

Daniela Soriano is excited to see the film, but she also hopes it has an impact.

“I'm looking forward to people seeing the message that is through this video," she said. "And people that are in violent relationships – that they call for help actually and get out of it.”

Seeing that their work can reach people outside the school community sends an important message, according to Montgomery Principal Jonathan Ton.

“The one thing that I think the girls will take away from this is that, yes, I have a voice," he said. "That I can share that voice very positively in the community and that regardless of your background, where you come from – that does not determine the limitations of where you can go in life.”

Ton welcomed Duarte's program into the school in part because he said students see the value of the skills they learn in the classroom when they use them for a public audience. The film screening audience will include a mix of truly public people the girls don't know and a busload of members of the Montgomery Middle School community.

At the end of the PSA, the soundtrack gets lighter and the girl gets away from the abusive boy. Information fades up about how teens with dating violence questions can reach out to a group called Love Is Respect with a text. The video will be posted to YouTube and the Love Is Respect website after the screening.

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