Catching up with 2012 MediaMaker Fellow Dawn Valadez

Posted on: Friday, January 04 2013

By Matt Sussman, Marketing and Development Associate

In anticipation of the launch of the 2013 MediaMaker application (and next Wednesday's Info Session), we caught up with 2012 MediaMaker Dawn Valadez about her project, TURN IT AROUND, and her experiences as a MediaMaker Fellow. 
Tell us about your project, TURN IT AROUND.
TURN IT AROUND addresses the very serious issues surrounding the homegrown teacher movement currently sweeping the country: namely, recruitment, training, and support for teachers from low-income, communities of color. When we have school districts with over 30% of the students dropping out (mostly black and brown students), where do we find teachers of color who understand the children, youth, and families in communities of color that have been devastated by poverty, racism, and violence? 
TURN IT AROUND explores this important question through the eyes of students—some ex-gang members, some recently released from jail— enrolled in an experiment in education at the community college level to become teachers in their communities.
What shape was your project in when you started the MediaMaker Fellows program? How did it develop and/or change during the program?
TURN IT AROUND is at the very early stages of production. When I started in the cohort I had about 30% of the film shot, I am now at about 50%. My ideas for transmedia elements were rudimentary at best. We looked at successful projects from BAVC’s Producers Institute, and examined how they mapped subjects, used open source software such as Mozilla’s Popcorn.js, and came together via collaborative hackathons. 
During my time at BAVC my colleagues and I explored new tools, ideas, and methods for creating transmedia elements for our documentaries. We were looking at these tools not as “add-ons” to our projects but as new opportunities to engage audiences with the content and ideas raised in the films.
Did you have much of a transmedia background before the Fellowship? How has your thinking about different storytelling platforms changed because of your participation?
Even though I am in my 40’s and not a “gamer” I love new technology especially when it provides important information or tells a good story. But this was an entirely new world for me. My big question, then, was how to use these new technologies to expand the stories in TURN IT AROUND.
 First and foremost, the transmedia pieces have to help build my community engagement campaign and support my efforts, expand my storytelling, not hinder it. 
What’s in store for TURN IT AROUND, post-Fellowship?
Based on my experiences at BAVC, I am now planning to create the following:

  • mobile short stories of the students and people in the project that may not land in the film – these can be seen on smart phones and tablets
  • a fully loaded website with a map of the programs like the one I am following that are popping up across the country, including requirements to be in the program and data on the success rate, graduation rate, and job placement
  • a virtual experience that takes the viewer through a “chose your own adventure”  story, seen through the eyes of a student – these may start out as a text message or Facebook-based storytelling experience, in which choosing your next move may land you in jail, on the street, or in school.
Any other thoughts you’d like to share about your experience?
I know that this will continue to be a long, exciting journey, filled with all kinds of challenges (FUNDING!) but it will be well worth it in the end. I KNOW that my project is so much stronger because of my experience as a MediaMaker Fellow. I am grateful to BAVC and the MediaMaker Fellows of 2012 for their assistance, patience, humor, and insight. Thank you all very, very much!