image via Scenarios Facebook

Watch young filmmakers take on domestic violence, sexuality, and courage

Three engaging and exciting  movies by young filmmakers premiered at New York City’s legendary Angelika Theater Tuesday night. I was thrilled to be there and see the films on the big screen. Luckily, even if you couldn’t be there, you can still watch the films online.

Since its founding in 1999, Scenarios USA has worked to empower young people from traditionally underserved communities. Students submit their writing to a contest and the winners are paired up with established directors with whom they create short films.

This year’s winners, all of whom who in attendance, included New York City high schooler Lani Pringle. Her film Aleahdirected by Laurie Collyer, explored domestic violence, slut-shaming, abortion, and gang violence in a story of a young pregnant woman thrown out of her house. Pringle turned to her own biography and  family history for inspiration, choosing to shoot the film  in the very Brooklyn projects where her own father was killed before her first birthday: “The story was very influenced by what I knew of my mother’s life… I intended to write a very realistic, heartbreaking story that would keep people interested,” Pringle said in an interview with Scenarios USA. You can rent the film here (explicit) or here (edited for language).

House not Home, written by Skyler Edge, 16, from Cleveland, Ohio, and directed Joshua Butler, tells the story of Terran, a gender fluid teenager who faces bullying but is also part of a supportive community. During the Q and A session, the 16-year-old writer, who is trans and white,  explained that the casting call didn’t specify any racial or ethnic background. It was only after giving the lead role of Terran to Cyle Black, who is African-American, that Edge realized how much he had to learn about the experiences of people of color. This provoked an enthusiastic applause from the audience. Watch the film here. 

Veracity, which you can watch here, examined the shared struggles and solidarity between two African American lesbian teenagers. The film, written by Janaya Greene, a 17-year-old from the South Side of Chicago, and directed by Seith Mann, displayed a subtlety, realism and understatement rarely found in college and graduate student films, let alone in student films written by high-school students. Greene, now a student at Ohio State, was inspired to write the film after a debate over marriage equality in her high school English class senior year: She was baffled that it was even an open question.

The films were reason enough to attend the screening, but adding to the excitement were the “Scenarios Influencers,” invited by Scenarios USA’s Rebecca Carroll, which included Issa Rae, who hosted the screening. Other “influencers” included Luvvie Ajayi, Thomas Page McBee, Elizabeth Plank, Alexander Chee, Franchesca Ramsey, Trymaine Lee, Bevy Smith, and Aparna Nancherla, who graced us with a hilarious standup set. Michaela Angela Davis introduced the screening with powerful words: “To the young people: You are the movement, you are the inspiration and you are the revolution.”

Support the revolution and watch all three films.



Born and raised on the mean streets of New York City’s Upper West Side, Katie Halper is a comic, writer, blogger, satirist and filmmaker based in New York. Katie graduated from The Dalton School (where she teaches history) and Wesleyan University (where she learned that labels are for jars.) A director of Living Liberally and co-founder/performer in Laughing Liberally, Katie has performed at Town Hall, Symphony Space, The Culture Project, D.C. Comedy Festival, all five Netroots Nations, and The Nation Magazine Cruise, where she made Howard Dean laugh! and has appeared with Lizz Winstead, Markos Moulitsas, The Yes Men, Cynthia Nixon and Jim Hightower. Her writing and videos have appeared in The New York Times, Comedy Central, The Nation Magazine, Gawker, Nerve, Jezebel, the Huffington Post, Alternet and Katie has been featured in/on NY Magazine, LA Times, In These Times, Gawker,Jezebel, MSNBC, Air America, GritTV, the Alan Colmes Show, Sirius radio (which hung up on her once) and the National Review, which called Katie “cute and some what brainy.” Katie co-produced Tim Robbins’s film Embedded, (Venice Film Festival, Sundance Channel); Estela Bravo’s Free to Fly (Havana Film Festival, LA Latino Film Festival); was outreach director for The Take, Naomi Klein/Avi Lewis documentary about Argentine workers (Toronto & Venice Film Festivals, Film Forum); co-directed New Yorkers Remember the Spanish Civil War, a video for Museum of the City of NY exhibit, and wrote/directed viral satiric videos including Jews/ Women/ Gays for McCain.

Katie is a writer, comedian, filmmaker, and New Yorker.

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