Empowerment Conference Encourages Career in Film & Digital Media for Local Girls

Women who are trailblazers both in front of and behind the camera in the fields of film, television and digital media were in the limelight at a day-long Young Women of Color Empowerment conference held last Friday at Douglass Anderson School of The Arts. This year’s event themed “Women in Media Arts:  Building an Alliance of Empowerment and Progression,” was aimed at educating and empowering young women of diverse racial and cultural backgrounds with the tools needed to become innovators in the various fields of Media Arts.  The forty invited female participants began their day with a challenge by organizer and DA teacher Debbie Rouse. “You have been chosen to serve as ambassadors to the vision of excellence.  After today’s event, you will be responsible for sharing the knowledge you will acquire to inspire others to create a greater vision for themselves. You will no longer be allowed to settle for status quo; you must dream bigger and reach higher than you have ever reached before,” said Rouse.

The event was hosted by vocal artist Kendra Cash and began with several guest speakers which included Jacksonville native, filmmaker and proprietor of Cultivated Films, LLC, Kiara Jones, News Anchorwoman Tennika Hughes-Smith (Action News Jax), Keitha Nelson (First Coast News), teacher and filmmaker Mrs. Nikhat Powell and Nancy McBride, President of Reel Casting Production Company, LLC. Each, a trailblazer in her own right, shared the inspiring story of her personal journey to success. During the workshop sessions, students received notebooks which contained coloring pages of diverse women serving as directors, producers, Hollywood stars and digital artists that were underscored with the hashtag #ColorMeBeautiful.  The purpose for this assignment was to encourage participates to create art in their own image and to envision their own possibilities. Workshop facilitators included Edward Waters College Communications Professor Daniel Henrich, illustrator and animator Dania Frinks and filmmaker Sandy Arnold. During the workshop, the young women were introduced to the basic principles of smart phone filmmaking, the intersectionality of social commentary and storytelling, creating an elevator pitch, and the rudiments of creating a storyline.

During the ‘power lunch’ dubbed “Reel Talks,” provided students an opportunity to ask specific questions and get personal encouragement from successful, professional women.   In addition, students created a photo of themselves holding Oscars, radio mics, cameras and production clapboards at the photo booth hosted by Antoinette Bailey of MPrints A Photo Booth Company.  The day ended with a Micro- Film Festival treating students to a private viewing of short films written and created by some of the presenters: Filmmaker Kiara Austin-Jones (Christmas Wedding Baby), a student-produced film under the direction of Edward Waters College Professor Daniel Henrich (The Binge), and Professor and Filmmaker Nikhat Powell (The Benefaction).  The viewing was followed by a short Q&A.

For the past ten years, teacher Debbie Lee-Rouse has imagined and directed the conference to help support the personal and professional development of the young women at Douglas Anderson School of the Arts where art students from Duval and surrounding counties audition for placement at the school. “I believe that all young women can do better once they are challenged to do so,” she said. “And I am very committed to meeting the needs of the young women here at Douglas Anderson.  I personally believe that young women will always choose the greater vision when they are challenged to do so.” Shown is DA Teacher Debbie Rouse speaking to the the students at the Women of Color Empowerment Conference.

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