Publicolor is a self-titled short documentary about a New York based program supporting at risk youth, who might otherwise fall between societal cracks. The development plan engages them with design based programs, mentoring them for success in college, career and life. The film takes a freestyle approach combining participatory, poetic and cinema verité qualities to capture the spirit of the program. Set in the historic and visually rich Pratt institute, founded in 1887, we meet the students, staff and founder who are in session for the summer program. The honest and raw perspectives they share create an emotional connection and exhibit the altruistic effort to provide a positive alternative path. The students share a genuine moment when exposed to an exaggerated, life-sized version of a weaving loom they have been using in the program. The moment is interrupted upon discovery a ladybug. As the group works together to return the ladybug to nature it becomes a metaphor for their Publicolor experience. Given the opportunity to go alone into the world, will they spread their wings and fly?
On the surface, the concept of Publicolor resonated greatly with us. As people who have found meaning through creativity, we have a good understating of how creative process can be applied to so many aspects of life. When we learned that was at the core of Publicolor’s approach to connecting with at risk youth and teaching them core concepts we were instantly inspired. After meeting with the students and staff we realized a deep emotional current contributing to the success of the program. It was one part confidence in the power of creative process and one part budding compassion bond between the students and staff. We wanted to capture the supernatural feeling of this tangible and intangible coming together.
The idea was to first establish some of the innerworkings of the program though first-hand experiences of the students and the vison of the founder and faculty. We took a minimalist approach, using only the essential people and gear to maintain an intimate setting for conducting interviews. The stripped down approach removed any perceived hierarchy between staff, students and crew, allowing for authentic one on one conversations. There were no barriers and the conversations flowed naturally and revealed the rich experiences.
We later introduced the idea of a giant loom which brought things together in a way that only a loom can. It wove together all of the pieces of the story. It gave a subtle nod to a partner sponsor, Antron Fibers. It introduced a spotlight sponsor and prolific textile artist Suzanne Tick and provided beautiful color and a physical manifestation that represented Publicolor for the kids to interact with. The installation was revealed to students one by one, bringing them into the center rows of the colorful, floor to ceiling yarns. The unscripted reactions were priceless. We also wanted them to experience the piece as a group so we kept rolling and captured the spontaneous comradery and creativity as it unfolded.
In that moment one of the students noticed a ladybug on her arm. Anticipating a reaction, Ehsan step in for a shot. The group immediately gathered around to see this symbol of good luck and worked together to release it through an open window. Once in post-production the full magic of that moment became evident. The choice to give this creature a chance to spread it’s wings and fly back into the world was not unlike the aim of the Publicolor program. The only issue, the ladybug took flight before we could get the best shot. Determined that taking flight was indeed our closing shot, we decided to recreate it which we did, weeks later. But that is another story.
Sony FS700R w/ Odyssey 7Q+ Recorder, Canon C100
FullHD 1080p 24FPS
Director, Creative Director
Director, DoP, Editor, Colorist