Experience Over Statistics – By Nabil Rahman
McSherry is the poster child of Lehman High School. To the students of the Bronx high school, McSherry is an example of someone who made it out of the streets.
You know it was more my time, you know in the bronx, it was a challenge i think. I always tell my kids, you know why I feel for you? Because I came from this neighborhood. My father was murdered when I was 14 years old. My mother raised five kids on her own on welfare. I know what it’s like to be hungry, to be lost, to be forgotten by a system that really doesn’t care at the end of the day.
So I teach film and my kids they make silent films, public service announcements, documentaries. I did a documentary with the kids as an experiment. My idea was to give the kids one word. My plan was to switch out the words for every third kid, but I couldn’t get past the first word. And the word was father.
These kids are survivors. And in spite of all these things, they come into school everyday. So to me they are not failing students, Lehman is not a failing school. The system failed them. It continues to fail them so I teach film and my kids they make sure films silent movies, public service announcements, documentaries. I did a doc with the kids as an experiment.
So Paige is into anime. So she is watching this new thing online it’s called Another. And every episode another one bites the dust. It has to do with this curse in the classroom.
My name is Mr. Rose. I have been teaching in Lehman for 11 years. When I started here, there was only one school in this building. There was about 3000 students. After a few years, two schools were added. At the same time, Lehman’s population went up. We went from the school that had lots of space and lots of time to a school with little space and no time.
Is our graduation rate low? Yes it is. If you’re going to cut the budget 6 years in a row consecutively, if you’re going to change the administration, new principals 3 years in a row, institute scanning, you know fire school aides, all of this has a negative impact on the educational culture of the school.
We all decided, we will not side with the DOE. We will fight to keep the school open.
Before he became a teacher at Lehman, James McSherry attended the school as a student from 1976 to 1981. The school isMcSherry is the poster child of Lehman High School. To the students of the Bronx high school, McSherry is an example of someone who made it out of the streets.
Along with being a Columbia graduate, and a high school teacher for the last 21 years, McSherry also published a book called A Clean Street Is A Happy Street and a movie called Poetry Man, which was shown in the Cannes film festival. His novel and his film deal with the rough and sometimes violent experiences he experienced as an young adult navigating the streets of the Throggs Neck section of the Bronx.
His love for film developed because his mentally ill mother would wake him up at night to keep her company and watch movies with her. As a child though, McSherry was unaware of the bleakness of the conditions his family faced. He loved the experiences he had and considers the hardships a blessing because they made him who he is today.
He was initially an English teacher and later served as a dean. For the past few years, he has been teaching a film course. He started out with a few handheld camcorders but since then has acquired more professional equipment. His classroom now holds a green screen, professional lighting equipment, over a dozen apple computers, and an overhead projector with a smart board. His students have won local and nationwide competitions by shooting and editing public service announcements, silent films and documentaries. Most recently they won a contest by making a P.S.A about dating abuse which was shown on the Dr. Phil show. The participating students also each received an iPad 2.
However, all of this is now in jeopardy thanks to Mayor Bloomberg’s plan to shut down 32 public high schools all throughout the city. The turn around model will fire all of the staff and only hire 50 percent of the teachers back. The school will be reopened under a different name with new administrators.
The committee in charge of rehiring teachers will compose of a majority appointed by the mayor and only one representative from the school.
McSherry is convinced that this is a loophole created by the mayor to get rid of the more experienced and more expensive teachers and hire younger, cheaper teachers with very little experience. McSherry calls facts the enemy of the truth and says that it’s important for teachers to have connections and understanding with the students. He doesn’t agree with the new “cookie-cutter” curriculums and thinks that it takes more than techniques and statistics to understand how to teach and inspire students.
You can see more of McSherry’s work at his personal website jamesmcsherry.com/
You can support Lehman High School by joining the Save Lehman High School Facebook page facebook.com/savelehmanhighschool
The logo of the apple in the clenched fist seen throughout the video was designed by Rajive Anand, Lehman High School’s art teacher. Watch a video I did on him here pineappleandmilk.com/2011/10/10/rajive-sada-anand-pineapple-and-milk-laserman/
You can see more of my work at Pineappleandmilk.com or vimeo.com/pineappleandmilk or thingsiencounter.com
Behind the Scene
The idea to shoot this piece came to me because at the time I was living with Rajive Anand, and I saw the effort they were making to save the school from closing. I also graduated from the school, and even worked there after graduating college. I saw the change the change that occured there over the years. It went from a friendly and successful school to a school with metal detectors and a bad reputation. This video was a way for me to give back to the community that raised me by raising awareness. As a journalist, I also remained objective and checked the facts before including any statements made in the video, and kept overly emotional statements about the school out of the video.
Getting Lite under New York City — by Kenneth Christensen
The Story of a Bronx Dancer: Andrew Saunders, aka Goofy, dances on trains to avoid the pitfalls of growing up in the Bronx. His mom is his motivation.
My first nickname was, um, was Now & Later, then I changed it to Cookie Monster, but Goofy just stuck with me because I am goofy. That’s how I am.
Like, I see kids get into fights and stuff. I was never into that. I just stay away from the trouble. You don’t want to just get your life taken, and don’t get to live it, and your mother just crying or something. Cause I think about that all the time. Cause any time, anything can happen.
Like one time I just spent the night at my friend’s house. I didn’t call my mom. I forgot. And I went home. And nobody answered the door. So, then I went to my cousins job. Um, I called my sister. And they told me mom had a stroke.
I didn’t know what to do. I didn’t even tell my cousin. I just gave him his phone back, just walked off. And I just started crying and then I just went to go dance.
I really was a momma’s boy, so it was just on my mind, like, all the time. And all I just wanted to do was do good for her. And that’s what I’m doing now. Just for her. I’m just doing it for her.
When I dance in front of people, I just want to entertain, I don’t want to just dance. I care about things, but I don’t care, like, what people think of me. I wonder if they like this. I wonder if they like that. You see all types of people, like school kids, people coming from work, people that’s tired, people that’s stressed out.
They’ll feel good at the end of the day, like, “Oh, these kids just made my day. The trains is just the funnest thing to do.
We meet on 14th Street in the back of the train, The Big Queen. Take it down. Hit it, hit it. Back and forth, back and forth.
When you just litefeet, it’s just different. Like, we can just have fun. Just keep going, just keep it going, keep it going.
After a long day on the trains, Goofy and his friends take the 6 to Port Morris every Friday night. More than 100 teenagers from all parts of the city converge on a bright loft in an inconspicuous industrial building. It’s one of several sessions throughout the week where litefeet dancers both practice and flaunt their skills.
Litefeet is an amalgam of classic New York City dance styles–the Harlem Shake, the Bad One, the Tone Wop, and the Chicken Noodle Soup.
“The movement is keeping kids off the streets,” said the event’s organizer, Getti Visions. “They may not know it, but people outside looking in know it.”
Goofy knows it. He spends almost every waking hour thinking and doing litefeet. He says it has helped him stay out of trouble since he moved to the Bronx from Virginia in 2005, when movement began.
When his mother suffered a stroke several years ago, Goofy moved in with his older sister. The moment gave him extra incentive to “do good.”
He makes laps north and south on the Q with his team, WAFFLE (We Are Family For Life Entertainment) and SYRUP (Show Your Real Unknown Potential).
He began hittin’ trains to pay the $10 entrance fees for sessions. Now he makes more than $100 on a given day. While he likes having his own cash to spend, it doesn’t explain his dedication to “getting lite” and lighting up the faces of strangers on trains.
“I want to lead,” he said. “And I want to do it in a positive way.”
I live in Crown Heights and ride the Q every day from Brooklyn to Manhattan and back. In the fall, a group of dancers captured my attention every time they stepped on the train and introduced themselves.
“What time is it? Showtime!” they would shout together.
Still, it took me a while to realize that it was the same group of guys each time. The line-up always seemed different, but eventually I noticed the constant: the short, lean, muscular kid with the goofy grin and a unique set of antics. He was clearly the glue. So when Anika and I decided to search for a story among these kids, it was logical to approach Goofy first.
We encountered some definite challenges along the way. Communicating with Goofy was one of them. But for an 18-year-old kid whose mind is constantly preoccupied with dancing and friends, he was so bad.
Most important, shooting this story reminded me of the merits of prereporting. It’s easy to have faith that a story will work out because doing so initially takes less effort. But we would have saved so much time had we been clearer about the story earlier in the process.
Learn LiteFeet’s basic steps from one of its originators:
Watch Goofy battle at Center of Lite:
Music by one of LiteFeet’s most popular producers:
Occupy Wall Street: Bringing Mindfulness to the Movement – by Jenny Marc
Trying to foster mindfulness among Occupiers leads meditation expert Caroline Contillo to reconsider her own views on political activism.
It’s like sometimes I feel like I’ve been drawn to this, and like, my place in this world is kind of to destroy people’s preconceived notions about who meditates. I feel like there’s a lot of – people think it’s just like a peace, love, relaxation thing. I mean it can be for people. But that’s not exactly what it’s about for me.
I’d been really politically active when I was in high school and then in my early 20s, and, I’d always – I always ended up getting burned out. I didn’t necessarily feel like part of a community. I felt like an angry person who met up with other angry people and we occasionally tried to get stuff done. Occupy was a completely different experience for me.
One of the things that you learn meditating and practicing Buddhism is that compassion can’t just be this thing that you sit here and intend good things to happen. There has to be action involved.
My name is Caroline. And I don’t want to call this a meditation. I want to call it a grounding. And I would like us all to get on the same page, checking in about why we occupy. So let’s take three minutes to occupy our bodies and check-in with our minds.
I don’t know if the movement at large necessarily sees what we’re doing as worthwhile, but I think something that I’m taking away from it is the way that it’s a constant process. And it kind of – it opened me back up to the idea that – I don’t know how to say this without sounding really trite. It just kind of opened my heart back up to political action.
I had gotten pretty frustrated, and just seeing that there are so many people willing to actually participate in the process, even when it seems like it’s faltering – that’s really heartening. And I think that gives me, kind of, faith, maybe not in my lifetime that the whole ship’s going to turn around, but we’re at least engaged in the process of starting that.
After joining New York City’s Occupy Wall Street, she realized that a large group of people with differing views could be a recipe for hostility. Add a few dozen police officers to the mix – and well, she had to do something.
“One of the problems I definitely see in [Occupy] is marches and actions – when people get completely out of touch with their body and all in their head, and are acting on these emotions and frustrations and anger,” Caroline explains. “So, we start with feeling yourself in your body, being in your body, asking questions about intention, and then ending with following your breath and stilling your mind.”
Caroline is part of a meditation-working group, a small sub-committee within Occupy Wall Street that aims to foster mindfulness through meditation. At the beginning of most general Occupy meetings, a group member leads a “grounding,” a three-minute reflection asking activists to consider their intentions and actions.
At the invitation of a co-worker, Caroline spent her first night at Occupy Wall Street not long after it started, in September. It was the simple kindness of strangers that got her hooked, and since then, she devotes as much free time to the movement as possible.
When she’s not at Occupy, Caroline is probably at the Interdependence Project, an organization devoted to teaching and practicing Buddhist meditation. For now she handles publicity and outreach, but she’s in the process of training to become a meditation teacher.
The Interdependence project – where Caroline works and meditates: theidproject.org/
Occupy Wall Street – official website: occupywallst.org/
How and why meditation can de-stress just about anyone: mayoclinic.com/health/meditation/HQ01070
——————————————————behind the scenes———————————————————–
(Insert intrigued eyebrow raise here).
Before my colleague, Jackie Snow, introduced me to Caroline, the only thing that I knew about her was that she practiced Buddhist meditation and did magic on the side. Because these two hobbies are relatively unique – even in a city of 8 million people who all seem to have unique hobbies – my immediate reaction was, ‘score! great story.’
The more that I got to know about Caroline, however, the more I realized that Buddhism and witchcraft had nothing to do with the story at all. Sure, to catch a viewer’s attention, I could mention those two descriptors in the title or the first ten seconds. I probably would have even gotten the intrigued eyebrow raise once or twice. But the after spending time with Caroline both at her studio and at Occupy, I learned that those practices were just minor details of her motivation. Meditation might be her personal contribution to the movement, but it’s not the only reason why she’s there.
And while I don’t know if my personal opinions on Occupy Wall Street have changed, I know that my understanding of the people who take part in it has.
New York Fairytale – British actress struggling to get an artist visa to work in the US – by Natalia V. Osipova
UK-born Anisha Dadia came to the U.S. in 2010 aspiring to become an actress. A year after graduation from the acting school, Anisha’s life is split between auditions and babysitting in support of her New York fairytale. She has only two months to find how to keep it until her visa expires.
no transcript was provided
Like her favorite fairytale character Belle from the Beauty and the Beast Anisha Dadia was not happy with what she had in the United Kingdom, her home country.
Dadia, 26, got a degree in Russian and French from the University of Bristol. But she wasn’t brave enough to admit it wasn’t her thing until two years ago. She wanted a big change. And the inspiration was her childhood dream to become an actress.
She moved to New York. “It was my own little cliche,” explained Anisha. She enrolled at The American Academy of Dramatic Arts.
She graduated in April 2011, and since then was running countless auditions, student films and even free acting jobs in order to establish a solid portfolio.
Anisha applied for an artist visa to be able to stay in the country. To qualify for it, a foreign actor has to show the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services that she or he has an extraordinary talent no one in America has. Anisha has only two months to prove it, before her student visa expires.
In order to afford her acting career in America Anisha spends mornings and evenings babysitting and tutoring.
But even the reality of the 90 percent unemployment in the acting field doesnâ€™t crash Anishaâ€™s New York fairytale. She keeps faith that everything happens for a reason, and her hard work will eventually keep her at the place she belongs to.
BEHIND THE SCENES
I met Anisha thanks to my colleague Claudia, who also lives in the International House at Morningside Heights. One question that bothered my mind was about how would we distinguish our subject from millions of others coming to New York everyday.
I knew that the time for an interview was limited, and was trying to come up with ideas that could help me to reveal something in Anisha I can relate to. It should have been something universal, something about her deep values and dreams. Thatâ€™s how I came up with a question on her favorite fairytale that indeed was a key to her personality and a weathercock or a filter for the future scriptwriting.
Later I have found out that we not only share an interest in fairytales with Anisha, but both speak French and Russian. The last moment we saw each other we said goodbye to each other in Russian.
bit.ly/GGomBX (Anisha’s Profile at the International House website)
youtube.com/watch?v=4UgkoGBSS18 (Anisha playing a Latin American man in a student movie)
Live to Bike – Bike to Live By Daniel Prendergast
Despite danger and little pay, a New York City bicycle courier explains why he loves his job.
For me personally it’s the most exhilarating thing you can do in an urban city like this where it’s just all cement. You can’t snowboard in the streets, you can’t parasail on the beaches. I mean, you ride your bike as fast as possible through traffic. That’s what we do.
My name is Mike Pelletier. I am a bicycle courier in New York City.
I think it’s just being able to do pretty much whatever you want in the time of 9 to 5. You have to pick up your package, you have to deliver the package and you have to do it all in a certain amount of time, but you can go any route, you can yell at people, you can blow red lights. Not necessarily, but you can pretty much do anything to get to your destination. I think that’s the most gratifying part. It’s just so open, so free.
I put on a podcast or turn on my radio and listen to music and pretty much zone out. I’m always aware of the cars around me and the lights and the pedestrians because you have to be. It would be way too dangerous.
It’s a lot of work for a little bit of pay. You can’t call out on rain days, you can’t call out on snow days. If you’re sick, too bad, you got to rid your bike. So you kind of just have to work through that kind of stuff. But if you are a good messenger, you don’t get into accidents, you deliver packages on time, you’re trustworthy, you can make between $400 and $700 a week.
In one of my classes in college I had a friend that was a messenger and he came in sweaty, he had that giant backpack full of stuff, he had his bike gloves on. He just looked like a complete badass. And I just started talking to him and he told me he just rode his bike all day, made good money, he could pay rent. And at the time I was just looking for work, I was just working in a dead end busboy job somewhere and decided to try something new. Did really bad the first week, got a little better the second week, was dead tired the third week, but by the fourth week I kind of knew what I was doing, where I had to ride and stuff like that, and I think it’s when you get to that point that the job becomes really, really fun.
There’s just a lot of dangerous shit people do. It’s one of those things where you really don’t have time to think about it. You see a red light and you see a car coming and he’s already at the stoplight. You know you’re going too fast and you can’t stop. So it’s just pedal quicker and try to squeeze your way through the smallest gap as quick as possible, instead of slow down safely and wait until it turns green.
I’ve had a lot of injuries. Some minor scrapes and bruises, some really debilitating injuries. I’ve definitely had some injuries where I’ve had to lay down on the sidewalk and kind of reevaluate what I’m doing. But I think to do something like this you kind of just have to put it aside you, assume you’re not going to get hurt and just go about your day.
For some, riding a bike through the streets of New York can be a treacherous affair reserved for when all other modes of transportation are out of service. But for Mike Pelletier, it’s a source of exhilaration, as well as income.
Pelletier, 23, has been working as a bicycle courier since he moved to Brooklyn around three years ago and says the job is more than just a paycheck. It’s a chance for him to make a living doing something he loves – biking through the often harrowing landscape that is Manhattan.
Sure, the job involves occasionally riding in bad weather and dodging some of the most aggressive drivers in the country, but Mike says it’s all worth the freedom and excitement his job allows.
When Mike isn’t delivering packages, he’s participating in the underground world of illegal bike races – commonly known as alley cat racing. The races are a chance for couriers to show off their skills in front of their colleagues and earn some street credibility.
While Pelletier is prone to taking plenty of risks during work, he says the races are where bikers really go all out to earn respect and glory. He once famously hopped onto the FDR Drive for a few exits with cars whizzing by at 65 miles-per-hour just to better his chances in the race.
While his job is often a rush, Pelletier is well aware of the dangers associated with biking in New York City. He has sustained numerous injuries including one that caused him to miss work for a week. An oblivious driver opened a car door as he was cruising by, causing him to lose control of his bike and slam into the back of a garbage truck.
Still, despite the danger and the little pay he receives, Pelletier says he loves his job.
The Path of Daniel Roman, Golf Ball Picker –by Peter Moskowitz
w/ camera help from Mary Shell
Daniel Roman has been working as a golf ball picker and maintenance man at the Randall’s Island Driving Range for 10 years. He could’ve chosen a different path, like his jailed brother, but instead he drives around, picking up balls to earn a living.
I like being in the outdoors and stuff – fresh air, I don’t like being cooped up anywhere.
Most of the times they don’t really hit us, because it’s hard to hit a ball and aim at something – I mean you’ve got to be pretty good.
I got hit once where the ball came in and hit me in the knee. I told the guy you know, you think you’re not hurting anybody, but you see the ball came in and hit me. I drove right up to tell him. I wasn’t mad or anything, I just wanted to let him know, there’s consequences to if you aim at the car.
Trying to get some of that mud out.
To earn a living you got to work. You can’t be stealing from people, even if they’re bad people. My brother, he’s in prison. He’s in jail, jail, he’s in jail. He’s into like, robbing people, but not like ordinary people, he robs people that sell drugs. He’s the type – he would work, but I don’t know I think he likes it easy, he wants the quick money, fast.
I know this, when we was young, I know him and his friends they used to kill cats. I don’t know why because I don’t like killing animals, I don’t believe in killing animals, but I always thought about that – why would they be out there killing cats?
Who would want to have their freedom taken away from? You know it’s bad waking up in a cell – they tell you when to eat, when to do this when to do that, forget it. Can’t go out and get fresh air whenever you want to. I like being outdoors, that’s what I like about it. Now that it’s getting hot it’s nice to be outside.
I figure like this – to each his own, you choose your own path.
Alright, this is where we get off.
If you drive, or take an MTA bus to Randall’s Island, you’ll find a discreet and scrappy driving range. Its entrance is tucked under the Tri-borough Bridge. Ask for Daniel Roman. He’s hard worker, age 47. Roman has been a golf ball picker and maintenance man at the Randall’s Island Driving Range for 10 years.
He was born and raised in New York. He now lives in the Bronx with his girlfriend. He grew up with a rough-and-tumble crowd. His brother and his brother’s friends robbed people and killed cats for fun. But Daniel Roman had no interest in that. Instead, he drives around in a golf cart with special attachments to pick up balls, or works on machines at the driving range to make ends meet. The work is tough, especially when the weather’s bad. The range is open year-round.
Roman loves nature and the outdoors; he said he could imagine being a wildlife photographer. He’s ready to leave his job on Randall’s Island, but he has no immediate plans to do so. Meanwhile, he keeps chugging away at his current job, sending some of his money to his brother, and buying him things like clothes while he’s in jail. He said he has no qualms about doing so – he hopea his brother would do the same if the situation were reversed. He said we all chose our own path. Criminality is his brother’s. This is his.
A LITTLE BEHIND-THE-SCENES INFO
I was biking on the West Side of Manhattan past the Chelsea Piers driving range one day. It was dark out, and the artificial light illuminating the artificial grass of the range created a surreal beauty that caught my eye. I stopped and photographed for about 30 minutes.
While I was photographing, I noticed a golf cart moving slowly back and forth, picking up these dozens of golfer’s balls. I realized, this is one of the unseen, unsung people that make a system work. There are tons of these kinds of people in New York City. You don’t see them, they aren’t appreciated for their service, but they make the city function.
Plus, there’s something particularly weird about golfing in the middle of New York.
Well, being the Manhattanites they are, Chelsea Piers denied my access to the golf range, but Randall’s Island didn’t!
So my partner Mary and I trekked on a bus out to the island and met Daniel Roman, the head maintenance man there. He was friendly, and more than willing to be filmed and speak about his life. As I said before, a driving range lends itself well to good visuals, so the rest of the work was just editing.
Perhaps the most challenging part of this project was convincing myself I was not about to be murdered when I first got to Randall’s Island.
Randall’s Island would be a great set for a horror movie, no alterations required.
To get there, my partner Mary and I boarded the only mode of public transportation to the island available: a city bus that also serves as the main mode of transportation for mentally ill people on their way to the City Government-run institution on the island. It has four stops: two in East Harlem, and two on the island. The last one is the psychiatric center. We got off one stop before that. That was a weird bus trip. We ended up walking under highways and train tracks in almost complete darkness searching for this golf place for about 45 minutes. Meanwhile I came up with horror movie scenarios in my head. The golf range is a scrappy little place, but it seemed like heaven after those 45 minutes.
The Golf Center:
Warmer weather means better business for driving ranges:
And if you found yourself thinking, “how do I get involved?!” here’s how to start your own driving range:
Split – A young actress between dreams and part-time jobs – by Claudia Bracholdt
Anisha Dadia came to New York from the UK two years ago to pursue an acting career. Now, she struggles with her dream, switching back and forth between student film auditioning and babysitting. She has to prove herself good enough to receive an artist visa or she will have to leave the U.S.
Anisha: I’m from the UK. I got a degree…. in languages actually. So then I suddenly uprooted and said: Okay, I’m going to New York to study acting. And I think my parents were like “What are you doing? What are you doing? There is no future in that, there’s no stability in that.” No one has really done what I’ve done in my family.
Anisha AX (reading): He had not been married then. Not married, not engaged…
Anisha: Actors can apply for an artist visa. And that means you have to show the US, that you have some kind of extraordinary talent that no American has.
How can you prove that? How can you actually prove that?
Anisha AX: I have to show my ID I guess.
Auditions for Hank, yeah. This.
Security Guard AX: Yeah I know.
Anisha AX: Here’s my ID.
Anisha: It’s not easy. You’ve gonna have to work on it. And you gonna have to really train your voice. You’re gonna have to look maybe a certain way to really get anywhere. And then you realize: Oh my god I don’t look like this. I don’t sound like this. I can’t do this. And you realize you got a lot of limits that you need to get over.
It’s really difficult to even get an audition. Even for a student film.
Anisha AX: This is a perfectly nice place. Let’s just enjoy the meal, okay?
Director Audition AX: …but you know probably within the next couple of weeks I’ll be doing callbacks for sure.
Anisha AX: Okay.
Anisha: And I was always raised to be like… come from a small town, probably live and raise a family in that small town, whereas I just kind of slammed the door and took off to New York. I want to be self-sufficient enough in my sort of acting career to be able to pursue this… just completely.
Anisha AX: Was it funny or was it weird?
Anisha: Babysitting has its means to an end. I really enjoy it. I really get along with the kids I babysit.
AX Michael: Split.
AX Anisha: Alright, you can have that pile, that’s fine.
AX Michael: Kay.
Anisha: It’s there to sort of help me fund this acting career.
Michael AX: Yeah, it is really junky.
Anisha AX: You tried it?
Anisha: Sometimes, you do of course feel life could be very banal, just kind of monotonous. And then you’re given a role that is really fresh, very unique, something you can really sink teeth into. That will take you away from the every day monotony of your life. But it’s not so much as an escape as it’s an excuse to be as free as you can be.
Acting has always been something she would have liked to do, Anisha said. She just never had the courage to stop her language studies and start something completely new. But then she left the UK two years ago to come to New York, leaving her parents slightly irritated and worried.
Now, Anisha is worried herself. So far, she has failed to get an artist visa that she needs to stay in the U.S. In order to receive that visa, Anisha has to show the U.S. government that she is an extraordinary actress.
To prove this, Anisha runs from audition to audition. A lot of the roles she auditions for are unpaid. To survive, Anisha spends most of her mornings and evenings babysitting.
Anisha said she enjoys babysitting very much, but wants to fully concentrate on her acting career in the US.
She has two months left to collect references and finish her visa application.
Behind the scenes:
For the past months, Anisha has mainly been the elevator girl to me, the person you see daily on your way out of the house and you say “hi” or “good morning”, but you don’t really talk to each other. Anisha is living in my dorm, the International House. I first pursued another character for my video profile, an opera singer. After I noticed that the character did not really struggle and it was not possible to shoot him rehearsing, because Opera people are very strict, I canceled him and went home. At the same evening, I recorded a theatre play at my dorm for my Audio Reporting class. Anisha had helped to organize this play. So we both were sitting around during the rehearsal and she was waiting for this important phone call. She had been one of two actresses in New York that were invited for a taping for a big network TV-Show. She was practicing and practicing, because the role she would have to play had an American accent and she really struggled with that (and I could be no help at all). So then I talked to her a bit about her story and she told me how much she would need this role to be able to stay in the country. In the end she didn’t get the role, but I noticed that I got a story.
Anisha’s website: thisisanisha.com/
Anisha playing a Spanish man in a short comedy: youtube.com/watch?v=4UgkoGBSS18
One of the many sites she uses to apply for auditions: backstage.com/bso/index.jsp
An Occupier Brings Mindfulness to the Movement by Jackie Snow
Caroline Contillo brings her Buddhist meditation practice to Occupy Wall Street Meetings.
Shot by Jackie Snow and Jenny Marc
Edited and Produced by Jackie Snow
You know I had gotten really jaded about political action, I’d been really politically active when I was in high school and then in my early 20s. And I always ended up getting burned out. It always seemed really frustrating. I didn’t necessarily feel like part of a community. I felt like an angry person who met up with other angry people and we occasionally tried to get stuff done.
My Name My Name is Caroline is Caroline
Occupy was a completely different experience for me. I had gone down there and been kind of an observer. I studied cultural anthropology in school so I’ve always had this inclination to be a little on the outside of things and just watch and document but after the eviction i was just like incensed. Like I couldn’t just watch anymore.
I don’t want to call this a meditation I don’t want to call this a meditation. I want to call it a grounding. I want to call it a grounding.
The meditation working group is like an occupy specific group of meditators from all different meditations backgrounds who are kind of working on how best our meditation practice could benefit occupy in general.
The big projects we’ve been working on is we’ve been calling them groundings exercises.
It’s a form of meditation. It’s kind of just sitting or standing for three minutes and kind of getting in touch with your body.
Cause I’m stoked as hell Cause I’m stoked as hell To be on this ground To be on this ground At Liberty Plaza At Liberty Plaza
I think that the park was a grounding thing when people were camped in it. umm so without that whats grounding people and i think that kind of has to be other people who are kind of -. its kind of like a hey hey lets focus why are we here what are we doing.
I would like us all to get on the same page I would like us all to get on the same page Checking in Checking in About why we occupy About why we occupy So lets take three minutes So lets take three minutes To occupy our bodies To occupy our bodies And check in with our minds And check in with our minds
I don’t know how to say this without sounding really trite it just kind of opened my heart back up to political action
Caroline Contillo went to Occupy Wall Street on a whim. After staying the night with the help of some friendly anarchist, Contillo knew she found a call to action. Contillo grew up in a political family, with her father a judge and grandfather a New Jersey state senator, and had been politically active for much of her life. She had lost her enthusiasm, however for activism after years of feeling like it wasn’t accomplishing anything. Occupy Wall Street, with its community at Zuccotti Park and its lofty goals that would benefit everyone, reignited her passion.
In the years off from activism, Contillo had picked up Buddhist meditation. Her practice led her to getting involved with the meditation group, where she thought she could do the most good. The group members would go to meetings and offer to try and level off any tension before the meetings started.
And there’s been a lot of tension while Occupy was in a state of hibernation during the winter and while they prepared for May Day. Without a camp the movement seems to have lost direction. The frustrations of keeping the movement going has caused infighting. The occupiers involved with the meditation group have tried to help keep meetings calm by bringing their mindful practice. Contillo has started going to the big meetings to do these so called “groundings” herself. Occupy Wall Street inspired Contillo to care again and she’s doing all she can to help it survive.
I met Caroline when I was at a bar in Brooklyn. She and another girl were standing awfully close to my husband, so I went over to introduce myself. My husband, who prides himself at being my wingman for story ideas, introduced her, smiling broadly, as an Buddhist Witch Occupier who does meditation at meetings. I was the one standing awfully close, asking her dozens of questions about being a Buddhist Witch meditator at Occupy Wall Street.
I had been going to Occupy events since day one and thought I had met all the characters there. A recently unemployed publishing world guy who started a business covering Occupy. An activist from Chicago named Ketchup, who was later tormented on The Colbert Report. Caroline proved to be a new one.
For more info:
A Tomcat Among Cyclists, An Alley Cat Racer in New York City, By Christine Streich
A young and adventurous “alley cat” bicyclist speaks about his experiences riding and racing around New York City. He takes us around the city and through the year’s biggest race for bicycle couriers: Monster Track.
It’s the most exhilarating thing I can do, in like an urban city like this. Where it’s all, it’s all cement. You can’t, can’t snowboard in the streets, you can’t uh, parasail on the beaches…
I mean, you ride your bike as fast as possible through traffic. That’s what we do.
When you’re doing Alley Cats, that’s, it’s a way to like kinda show people how fast you are, or I’m so much better than you, my bike’s so much better than yours. Uh, in kind of a fun, friendly way.
Usually when word of mouth gets out that there’s a race, uh, they’ll say meet up at the end of Brooklyn Bridge or end of Williamsburg Bridge.
Uh, the guy will yell ‘go’ and then we’ll all just sprint, sprint across, grab our bikes and just, I guess start the race.
The most dangerous thing I’ve done in a race, uh, was probably, uh jump on the FDR for a couple, uh blocks. Um, and you can jump on really, really quick and you can shoot up pretty much you know 60 blocks without any traffic um and no lights. Cars are flying by you at 65 miles an hour when you’re going 20, and it’s a little scary but, uh, it’s real fun.
I grew up in like a suburban area, uh, you know, there was 10 houses on a block, so it was really, really easy to get a group of people together and do something really stupid. It would be ‘who could climb up the tree the fastest and climb back down, who could skateboard on their belly the fastest down a really big hill.’ So I guess it’s in true form of myself to continue with this adrenaline-pumping sport.
I think coming to the city and realizing how easy it is to bike around and how much faster it is to bike like through Brooklyn or through Manhattan on a bike really kind of drew me into it.
Um, but when I realized, you know, you could race, and have a competitive side to it, that’s when it really kind of kicked in that this is, (laughs) this is awesome.
Mike Pelletier, 23, is a thrill-seeker who grew up playing soccer and snowboarding. So when he moved to New York City four years ago to go to college, he felt constrained by all of the concrete.
One day, Mike ran into a classmate who consistently came to school in bike gear, breathless and sweaty. The classmate was a bicycle courier who rode around New York City delivering packages. For Pelletier, who had been seeking an athletic pursuit, this was a favorable alternative to his job waiting tables. A few days later, Pelletier became a bicycle courier.
Pelletier quickly learned that there is a whole sub-culture to the profession. Couriers ride single-gear bikes with no brakes, and they take incredible risks to get the job done quickly. They’ll ride in car lanes, hop on highways, and even sketchÂ or grab onto vehicles and allow themselves to be pulled along.
And the best part of it all is that they get together regularly to compete and show off their skills. Alley Cat Races are illegal, secret races that challenge the best bicycle messengers to vie for the fastest time. While the races vary in structure, they are all set up to mimic bicycle couriering. Competitors receive manifests of checkpoints, and they use their knowledge of the city to plot out the fastest route, just as though they were spending the day delivering packages.
Monster Track is the biggest Alley Cat Race of the year, with over 100 participants. This was Pelletier’s first time competing.
Behind the Scenes:
Michael “Curly”Â Pelletier is a friend and roommate of Andrew Shepherd, one of the CUNY J-School Equipment Room guys. He has competed in about a dozen Alley Cat Races over the past two years and was very excited to be riding in Monster Track for the first time. He wanted people to film his experience, and we needed a good story — it was kismet.
While we didn’t touch upon it in the piece, riding recklessly like they do for Alley Cat Races is extremely dangerous. Mike told us a story about getting doored by a car (someone opened their car door right as he was approaching the car) and being flung into a garbage truck. Luckily, he didn’t sustain any permanent injuries, but he couldn’t ride his bike for two weeks. In 2008, the Monster Track race was cancelled because a cyclist died during a race that year in Chicago.
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10 Years at the Driving Range by Mary Shell
Back in high school, you may have thought about working at the driving range as a summer job. For some people, it’s much more – a full time job and even a career.
It’s hard to hit a golf ball and aim at something. You’ve gotta be pretty good, you know.
My name is Daniel Roman, I’m 47 years old.
A typical day: get here in the morning, check the bathrooms, make sure there’s TP in there. Make sure the ball machine’s full.
I got hit once where the ball came in and hit me in the knee.
I told the guy, You think you’re not hurting nobody, but you see the ball came in and hit me. I drove right up front to tell him. I wasn’t mad or anything, I just wanted to let him to know there’s consequence to if you aim at the car, you know.
Just hurt for a little while.
If it hits the car, I usually don’t even flinch. I’m used to it now.
My sister works for Con Edison, my other sister’s a home attendant, my other one’s a nurse, and my brother, uh he’s in prison. In, jail. Jail. He’s in jail.
I figure everybody gotta work, you know, to earn a living, you know. Can’t be stealing from people, even if they’re bad people. You know?
I have some future plans. I’m thinking about going back to school. Because I don’t want to be here, I don’t want to stay here. I’m getting a little, I guess uh, not that it’s getting a little boring but I think i’ve done it and im getting a little tired of it, a little bit a little bit.
Daniel Roman has been picking up golf balls for 10 years. He works at the Randall’s Island Golf Center. Roman is an expert with the cart, managing the other groundskeepers, and at identifying celebrities.
But the job is not without its hazards, nor is it without monotony. Roman had plenty of stories about dodging shots from golfers, and maneuvering the cart out of muddy pits after spring rains.
He has four siblings – two who work in health care, one who works for Con-Edison, and a brother who has spent years going in and out of jail. He’s had a lot of time to think about gainful employment, and the fact that his brother has gone the opposite route.
Roman isn’t bitter. He’s happy to be outdoors, although it’s evident he dreams of something a little more adventurous. From time to time, he visits his brother and sends him money.
Roman is not alone in his job choice. There are just under 40,000 workers in New York State in landscaping and groundskeeping. The average annual income for this line of work is $28,770.
Bureau of Labor Statistics
Randall’s Island Golf Center
Innovations in Communication for Prisoners and Their Families
More Character Info
We interviewed Roman on two separate occasions. Both times I was impressed with his enthusiasm and happy personality – crazy for someone who has been doing the same job everyday for 10 years.
Roman talked to us about how he was a delivery guy before he got the job on Randall’s Island (a friend provided a reference). He also talked to us about his brother’s felonies – he likes to rob drug dealers, according to Roman. He said he never thought his brother would grow up to become such a troublemaker, and recalled fun times they had shared as children.
Roman talked about his girlfriend’s cats, traveling abroad, and his love of the outdoors. The outdoor factor seemed by far the biggest draw for him when it came to working at the range.
Shared Sacrifice – By Alex Robinson
James McSherry has taught at Herbert H. Lehman High School in the Bronx since 1991. The school has been slated to close and re-open with half of the staff. Determined to make sure this does not happen, students, parents and teachers staged a demonstration at a hearing on March 7th, 2012.
[OUTSIDE SCHOOL AMBI – FOOTSTEPS]
McSherry: The school itself is in a turn around model, which means – It’s a euphemism for “We’re closing you down and opening you up in a charter school initiative”.
It’s not good for the teachers. It’s not good for the parents, not good for the community and it’s definitely not good for the kids.
And they’re looking to fire all teachers and then re-hire 50 percent of the staff.
[PEOPLES MIC] (I consider this school my second home)
I don’t know if I’m going to reapply for my job. I just feel that it’s like a slap in the face to have to reapply after twenty-something odd years in that school, you know, for a position.
[AMBI FROM INSIDE CAR]
I live in this community. My daughter goes to public school. She might go to Lehman High School in two years. I have a personal investment in this job, more than a job, and in the community, and in my students. And I feel that they’re not getting the proper – [PROTEST NOISE] It’s not a fair and equitable way that they’re being treated, as far as by the administration, by the DOE, by politicians Bloomberg and Cuomo, Chancellor Walcott and before him his predecessor, Chancellor Klein. These people are out of touch with the realities that our students are faced with. And I feel that’s important. It’s an important part of the equation.
Shared sacrifices. When a politician says “Shared sacrifices”, it means bend over, because you’re getting screwed.
Before he became a teacher at Lehman, James McSherry attended the school as a student from 1976 to 1981. The school is one of 33 low performing schools that has been chosen to close and re-open in what is called a turn around model. When the school closes, teachers will have to reapply for their jobs. Only 50 percent will get their jobs back.
The school will be collocated by a charter school. Lehman High School, which was already crowded, will become even more so. Parents, students, and teachers have struggled to keep their school in tact, but their pleas have fallen on deaf ears.
McSherry teaches Film at Lehman. He started a Film program after starting out as an English teacher.
He is also a writer and filmmaker. McSherry made a short film called “Poetry Man” in 2010 that won several awards, including the Audience Choice Award at the Manhattan Film Festival. The film starred Peter Greene and was based on a childhood friend that got mixed up in crime and ended up in prison.
As a life-long Bronx resident, McSherry is all too familiar with the adversity and unfairness kids growing up in underserved neighborhoods have to deal with. McSherry grew up with a bi-polar mother who struggled financially. His father was murdered when he was very young. McSherry saw many friends and people around him die at a young age.
McSherry says collocation will add complication to the lives of kids who have already had it rough.
James’ website: www.jamesmcsherry.com/
A NYDaily News Article about James: http://www.nydailynews.com/news/filmmaker-standing-soon-to-be-closed-school-article-1.1035097
James’ IMDB page: http://www.imdb.com/name/nm2548176/
Behind the Scenes:
Nabil Rahman, who I shot this with, knew James from school. Nabil had attended Lehman High School, and also later taught there. When he heard about the closing and collocation of the school, he figured James would be the perfect subject to talk to about the issue.
In the first interview we filmed, we had close to two hours of footage. We had an enormous amount of really compelling stories from James’ life. As a result, it was extremely hard to compress it into what it is now. It feels like there is so much missing. James has an incredible amount of engaging stories from his 20 years of teaching. One story that particularly stuck out was a tragic story about James finding a young girl who had hung herself in the school bathroom. James then had to tell the mother of the student what had happened. James’ life needs feature-length time to do it justice.
(Not necessarily relevant, but part of the journey of filming this:) I got robbed while coming home late on the subway from the Bronx after shooting the first interview, and feel like I can now say I have had the complete New York experience.
Hittin’ Trains: A New York Subway Dancer’s Story By Anika Anand
Andrew Saunders, an 18-year-old from the Bronx, stays out of trouble by spending most of his time dancing on subway trains.
The train is just the funnest thing to do. Like, you see all types of people. Like school kids, people coming from work, people that’s tired, people that’s stressed out.
A lot of people be smiling and they never seen us perform before. Sometimes people just want to feel love. If you interact with people like that then they’ll feel good at the end of the day. Like, oh, these kids just made my day.
And we take the Q train. We take it from 14th to Atlantic and back. Back and forth.
Showtime, what time is it? Showtime…. Here we go.
We do like spectacular stuff. Shoe tricks. Hat tricks. Like shirt tricks. We got everything. We really like pour our heart outs.
Thank you and god bless. Coming around…
Dancing’s, just, it keeps me out of trouble. The trouble that’s out in the Bronx now. There’s a lot of gangs, it’s not even like Bloods or Crips or nothing. It’s like letter gangs, like YGs and all this extra crap. It’s follow the leader, like, I don’t want to follow, I want to lead. I’d rather do it in a positive way.
You don’t wanna just get your life tooken and don’t get to live it. And your mother just crying or something. And your whole family is just upset. ‘Cuz
I think about that all the time. Because anytime, anything can happen.
Like when I went to go spend the night at my friend’s house and I didn’t call my mom. I forgot. And I went home. And nobody answered the door, so I was lost. And I went to my cousin’s job. Called him. I called my sister. And they told me well, my mom had a stroke. I didn’t know what to do. Like I didn’t even tell my cousin. I just gave him his phone back. I just walked off. And I just started crying. And then, then I just went to go dance.
I really was a mama’s boy, so it was on my mind all the time. I see her like three times a week. She asked me to dance for her. She always asks about my friends. She asked if I have a girlfriend. All the time. All the time. I’m like Nooo. I’m not gonna say she’s sick. But she just paralyzed right now, a little bit. Now I just take, take full responsibilities for what I do. I just stay out of trouble just for her. I’m just doing it for her. And all I just wanted to do was just do good for her. And that’s what I’m doing now.
In my mind, I think like, we one of the best. Like, we the best ever. Now we making history. That’s how I feel. Because I’ve never seen anyone do what I do.
Everybody in the world has a purpose. I don’t wanna be like everybody else. I wanna be different. Like, I wanna be remembered.
It’s time to hit. That’s what he thinks every morning he wakes up. That’s what he lives for.
Bronxite Andrew Saunders, 18, hits the Q almost every day. He rides the train and performs a dance called litefeet with his friends.
Litefeet is a style of dance that became popular a few years ago. It combines elements from dances like the Harlem Shake, the PC Shuffle, Chicken Noodle Soup and others.
Every Friday night, at least 100 kids from all over the city go to True Sound Lounge, a recording studio in the Bronx that opens up its space for the kids to dance and “battle.” The teens compete for bragging rights.
Andrew, nicknamed Goofy, performs at the battles and on the trains with a group of his friends he calls WAFFLE (We Are Family For Life Entertainment) and SYRUP (Show Your Real Unknown Potential). “Because you can’t have waffles without syrup,” Andrew says.
While Andrew is passionate about dancing, he says it also keeps him out of trouble. And that’s important to him for one reason: his mom.
A couple of years ago, Andrew’s mom had a paralyzing stroke. He says that he just wants “to do good for her.” His mom says he just wants to see Andrew graduate high school, which he’s doing in May, and become a famous dancer.
Andrew is realistic about a career in dancing. He thinks it’s more important to go to college and try to get a stable job afterward. He mentioned trying to work for the government.
Visit these links for more information on subway dancing and lite feet:
The first time we met up with Goofy, we had absolutely no idea what to expect. Our biggest concern was shooting on a moving train. We both brought tripods, which was just silly, because there was no way to move around quickly with it. The last time we rode with Goofy, we each had a monopod, which worked much better.
We wanted to do a sit down interview with Goofy, but couldn’t find a quiet place to do it. So we brought him to CUNY’s TV studio. We chatted with him for an hour. At the end of it, after Goofy left, I let out an exasperated sigh. I didn’t think we got anything out of him, I didn’t even think we had a story with this kid. But Kenny’s eyes lit up and he said he thought we got great stuff.
A LOT of other things happened. We went out to the Bronx to shoot this dance competition/party that they all go to every week. It ended up not going very well with our story, so we cut it. We almost decided to focus on one of Goofy’s friends instead of Goofy. His friend, Swagga Boy, said he was starting Julliard in a couple weeks. We called Julliard to double check—turned out he was lying.
The toughest scene to shoot was Andrew’s mom in the nursing home. We were hoping we could just “hang out” and be wallflowers while they visited with each other. But, no such luck. She shared a room with another resident and Goofy brought along two of his other friends, so it was a tight squeeze. We felt really bad putting a camera in this woman’s face whom we had never met before. Our saving grace was when someone brought a tray of food in and Andrew and his mom ignored us for a few moments. That led to some good natural shots.
Single greatest lesson I learned from the editing process is how important it is to log footage from a shoot, at least before the next time you go out to shoot. Super, super important. Seriously.
Final Cut of 1-3 minutes due in class Wednesday, October, 26, 2011
Requirements for Written Journalism and Delivery of each project:
Each final project will be posted on Vimeo on or before the deadline. Remember it takes time to upload and for Vimeo to process you video, depending on the time of day, the traffic at Vimeo and the speed of your connection. This process might take several hours. If I log on at the deadline and I can’t watch your video, for whatever reason, I’ll consider it a missed deadline and you’ll be automatically dropped a grade to start.
Each piece must be accompanied by the following six written journalistic elements, all of which must be posted to Vimeo with your video:
– a 240 character description of the story. (For use in TubeMogel)
– a longer 250 word description of the story
– a compelling headline and subhead that are SEO optimized plus at least 5 tags
– a word for word accurate transcript of the final piece
– at least three suitable links to the subject, story or theme from other sources
– a short behind-the-scenes story about how you found the character, something interesting that happened that’s not in the final piece, why you created this story, etc (great for blogging)