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Coronavirus and Our Western MA Community: A Collection of Virtual Stories

A youth-adult collaboration directed by Alexandra Pinschmidt

This collaborative video project is a local response to the unprecedented and overwhelming societal effects of the Coronavirus on nearly every aspect of our lives. We will create a documentary that is filmed virtually within our new reality of social distancing guidelines. The video will be an edited compilation of interviews conducted remotely with phones and computers, focusing on the impacts of the Coronavirus here in Western Massachusetts. The goal is to hear firsthand from young people, adults, and families about how this pandemic is shaping and impacting people’s lives. This project is currently in the planning stages, and is a collaboration between filmmaker and filmmaking teacher Ali Pinschmidt, and two youth filmmakers Mayrangelique Rojas-De Leon, and JanCarlos Rivera-Torres. Due to the personal networks of the filmmakers, this film will focus primarily on the lives of people living in Holyoke and Springfield, though interviewees may come from other Western MA cities and towns.

Project Rationale

All disasters and calamities take the largest toll on those who have the least resources and fewest safety nets. With 29% of the population off both Holyoke and Springfield living below the poverty level, it is clear that these communities will have immense financial setbacks, which are typically also tied to setbacks in physical and mental health outcomes. This project will provide a platform for youth, adults, and families – many from lower income neighborhoods – to talk about how their lives are impacted, what their requests are to their neighbors and community leaders, and what their advice is for others. We anticipate that this could be cathartic and empowering for those interviewed, and supportive and informative for those who watch the video. With permission of those interviewed, we may share shorter clips of video through social media during the interviewing and editing stages of the film, so that people can begin to hear these stories sooner rather than later.

Interview topics for youth include the impacts of being sequestered at home with family; being away from school, friends, and activities; worries around Coronavirus; and how their school or community should be responding. Interviews with adults will cover how COVID-19 has impacted work and finances; coping physical and mentally; the impact of the media; and thoughts they want to share with community leaders. Interviews with families will include what it’s been like being home together, and what suggestions they have for other families.

We anticipate our final video will reach thousands of local viewers through online distribution. The video will also be aired on Holyoke Media, Focus Springfield, Northampton Open Media, and Amherst Media – reaching thousands more.

Bios

Alexandra Pinschmidt is a filmmaker and educator, and works to amplify the perspectives of others through video training and outreach. In addition to her work at 1° Shift Productions, Ali founded and directs Don’t Take That Receipt!, a youth-adult collaboration in Holyoke that educates local businesses and institutions about toxic chemicals on thermal paper products and provides tools for reducing exposure. DTTR uses their award-winning educational film to spread awareness. Previously, Ali served as the Western MA Program Director for Transformative Culture Project, launching a Holyoke branch to the Boston-based youth media organization. TCP in Holyoke provided media education to over 200 youth and part-time employment for over 40 youth producers in training from low-income neighborhoods.

​Mayrangelique Rojas-De Leon is a 20-year-old filmmaker and aspiring journalist. She came to Holyoke from Puerto Rico after Hurricane Maria left her high school closed. She now studies media production at Springfield Technical Community College and has produced or co-produced several short student films. She participated in a summer Youth Producer program at WGBY in Springfield, and studied filmmaking with Transformative Culture Project during her senior year in high school. She is also the proud mother of her 9-month old daughter.

JanCarlos Rivera-Torres is also a 20-year-old filmmaker who graduated from Holyoke High School. He was a youth participant in the Sustainable Holyoke Youth Leadership program for two years, as well as a participant and Youth Mentor with the Transformative Culture Project video program. JanCarlos has made several short films, was on the filmmaking team with Don’t Take That Receipt!, and has a passion for editing. He is also an avid BMX biker.

 

 

Associated Members

Alexandra Pinschmidt, Director

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