Queens Village, New York, April 30, 2011 – The anticipation was in the air, families gathered around the many tables enjoying an array of pasta and salads, and a projector along with a large screen awaited to tell the stories of impassioned youth. It is the first annual WOO Film Awards, the culmination of an annual innovative program created by nonprofit Windows of Opportunity. One would never know they were walking into the church basement at Hollis Woods Community Church, located on Bell Boulevard and 82nd Avenue, as the staff at Windows of Opportunity transformed this social space into part restaurant and part theater. The mood was set for a very special and classy evening in deed.
WOO Films uses media and entertainment to inspire awareness, build excitement and create partnerships that support youth as the leaders of today. Their goal is to create contests, films & public service announcements that address issues pertinent to youth and can be used in a multitude of educational settings. The Woo Film Awards showcases films created throughout the year by youth in the categories of Short Documentary, Music Video, Public Service Announcement and Narrative. Producers, Director’s and Actor’s are all honored with awards.
“The WOO Film Awards was inspiring, fun, and the food was great!” stated Nina Theophanous, a youth leader at Windows of Opportunity. “I loved the film on stereotypes. Kids are slowly making a difference and making the world a better place. I am so glad WOO provides that for youth.”
Nina is referring to the film that won the evening’s award for Best Short Film, titled Fading Away From Stereotypes. The film was created by 8 and 9 year olds Merlin MacGillivray, Stella Papavassiliu, and Rebecca Supple, who covered the mature and sensitive topic of gender stereotypes. The one line from the film that sticks out is when Merlin innocently and confidently states “Why does wearing pink make someone gay?” The youth proudly thanked their parents upon receiving the award, along with the organization that taught them about film making, The LAMP (Learning About Multimedia Project).
“I cannot believe how much we have completed in the last year and how many film projects we have lined up,” exclaimed 19 year old Sharlotte Fondeur-Casas, host of the evenings award show and her own WOO web series called The Difference. “We created The Difference to spotlight what incredible youth are accomplishing every day to make a difference in their community and the world,” continued Fondeur-Casas.
It was evident that WOO Films represented many youth well throughout the evening, along with highlighting the many innovative programs at Windows of Opportunity. Included in the films, was a short film on WOO’s 8th Annual Teens to Teens HIV Conference, which also led to the exciting announcement of a collaboration with a youth organization in Embu, Africa, called Embu Youth AIDS Activists. Youth from both countries have connected through Skype, and are planning a HIV Awareness Event slated for next April 2012, called The Dream Out Loud Festival, which will take place in both countries simultaneously.
“I am really excited about programs such as WOO Films and Dream Out Loud,” expressed Hal Eisenberg, Executive Director at Windows. “We are addressing issues that are important to youth and we are creating a shift from negative to positive youth labels. Our programs are giving youth a voice in a very creative and innovative fashion.”
One project that is sure to ring nationwide is WOO Films first venture into a full feature film, titled Dangerous Love. Dangerous Love will be a narrative film that looks at the various forms of Teen Dating Abuse, to be licensed free of charge to Domestic Violence groups and organizations nationwide and then released to the general public without charge (via download). With a powerful preview and vivid images, the message is already obvious – respect your partner. More information on how you can sponsor or audition for the film can be found at http://www.wix.com/woofilms/dangerous-love.
The highlight of the evening and finale was the debut of WOO’s first documentary, Rethinking Beauty: Shortstack Delivers a Tall Order”. The film is a powerful story on the creation of Shortstack™, a teen driven fashion and modeling program created by Olivia Mignone 5 years ago, at the mere age of 15. Its goal is to allow young girls who do not fit the “normal” model standards to be a part of charitable fashion events and send a strong message to the fashion industry that their standards must change. Olivia and her Shortstack models feel that the messages sent to young girls today are damaging and must change. The film held the audience captive and was an inspiration. A DVD release of Rethinking Beauty, which is loaded with extras, and should be seen by everyone in the fashion industry, is available for purchase on the Shortstack website at www.wooshortstack.org.
Shortstack’s™ 5th Anniversary Charity Fashion Show is set for Friday, June 17th, 2011 at The Midtown Loft & Terrace (267 Fifth Avenue 11th Floor, New York, NY 10016). Tickets are now on sale for $60 each. Proceeds will be donated to Windows of Opportunity, Inc.’s Youth Empowerment Programs, including next year’s Shortstack program. Sounds like an event not to miss!
WOO Films uses media and entertainment to inspire awareness, build excitement and create partnerships that support our youth as the leaders of today. Our goal is to create contests, films & public service announcements that address issues pertinent to youth today & can be used in a multitude of educational settings. www.wooinc.org/woofilms
Windows of Opportunity (WOO) is a 501©3 non-profit organization founded to create a shift in what is possible for youth in the areas of leadership, empowerment, self esteem, school performance and career planning… a shift from disempowerment, differences, and indecision to possibility, acceptance and opportunity. WOO designs and delivers INNOVATIVE programs and workshops for youth that develop their leadership skills from various platforms. www.wooinc.org
Hal Eisenberg, L.M.S.W.