Youth Media Map: Diving In, Reaching Out, Putting Down

George Toro: Filmmaker Young Filmmakers Foundation (1973)

When I first began this project, I was moving in the direction of a map with more utility – for use with networking between organizations and young media makers around the city.  The idea of a map with such utility means a more expansive point plotting that would only allow me to brush the surface of youth media organizations by finding their most basic and identifiable attributes.  The map could still be used as a networking tool, but I feel like that would be an eventual goal – when Urban Research Tool is brought to youth media organizations and they add their own media to the map as a city-wide program that connects these groups, for example.

I have decided to map the early youth media making projects and organizations of the 1960s/70s until the founding of Educational Video Center (EVC) in 1984 and then I will continue exploring EVC, as it interacts with the city today.

Educational Video Center (EVC) is the second oldest youth media organization in New York City

Diving In

Before I truly began to clarify my spatial argument, I did what Lauren so wonderfully emphasized in class last week and just “[dove in], start[ed] collecting and [saw] what emerged.”  Sometimes, I need to search to actually find out what I am searching for.

I found my metaphorical diving board in an article about youth media written by Stephen Michael Charbonneu for Jump Cut: A Review of Contemporary Media.  This article put Educational Video Center in the context of its history; mentioning the various youth filmmaking organizations,  since the early 1960s that paved its way.  The article provided a plethora of keywords for my research, opening up a new world of youth media in the city, beginning with DeeDee Halleck’s work at the Lillian Wald Recreation Rooms on the Lower East Side.

Halleck – youth filmmaking in NYC with her work at the Lillian Wald Recreation Rooms in 1961

(Photo courtesy of:

Reaching Out

Because this map is going to be a (partially) ‘living’ map, with interviews punctuating the plot points, I began a two-pronged outreach plan last week. If my map relies on the voiced experience of others, this is my top priority:

  • First, I looked for the names of people who have shaped youth media in the city:  DeeDee Halleck, Rodger Larson, Lynne Hofer, Bruce Spiegel, Steve Goodman and any alumni of the early film clubs that I could find.  Although I am still searching for contact information for some of these pioneers, I have sent out several e-mails, receiving wonderfully warm responses: DeeDee Halleck responded almost immediately by sending me some essays from her book, Hand Held Visions and Joseph Sciorra, who posted his 1971 Film Club stop-motion animation “Batteries Not Included” on Youtube, responded saying that “it was a delight to receive [my] e-mail.”
  • Second, I discussed my project with Brooklyn Children’s Museum and plan to collect data and conduct interviews with student interns from their Teen Crew after school program.  After training these students how to conduct oral history interviews for another project I completed several months ago, I am confident in their skills as professional interviewers and research assistants for this project.  This component of the map will tip James Corner’s concept of ‘agency’ on its head and work to find a more ‘collaborative agency,’ as the youth media making that this map seeks to explore is excavated by youth themselves.

Putting Down

So, the question remains…why put youth media history down on a map?  My argument for this has felt muddy and I decided to articulate it further for myself after doing more research this weekend to open my topic up further:

  1. By mapping the life cycle of a youth media organization, other organizations might learn from previous patterns.  It also brings the elements of ‘pre-production,’ ‘production,’ and ‘post-production’ to the organizational sphere.  How does a youth media organization create a relationship with the city around it in order to build itself? Does an organization still exist through screenings or archives after it has finished facilitating the production of youth work?
  2. Changing patterns in an organization’s interaction with the city can be compared to outside variables – funding, equipment technology, partnership creation and school involvement – to investigate broader priorities and shifts.
  3. According to the literature cited by Charbonneau, most youth media organizations work “within disadvantaged communities […] to carve out a discursive space for repressed voices.”  The camera gives permission to marginalized youth to explore their city in new ways; the spaces that these young filmmakers choose to focus on in the city through various ‘neighborhood stories’ could be important to map as a way to investigate the way youth identify with their urban environment.
  4. Finally, by gathering data with students from Brooklyn Children’s Museum, the map will have more collaborative agency and could also serve as an educational program model for other organizations that want to add current organizations to the map in the future.

The following three items will be my entities – although I may add other entities if there are more organizations that started/ended before 1984 that I find in my research:

  • The Henry Street Settlement Movie Club (Founded 1963 by DeeDee Halleck)
  • The Film Club/Young Filmmakers Foundation (Founded in 1963 by Rodger Larson)
  • Educational Video Center (Founded in 1984 by Steve Goodman)
Part of a review of films at Film Forum (New York Times, 5 February 1972)

I will collect the following attributes/artifacts to support this exploration:

  • Films that depict specific locations in New York City, exploring how youth mapped their own city in the 1960s until today.  I will most likely include screen shots for many of the 16mm films. (The full archive of films from Film Club is located at New York Public Library for the Performing Arts – I am reserving many of the titles this week).
  • Interviews with organization founders and program alumni; along with some interviews from current students. (Note:  These interviews will revolve around location-specific questions – for example, “What was it like to film that building on the corner of Stanton and Rivington? Why was it so important to you at the time?” OR “Why did you choose to form a partnership with the High School for Arts and Theater at the time?”)
  • Photographs of the organizational spaces where youth made was media (4 Rivington street, for example – the storefront where The Film Club was located)
  • Partnerships and collaborations – Programs developed partnerships with local schools/community organizations as a way to use space or embed themselves further in the education landscape of the city.  These partnerships reveal how youth media organizations formed networks to strengthen their presence in the city.
  • Funding sources – many of the early organizations were supported by city and state funding – how has this shifted?
  • Screening sites – many of the early films were screened at museums on regular basis (e.g. the “Cinephobe” series at MoMA) – how has this trend shifted up until now and what does this say about the city’s own receptivity to youth made films?


One comment

  1. This is shaping up so nicely, Alex! How wonderful that your research has allowed you to make contact with some of the pioneers in the field. And as I said before, I *love* that you’re involving children in your data collection; your methodology perfect fits the “ethos” of your research subject. Your re-conceptualization of how the map could function as a research tool also seems now to be more in line with the participatory nature of both your subject and your methodology; rather than expecting *yourself* to build the network, you can instead *seed* the youth media network map with a few points, then invite others in to build their own networks.

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