Four Brooklyn filmmakers walked around Gowanus on Monday with a handheld Canon after assembling a quick shot list.
“That’s really powerful,” said Mie Abouelkheir, pointing at a sign about a shuttered shop that reads "We Will Never Forgive."
Dexter Dugar Jr. , 22, agreed, looking west toward One World Trade Center across the East River. "It sounds like war propaganda."
This is the footage — of pizza shops, trash piles and sidewalk cracks —that the student filmmakers from Reel Works say they are eager to show the new French friends they’ve never met, but hope to, if they can raise enough money to attend a program in Paris this summer.
Reel Works, a free filmmaking program that pairs at-risk youth with professional mentors, is sending five students to Paris this summer to collaborate with young filmmakers there, before bringing them all back to New York. Reel Works is raising money through a Kickstarter campaign. So far, they've raised a little less than $4,000, but hopes to make it to $15,000 by July 1.
The young filmmakers have already exchanged videos on cultural perceptions. The American students filmed a parody – in a cafe of course – of the stereotypically chain-smoking, rude, and always-in-love French. The French students, on the other hand, poked fun at the idea of Americans being "so lazy" by not learning other languages.
With the exception of Abouelkheir, who has lived in Egypt, none of the American filmmakers have ever traveled outside of the United States.
“This will be my first time out of the country,” Dugar said. “Unless you’re going on a school trip, you don’t leave [Brooklyn].”
Abouelkheir anticipates she will have plenty in common if she ever gets to meet the French filmmakers. “When we’re together, I feel like we’ll have a lot of similarities, not through words or anything, but through actions, through life in general,” she said.
And while they've talked a lot about cultural differences and issues such as racism using Skype, Facebook posts and short films, not everything has to be so serious. The students are just as jazzed about showing their new friends the best food in Brooklyn.
“Pizza, I know a great place around here,” Abouelkheir said.
The others agreed that the French students need to taste New York Chinese food and street cart gyros.
“Most of these kids have never left Brooklyn,” said John C. Williams, co-founder and executive director of Reel Works. “Travel is going to change their sense of the world. You can only travel so far on the Internet.
"What we’re doing here, other than filmmaking, is giving them a sense or possibility about the world."