The Foster Care Film & Community Engagement Project Series includes the films My Identity: Ashley, a young Native-American Caucasian girl, converts to Islam in hopes of finding structure in a life where it never existed and Feeling Wanted: With a dad incarcerated for murder, a mom on drugs & a childhood in foster care, Charell knew it was time to break the cycle.
Interview with Director/Producer Yasmin Mistry
Congratulations! Why did you make your series about foster care?
After three years working with a developmentally-delayed child, I picked up my phone to hear a little voice saying, “Mama.” This was Ana’s first word and her foster mother had called me, her Court Appointed Special Advocate, to share the experience. As a CASA volunteer, I’ve spent years working with children, their families and the court system to help find kids a permanent home, good educational opportunities and needed medical and social services. As I heard Ana find her voice, I wondered how, and whether, other foster youth ever truly found theirs. So I decided to answer this question using the tools I knew best, animation and film, to give foster youth a chance to be heard.
Imagine I’m a member of the audience. Why should I watch this series?
Our films combat the negative portrayals of foster care often shown in the media. By watching these films you might view foster care, and the young adults in the child welfare system, with a different perspective.
How do personal and universal themes work in your series?
Each film focuses on one foster youth's personal journey and particular themes that make up their individual experience. However, although our interviewees come from all different backgrounds, races, religions and economic backgrounds, there are universal themes in these story that know no boundaries. Loneliness, forgiveness, perseverance and survival and just some of the universal factors seen throughout the stories we've captured.
How have the script and films evolved over the course of their development and production?
We originally intended to make one short film with many foster youth voices. However, we got an overwhelming response. We expected interviews to last for 1 hour and some lasted as long as 9 hours! These current and former foster youth wanted their voices to be heard and their stories were too important to end up on the cutting room floor. Thus we decided to expand our project into a series.
Feeling Wanted: trailer
Has the feedback surprised or challenged your point of view?
The response to our foster care film series is beyond anything we ever expected. Both our released films, My Identity and Feeling Wanted, have been accepted to over 25 film festivals each and received numerous awards. More importantly, we're seeing the films make an impact here in the states and worldwide.
Last year we held a screening and discussion with representatives of international NGOs in Albania who wanted to setup a foster care system in their country. We've also done numerous community screenings and foster youth panels locally and heard the response: foster youth inspired by conversations with our interviewees, life-long court workers who had never spoken directly to a foster youth prior to our presentation etc. The more we share our films the more we've seen the need for them.
What are you looking to achieve by having your film more visible on www.wearemovingstories.com?
We are using these films to create awareness about foster care and to give youth in care a platform to be heard. By having our film visible on wearemovingstories.com we hope to increase awareness and interest in the films and subject matter. These are the first two films in a series of 6 - 8 documentary short films so there is still much work to be done.
Who do you need to come on board (producers, sales agents, buyers, distributors, film festival directors, journalists) to amplify this series’ message?
We have recently launched the series on the educational market. The films are available for educational licensing at http://fostercarefilm.vhx.tv/.
Our goal is to bring the films to universities, libraries, non-profits and community organizations across the nation so that they can be used as training tools for foster parents, social workers, educators and child welfare advocates. Individual short films are currently available for educational licensing, and we plan to release the full collection as a package once the series is complete. Journalists, distributors, and sales agents interested in helping us reach a wider audience can reach us at email@example.com
My identity: trailer
What type of impact and/or reception would you like these films to have?
Our goal is for Feeling Wanted to inspire audiences to take action within their communities. We hope to educate general audiences about foster care and inspire prospective foster parents, mentors or advocates to take the next step. During National Adoption Month, we released preview clips of our interviews on social media. A particular clip, in which Charell talks about her belongings repeatedly getting thrown in trash bags, was so powerful that several people asked where they could donate luggage for kids in care. In response, we partnered with Together We Rise to raise funds to purchase duffel bags for kids in foster care, more-than doubling our initial goal of raising $1,000 through crowdfunding. It’s this time of tangible action that we hope to inspire with our film screenings, Q&As and foster youth speaking engagements.
By giving film subject, Ashley, a vocal platform we helped her find her voice and become an advocate for change. Ashley didn’t just tell us her story, she was given a video camera and an opportunity to record her story and the aspects of life which were most important to her. Through the filmmaking process our goal is to give foster youth the confidence and skills to become a voice for the voiceless. With this film we plan to educate general audiences about kinship foster care, and show how race, religion and mentorship can play a role in developing one’s identity. Among caseworkers and advocates, we hope to reinforce the importance of sibling relationships for youth in foster care.
What’s a key question that will help spark a debate or begin a conversation about this series?
Many people tell us these aren’t "typical" foster care stories. Why or why not? What universal themes do you see? What makes these stories unique and what doesn’t?
Would you like to add anything else?
We’re not just helping youth's voices be heard through film. We’re giving foster youth the opportunity to work behind the scenes as camera operators, production assistants, producers, writers and more. We’re also giving foster youth an opportunity to speak to social workers, lawyers, judges and other change-makers in the foster care community by having them be key participants in our community screenings and presentations.
What are the key creatives developing or working on now?
We have just completed the third film in the series, Family Rewritten and are awaiting it's film festival debut.
We've also begun pre-production on the fourth film. We plan to make 6 - 8 short films and then finish the series with a feature film, if funding allows.
Interview: February 2017
We Are Moving Stories embraces new voices in drama, documentary, animation, TV, web series and music video. If you have just made a film - we'd love to hear from you. Or if you know a filmmaker - can you recommend us? More info: Carmela
Series Title: Foster Care Film & Community Engagement Project
Individual Titles: My Identity, Feeling Wanted
My Identity: Ashley, a young Native-American Caucasian girl, converts to Islam in hopes of finding structure in a life where it never existed,
Feeling Wanted: With a dad incarcerated for murder, a mom on drugs & a childhood in foster care, Charell knew it was time to break the cycle.
My Identity: 11 minutes
Feeling Wanted: 14 minutes
Director: Yasmin Mistry
Producer: Yasmin Mistry
Editors: Maxine Trump & Livia Cheibub
Key cast: Ashley Wolford (My Identity), Charell Charleston (Feeling Wanted)
Looking for (producers, sales agents, buyers, distributors, film festival directors, journalists): We are currently seeking funding to make a partially animated feature length documentary film on the subject of foster care. More info and sample artwork are available at:
Funders: Brooklyn Arts Council, Puffin Foundation, Jessie Styreich-Kest Memorial Grant
Made in association with: N/A
Where can I see it in the next month? http://fostercarefilm.com/events