As proud supporters of Chicago's LGBT community, students at TFA recently produced this powerful film inspired by the It Gets Better Project, featuring Mayor Rahm Emanuel, Chef Art Smith, Cubs co-owner Laura Ricketts and other prominent Chicagoans. Recent TFA graduate Jacob Wilson reflects on the experience of working on this project, and what his involvement means for him.
In Chicago alone, one in three schoolchildren experiences bullying. Even more startlingly, one in four bullied youths seriously considers suicide. For individuals targeted for being gay, lesbian, bisexual, or transgendered, it can be hard to believe that their experience will improve with time.
Author and Chicago native Dan Savage, a co-founder of the It Gets Better Project, has said that if “you want to help gay kids, you have to reach them in middle school and high school, when they're being bullied.” The faculty, staff, and students of Tribeca Flashpoint Academy sought to do just that with this film, our tribute to the It Gets Better Project.
Those of us who worked on the film wanted to produce a piece featuring high-profile LGBT individuals and straight allies from Chicago to demonstrate that life exists beyond the confines of early education--a message that had personal relevance to me even before I was brought on for the film's post-production.
"Every It Gets Better video takes on the personality and message of its creator. To me, that’s one of the most striking and important aspects of the campaign: personal connection."
- Jacob Wilson, Film + Broadcast alumnu
Tribeca Flashpoint Academy
I myself identify as a gay man and have endeavored to incorporate my identity into my work as a filmmaker. This included creating an It Gets Better video of my own during my first full semester at Tribeca Flashpoint Academy.
It’s important to understand that every It Gets Better video takes on the personality and message of its creator. To me, that’s one of the most striking and important aspects of the campaign: personal connection. The video created by TFA takes into account the perspectives of no fewer than ten individuals, including well-known personalities like Mayor Rahm Emanuel, celebrity chef Art Smith, Cubs co-owner Laura Ricketts and others.
In a piece this large, it likely comes as no surprise that there were many experiences and viewpoints to consider. Yet, the message that it really does get better framed them all. Here are some examples:
Mayor Emanuel, who danced ballet as a child, recalls being picked on by other boys who presumed he was gay. Since then, he's worked with President Obama in ending Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell and passing hate crimes legislation through Congress.
Arthur Johnston, co-founder of activist organization Equality Illinois, relates especially to the It Gets Better Project. As a young man, he had serious thoughts of suicide which stemmed from not knowing where to turn for acceptance of his sexuality. To help guide similarly conflicted children and teens, his candidly shared his struggles and perseverance on-camera, explaining how he found a place for himself among the LGBT community in Chicago.
Despite growing up in a small and conservative town in Nebraska, Laura Ricketts draws inspiration from the wholehearted acceptance of her family. Marriage and family are important things to Ms. Ricketts, who has a child of her own. She continues to be astounded by how quickly marriage equality is becoming a real possibility for LGBT couples nationwide.
Our goal as filmmakers is that the ten stories of love, hope, acceptance, and triumph contained in this short piece will resonate deeply with LGBT teens who feel burdened by the treatment they receive due to their sexuality.
Still, this initiative is only the beginning of a much larger movement toward acceptance and equality. Resources such as counseling, anti-bullying programs, and allies are vital to ending not only LGBT bullying but that of all schoolchildren. The producers of this video hope that by spreading awareness about how it’s gotten better for some of Chicago’s finest will inspire young men and women to reach out for this support. As Mona Noriega said, it only gets better with you and me.