This special blog post comes to you from Luz Delma Adon, Raquel Rosado, Liza Rosado, and Juwan Stone, who, with Hahillah Ahmed, Brian Bass, Gabrielle (Gabby) Bruno, Carla Hernández, Winona Holderbaum, and Javier Montero served as members of the High Line Teen Film Committee. Together, these local teens worked with staff at Friends of the High Line to curate and produce a free summer film series, called High Line Teen Picks, which took place over the course of three weeks in August, thanks in part to support from AT&T.
Over the course of this project, we were asked many times, “Why did you choose these movies for the film series?”
The High Line itself is a reinvention, built by people who didn’t give up. Teen Picks consisted of different types of movies – a romance, an action flick, and a drama – but even though they differ from one another, each one relates to the High Line. Each movie features underdog characters who never give up on their beliefs and dreams, and that is what the High Line is all about. The High Line was going to be knocked down, but since people believed in it and wanted to make something of it, they fought for it, and today it remains standing.
When we set out to curate Teen Picks, our first task was to select three movies that fit our theme. We started with a selection of 20 movies, but we had to narrow it down. After three months of reviewing the films, we got the list down to the final four: Step Up, The Notebook, Real Steel, and Freedom Writers.
Four movies for only three film screenings. Weird right?
The reason is that we decided to ask our community for help. We asked people to decide which movie would launch Teen Picks by voting between Step Up and The Notebook.
We set up different ways for people to make their voice heard. We asked people to vote online on Facebook and Wufoo, and we created voting sheets to pass out while tabling outside the Elliot-Chelsea and Fulton Houses during the month of July. In total, we collected more than 1,000 votes. Step Up ended up winning; we think because people feel like it is more of a ‘kids movie.’ But it didn’t win by much—the final vote was 528 for Step Up to 485 for The Notebook.
As we got closer to opening night, we were excited and nervous. We had worked so hard to give our neighbors what they wanted.
It turned out to be a huge success. More than 250 people came to the High Line to watch Step Up on August 2. Even though some people were disappointed that The Notebook wasn’t selected to launch the series, they still came to show their support. Since the event was free, with complimentary popcorn, cookies, and drinks, people in the community had something fun to do without having to spend money. Little kids, adults, and teens – everyone enjoyed it. One visitor told us, “This is better than a movie theater!” Another said, “I like the outdoor feeling.”
Before we knew it, we were into the following week, with nearly as many people showing up to watch Real Steel on August 9. The series closed on August 16 with a full house to watch Freedom Writers.
Preparing for each night of the series was both fun and overwhelming. It took a lot of hard work, dedication, and consistency.
“Every week, before the huge wave of people would come in, I would get a big adrenaline rush. I was so ecstatic about the event,” said High Line Teen Film Committee Member Juwan Stone. “It made me happy when people asked me questions because they wanted to know more about the High Line.”
Each night we learned how to change things to make it better for the people. We noticed that a lot of couples came, and we think that’s a start of something. Teens will likely come to our future events in groups, rather than by themselves or with their families. We also asked people to fill out surveys at each movie, so that people have the opportunity to share ideas ways to improve future events.
Now that the series is over, we are pleased with how it turned out.
“Seeing familiar faces that I usually see in my everyday life made me feel good. People kept patting me on my back and saying job well done,” said High Line Teen Film Committee Member Luz Delma Adon. “I’m proud of all of us.”
High Line Teen Picks was presented by AT&T.