Watch the opening scene to Mirrorwall Films, "Doing Alright."
Turning over her wrist and pulling up her shirtsleeve, the Steven Spielberg quote "I dream for a living" is tattooed in bold ink.
Michele Hannon, a Temple University senior, described the day when she decided how she would spend her first paycheck and her career. She would use it to purchase a handheld Sony MiniDV camera to make a few small films, and begin to follow her dream.
While in high school, Hannon figured that if she was attending college for film then she should have a production company name to go with her work. "I wrote down a bunch of different names and kind of came up with the name Mirrorwall," she said. "It was in 2008, by this point I knew I wanted to go to Temple I knew I wanted to do film and knew that I needed to get serious."
Hannon spent her first two years in Temple trying to learn all she could about film; she was finally able to put it all to good use during her junior year once she had her core group of dedicated people.
A Resident Assistant at Temple's Peabody Hall, word of Hannon's Mirrorwall had started to spread to other students within the dormitory thanks to friends who attended prior Mirrorwall Film meetings and would bring interested students along.
"There were six of us who maybe came to our first meeting during my junior year," Hannon said. "By the end of that school year it was12 or 15 of us who were active members."
Mirrorwall Films became more of a collaborative group. Each member bringing something different to the table, rather its new ideas of what the budding film company should undertake or a new addition to their growing team.
"I wanted to be a teacher all the way up until the 10th grade," Hannon said. "Then, in junior year of high school, I toured Drexel University, loved their film program and thought it was awesome. I also heard Temple had a film program and thought, 'Eh, I'll go check it out.' I fell in love with the people I got to talk to and by the time I left the campus I was thinking, 'I'm going to Temple!'"
Hannon's handheld Sony; she recalls, cost her entire first paycheck. It was the camera she used the whole senior year of high school, but upon arriving at college, she purchased her first High Definition camera, which she uses from time to time.
Hannon and her crew of filmmakers soon started working on "The Mirrorwall Minutes," one to four-minute short films produced each month that showcased different types of films and styles of filmmaking.
Since the conclusion of the Mirrorwall Minutes last fall, they have garnered over 5,900 views collectively on YouTube.
"I look back on the Minutes as our launching point," Hannon said. "When I came up with the concept I thought they would be a great way to get us making a lot of different kinds of work, allowing the variety of filmmakers we have to express their own voices."
With the Mirrorwall Minutes completed, Hannon and Mirrorwall Films have big plans for the current year. A documentary web series titled, "A Man Who Takes The Place Of," about a trans man named AJ Young and his journey through the female to male transition
"We're currently running an indiegogo fundraiser to raise money for future episodes that we hope to film in AJ's hometown of Chicago," Hannon said. "All the funds go towards future episodes.Through the series, we're hoping to raise awareness about the transgender community; it's individuals and shares their untold stories. AJ's is only one of so many."
Mirrorwall Films also has a 15-minute short in the works that is due out next month; Hannon's senior thesis entitled "Doing Alright."
The story revolves around a young artist named Molly who finds herself full of doubt when her girlfriend, Rhea, suddenly leaves her for fear of others finding out about their secret relationship.
"We're already preparing a massive push for festivals and are hoping to use the film as a means to reach out and be involved with the LGBTQ community," Hannon said. "We've worked with a local gay bar to use as a filming location, and we've got a number of organizations we want to reach to share the film with."
Originally Hannon wanted to do the film as a short for Mirrorwall Films, but decided to flesh it out a little more. In its original form, the script had involved male characters. It was also, more at that time, a coming out story.
In terms of the character being bisexual, it's something Hannon recently admitted to last year and it was not until after I came out in October that the decision was made to make the character that.
"I felt that was where the story was always going," she said. "I realized the more I worked on it, the more I put more of my self in it."
Although the point of view is specific to a bisexual character, Hannon feels that this is something every person of every orientation and gender identity can relate to.
"Doing Alright" is a film about self-acceptance, Hannon added. "We want to really promote the message of learning to love yourself," Hannon...
Check out the Might Post Update by Deputy Editor Mike Sanders
The Deputy Editors of the Mighty Post, a blogging site for Philadelphia's youth that launched in early February, arrive at their headquarters in South Street, a Mecca of shops and eateries, for their weekly Monday meetings.
They begin brainstorming ideas to write for future posts. Prom, politics, and education are only a few topics that these young journalists choose to voice their concerns about.
"I think this goes for everyone," Matt Rinaldi, 17 said. "I want to write about something that I'm interested in. I mean it's kind of hard to write about something that you're not interested in or you don't have a lot to say about."
Rinaldi, a student at Science and Leadership Academy in Philadelphia, first heard about The Mighty Post from his English teacher who thought he would be a good fit for the online publication.
His beat at the Mighty Post revolves around covering news concerning technology and video games, two topics that he is most passionate about.
"Of course I look towards video games because I want to enjoy what I do for the rest of my life," he said. "I thought about it more on the career aspect when I do it. It seems like a great job to just be a video-game journalist."
Rinaldi said it was only recently he found an interest in writing. After joining the Mighty Post, he found that he was a pretty decent writer.
"I guess video games is just one of those topics where I have a lot to talk about," he said.
The Mighty Post is a publication of the Philadelphia nonprofit, Mighty Writers, where the goal is to teach Philadelphia youth how "to think and write with clarity, so self-esteem grows and success is achieved at school, at work and in life."
The organization was launched in 2009 by Tim Whitaker, executive director, and has since been able to branch into different areas of the media, like blogs, in order to get student messages across.
"There really isn't a good student voice in Philadelphia, I think that was another core piece from the beginning," said David Williams, director of new media programs. "It was originally from Tim and Maggie Leyman's perspective, It was a lot of things, but I think the main thing was when they started talking to students when we were first getting off the ground with Mighty Writers. Some of their writings would appear in newspapers and students just didn't seem to care."
The fact that the adults were more excited than the students and that was one of the first indications that Tim and Developmental Director Leyman noticed, that there was a different type of media that the students seemed to be interested in, Williams said.
That idea expanded into what would eventually become the working model for the Mighty Post. Though the deputy editors are students from different schools who are interested in journalism, there are other students who act as contributors to the blogging platform.
Students are free to write about any topic that they feel are affecting them or their peers in some way. Deputy Editor Alexus Hill, a student at Simon Gratz High School in North Philadelphia, feels that it's a breath of fresh air to be able to voice her opinions and concerns on topics that she cares about and being able to add her input into the community.
"I've always been a fan of writing," Hill, 17 said. "I started writing stories and poetry when I was in the third grade. I grew up on print; my father read the newspaper all the time and every time he was done with it he would just show me an article and I'd read about it, maybe write about it. So I've always been a fan of print."
Regarding her beat of education and politics, Hill likes a challenge and that she can really look into the topic in so many ways. "I feel like as long as there is always an opportunity for me I'm always going to take it in the journalism field."
This summer, Mighty Writers is opening a third site in West Philadelphia.
"It's perfect. It sits on a big, easy-to-get-to corner," Whitaker said in a recent email that he sent out to supporters of Mighty Writers. "There are lots of nearby city schools, which means lots of Mighty kids. And it's close to Drexel and Penn, assuring us lots of volunteers."
To support their expansion into West Philadelphia, we need to raise $200,000 by June 1. An aggressive goal, but Whitaker points out that the Mighty Writers mission is an urgent one.
"Literacy is in crisis. The high school dropout rate in Philadelphia hovers between forty and fifty percent," he said. "The system is broken. It's just not acceptable. Learning to express oneself through writing boosts grades and motivation. Most impressive, though, is what it does for self-esteem. We see what writing does for kids every day at Mighty Writers. Personalities brighten; attitudes...
Barbara Chandler Allen is known for being called a "place maker." She has a knack for changing places, she said during our interview, by bringing in art, music, or sometimes even plants.
Allen is not an interior designer or architect, but sees the possibilities in spaces and enjoys making these...
For young black men in Philadelphia, sometimes just walking down the street is all it takes to earn a two-month stint in jail. On Dec. 8 2010, then-18-year-old Isaiah Smith was just returning from visiting his cousin, when he noticed two police officers who were patrolling the area peering out...
The School of Rock in Center City Philadelphia offers a performance based curriculum that teaches inner-city youth how to play rock music and truly shine in the ever-changing music industry.
The school was originally started by, and named after, Paul Green in 1998.
"When I first joined the...
Not far from a bustling street and directly across from a heavily populated neighborhood sits a community beautifully decorated with sculptures and murals by The Village of Arts and Humanities.
Deep within their North Philadelphia community, students of the Spells Writing Lab prepare for a daily...
So, how's Temple?
Funny, last year at this time, I graduated from the Community College of Philadelphia and asked the same exact question of students I knew at Temple University. Now, when I visit CCP, I get asked the question.
So far, Temple has been great. It is challenging at...
The theme of Irish literature is filling the hearts and minds of a few Community College of Philadelphia students and professors as they step out of the classroom and onto the stage.
Some are aspiring actors and actresses still learning and experimenting with the craft, while others see it as...
An immense collection of books fills the shelves of Tree House Books. From Best American Essays by Annie Dillard to Sula by Toni Morrison to a shelf dedicated to children's author Lemony Snicket.
Tree House Books, a nonprofit organization in North Philadelphia, works to "grow and sustain a...
When I received my letter from Temple University accepting me into the dual admissions program, I was ecstatic and slightly nervous. I entered the Community College of Philadelphia with the goal of transferring to Temple University to complete a degree in journalism.
This has been my dream for...
It's Tuesday evening near Temple University's campus as Rosella Eleanor LaFevre, 20, sits in the nearby Dunkin' Donuts jotting down ideas for the next installment of MLTS magazine.
The first issue, for now available only online, has been well received by its intending audience: women. MLTS standing for Most...
"I like all of the classes," said eight-year-old Jada Lowery of the offerings at Mighty Writers. "I just can't decide."
When first entering Mighty Writers at 1501 Christian in South Philadelphia you are greeted by a large red and white "MW"sign with surrounding comic book phrases:
As I type this I am staring at my newly earned Associate in Arts degree and certificate in creative writing from the Community College of Philadelphia. I am realizing that no matter how tedious, all the work was worth it. All the nights staying up to write papers, reading handout...
What used to be nothing but a huge parking lot for the Philadelphia Housing Authority has become something much more to a group of residents living in the Haddington section of Philadelphia.
Nearly hidden between a cluster of homes, the Conestoga Pearl Gardens is full of garden beds neatly in...
Sometimes I think of what my life would be like, or how it would have turned out, if I had not attended and ultimately become a teacher assistant with Project H.O.M.E.'s after school program, located at the Honickman Learning Center and Comcast Technology Labs.
My assumption is that I would...