Since I am pretty much just a woman-shaped husk of bitterness and Dorito powder at this point (with a wig woven out of squandered promise!), I was surprised by how intensely I reacted during my visit to Reel Grrls Animation Camp last week. Immediately upon entering the tall, colorful space—clusters of girls here and there, hunched intently over laptops—I got all gushy inside, down in my emotion bones. It was so positive in there! It felt like summer camp, and school, but fun school—like your favorite class all day long, with no stupid boys to grab all the attention with their self-confidence and their boners. See? Look at me! All corny and sincere. Awww.
Five teams of four girls each, ages 9 to 19, had been working all week (midwinter break) when I arrived on Friday afternoon. They were in the finishing-touch stages of their original animated shorts, editing and polishing and syncing up sound. A table held evidence of recently devoured platters of Vietnamese sandwiches. Volunteer instructors (all women, including Suzanne Twining, an animator from Coraline who's based in Portland) led each team from an empowering distance, letting the girls really take ownership of their projects. "It's better when they figure it out on their own," one told me, when I apologized for distracting her.
The girls started out the week exploring different types of animation—rotoscoping, pixelation, stop-motion, etc.—then they pitched stories, voted, and learned how to storyboard, shoot, and edit. Animation Camp culminates in a Friday afternoon screening for friends and family at Central Cinema. Coming up, Reel Grrls is planning a Music Video Camp, a Video-Blogging Camp, and an Implode Lindy West's Heart with Jealousy Camp. (It's about time—imploding Lindy West's heart with jealousy is usually such a boys' club, you know?)
Hey, my childhood! Thanks for SUCKING! When I was ages 9 to 19, we didn't have "activities" or "female empowerment" or "stuff to do." All I had to play with was a polio crutch and a hunk of mud. If I wanted to do an art project, I had to do it in my mind. One Christmas, all I got was my period. Which is why OBVIOUSLY what I needed here was an outrageous scheme—21 Jump Street–style—wherein I would somehow pass myself off as a 13-year-old girl and infiltrate Reel Grrls and eat a great big Vietnamese sandwich stuffed with grilled encouragement. Pigtails would have to be involved. Pigtails are the only way.
On my way out the door, fighting an irrational jealousy toward a bunch of adorable teenagers, Reel Grrls founder Malory Graham told me that they're considering starting up a program for adult women. Which is good, because I don't really think my 21 Jump Street plan has legs. I mean, I've met me, and I'm no Johnny Depp. (But I could be! Teach me, Reel Grrls!)