Four seniors enrolled in VM 420 Documentary for Social Action, a service learning course in the Department of Visual and Media Arts, partnered with Haley House this fall to produce a documentary about their Transitional Employment Program (TEP).Haley House is a bakery café in Roxbury that offers pathways to a new life after incarceration. The film follows three strong characters who convey in words and powerful live action how their lives have been transformed by experiences at Haley House.
Employees at Haley House designed TEP to assist individuals re-entering the workforce and transitioning back to their community. The program is based on a bakery-training program born from the culinary skills and interests of Haley House clients in the mid-90s. Since then, the program has evolved to provide hands-on work experience that develops the necessary skills for future employment in a safe and stable environment.
Student filmmakers Ryan Egan ’13, Christine Maroon ’13, Megan McLaughlin ’13, Gina Varamo ’13 and faculty member and filmmaker Bob Nesson premiered the 15-minute documentary, Re-enter: My New Community, to a packed room Friday night at Haley House. Students spent the semester conducting interviews with individuals enrolled in the program and documenting their daily activities. This work included occasional filming of workers opening the café at 4 am and delivering baked goods across Boston before sunrise.
Over the summer, the Office of Service Learning and Community Action received over 40 documentary proposals from organizations across Greater Boston, demonstrating the immense need for individuals with the skills necessary to produce well-planned and professionally executed videos. Increasingly, nonprofits are using these videos for various and multiple purposes, including training, awareness-raising, volunteer recruitment, and fundraising.
The students were tasked with creating a documentary capable of building awareness for the organization and an important social cause, but the experience was far richer than any of them had expected. As Christine Maroon notes, “I think we all surprised ourselves by our final project and how beautiful it came out. It’s astounding to me how much I learned in this process. We learned technical elements…as well as how to interact with interview subjects and how to form a relationship built on trust so that your characters feel comfortable telling their stories. It is by far one of the most rewarding experiences of my Emerson career.”
Varamo says that she’s grateful for the experience and to be “part of the Haley House family through our work.”