Four Films by Portland Teenage Girls Hit the Big Screen

Sex trafficking. Black girls in Portland. LGBTQ safe spaces. Women street artists. This Sunday, local teenage girls screen the documentaries they spent the summer making.

By Fiona McCann August 24, 2016

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Yadira Baltier-Moreno shooting her documentary.

Image: Vox Siren

Sydney Wallis is a 16-year-old high schooler from Southeast Portland. She also just made a documentary about sex trafficking.

“I’m one of the most vulnerable populations for this,” she says. “How many other people like me don’t know about the dangers and the risks? I thought, this is something people—especially young people—need to know about.”

Her film is among four that will be shown at a Hollywood Theatre screening on Sunday, August 28, all part of a summer filmmaking program called Produced By Her, the brainchild of “creative change agency” Vox Siren.

Wallis was one of 11 girls, ranging in age from 12 to 17, who participated in the five-week media camp. As well as sex trafficking, the young filmmakers took on the experience of black girls in Portland, LGBTQ safe spaces, and women street artists.   

Seventeen-year-old North Portlander Yadira Baltier-Moreno worked with three other girls on the film about street artists. “I think it’s sad how not many people know a lot of women street artists,” she says. “I think it’s because they’re not really recognized a lot.”

Baltier-Moreno describes her initial shyness on entering the room of practical strangers, and then how relationships built as they worked on the film and tried on different roles: camera work, interviewing, producing. Speaking of the group, she says she “liked the diversity to it,” and the exchange of ideas it produced. Working on the film opened her eyes to gender inequality, too.

“It just made me see men and women aren’t really equal, like I thought they were,” she says.

Wallis, too, says her eyes were opened, and she’s proud of what she and her co-filmmakers accomplished. “We worked our hardest on this film, and just knowing that a lot of people are going to see it and a lot of people are going to realize, ‘Wow, this is really an issue,’ and we’re bringing it to light—we were all super amazed by what we’ve done.”

It’s also made her reconsider her professional path. “This is an area of study or work that I probably would have never considered in my life, and now, whenever I'm watching movies, I always watch the credits and pay attention to them,” Wallis says. “It took so much work for this 10-minute documentary, and to think that one day my name could be up there on a film!”

Wallis says she's concerned about the gender imbalance in the film industry, and urges girls and women to get involved. “A man can’t tell a woman’s story from the same perspective that a woman can,” she says. “I really hope that this program and other programs like it can help bring to light how important it is for women to be in the film industry or in the spotlight to tell the story.”

Baltier-Moreno agrees, and she says Produced By Her is a good place to start. Did it change her life? “Yeah,” she says with enthusiasm. “It should be required for all girls!”

The Produced By Her films, as well as films from the POWGirls summer workshops, screen at 5 pm Sunday, Aug 28 at the Hollywood Theatre, with a panel discussion to follow.

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