WATCH: Maura Minsky, Scenarios USA
Remember how dull (and awkward!) your high school sex ed and life skills classes were? Maura Minsky, co-Founder and Executive Director of Scenarios USA, has a different approach: let young people do the teaching – through film.
Scenarios USA solicits screenplays from youth, ages 12-22, in marginalized communities. Thousands of young people submit screenplays on topics like HIV, STDs and teen pregnancy. Scenarios then pairs winners with professional filmmakers to make their movies. In the 10 years since its inception, Scenarios has produced 19 films.
And if you think “nonprofit youth video project” is a euphemism for “inferior production value”, Scenarios’ youth filmmakers will shatter your preconceptions. They have collaborated with directors like Doug Liman (“The Bourne Identity”, “Mr. & Ms. Smith), Michael Apted (“Up Series”, “Gorillas in the Mist”) and David Frankel (“Sex and the City”, “The Devil Wears Prada”). Their work is not only screened widely in classrooms and film festivals, but to millions of viewers on major outlets like Showtime, MTV, the Today Show, NBC and PBS. One film even won an Emmy.
Scenarios was modeled after a similar project in West Africa, but Minksy’s personal inspiration stemmed from her background as a middle school teacher and film producer. This helped her see the potential of film as a medium for underserved students to both express themselves and learn from one another about making positive life choices.