POV Hackathon 2 is getting underway this weekend. In a series of blog posts, we’re introducing you to the participating filmmakers, developers and designers.
How to Lose Your Virginity is an eye-opening feature documentary about the myth and meaning of virginity in American culture. Bridging the chasm between what we’re told our first times should be–and what they’re really like–will be a digital crowd-sourced storytelling project. The POV Hackathon 2 team includes filmmakers Therese Shechter and Ellice Litwak and developer Steve Melendez.
Therese Shechter for the last decade has used humor-spiked, personal narrative to make award-winning documentaries such as I Was A Teenage Feminist and How I Learned to Speak Turkish. Her work has screened all over the world, and she’s spoken at venues as diverse as Harvard University and Galapagos Art Space.
As a documentary filmmaker, you can spend many years on one project. We love the idea of a highly concentrated burst of creative energy focused on a specific project and solving it over one caffeine-fueled weekend. It reminds me of the years I spent a the Chicago Tribune and the rush of working as a team to figure out how to tell a big story on deadline.
We want to strengthen an existing online community that has coalesced around the film. This digital project can create a repository of authentic knowledge and experiences that pushes back against some of the more corrosive cultural, religious and political messaging we get about having sex for the first time.
Our First Person series provides some important anonymity, community and interactivity in a way that is sex-positive and non-shaming. But it’s buried within our blog with no efficient way to search for specific stories–or understand the stories based on kindred emotions. The POV Hackathon 2 really appealed to us because we wanted to join forces with experts who are immersed in data visualization and could help us come up with ways to make the stories themes come to the surface. We are inspired by the use of mapping technologies to organize emotional data, and these methods of establishing new points of connection on the internet offers us new insight into the larger project.
Ellice Litwak is interested in exploring the areas between autobiography and fiction. For the last three years, she has contributed her writing, editing and research expertise to “How to Lose Your Virginity.” In addition to this documentary project, Ellice works for a New York-based LGBTQ Jewish organization.
Steven Melendez is a programmer-journalist on the data news team at WNYC. Having previously worked as a developer and reporter, he holds an MS in journalism from Northwestern University and a BA in computer science from Harvard University.
For the POV Hackathon 2 I am excited the prospect of working with filmmakers, something I have not done before, and testing and expanding my own rapid coding skills. I am also particularly excited by the idea of the film How to Lose Your Virginity, which explores a topic, female virginity in the United States, that previously I have not thought about in a systematic way.
I have never worked on a project with a filmmaker before, so I’m very curious to see how their experience translates to developing a website. It’s always interesting to work with a new designer and see how they approach different problems, so I’m hoping I will get some new perspective there I can apply in other work. Also, the particular task we will be working on – making crowd-submitted narratives easily searchable and browsable – is one that comes up all the time in the news/ media world. I’m hoping to develop techniques and tools I can use on other projects too, and perhaps open source.