Pulitzer Center Update

Weaving Connections: A NewsArts Student Documentary

On Monday, June 5, 2017,  journalism students at RJ Reynolds High School in Winston-Salem, NC met with over 60 family members and teachers in their school's black box theater to screen Weaving Connections, a documentary film they developed over three weeks in a workshop led by artist-educator Diana Greene as part of Pulitzer Center’s NewsArts initiative.

The workshop guided students in researching and creating a film that explores connections between Winston-Salem’s history of textile manufacturing and the growing global textiles industry. Students visited former textile factories in Winston-Salem and spoke with experts on their city’s history with manufacturing textiles. They researched the factors that led to globalization of the textiles industry and worked with Pulitzer Center grantee Jason Motlagh to examine the conditions of clothing factories in Bangladesh. Motlagh met with students in April 2017 to share his experience reporting The Ghosts of Rana Plaza, a multimedia investigation into a textile factory collapse that led to the deaths of over 1,000 people. He also spoke with students about how he used writing, photography and film to capture different angles of the story.

After Motlagh’s visit, students broke into teams to develop story ideas for short documentaries examining connections between the local and global textiles manufacturing industries. Teams examined the development of labor laws in the U.S. and abroad, the impact of automation on wages and technological innovation, the impact of U.S. policies on the global textiles industry and the ways that their own community adapted to the globalization of the textiles industry. Students on each team took on a role: cinematographer, editor, producer or script writer. With the support of Greene and co-facilitator Stan Wright, an MFA candidate in the documentary filmmaking program at Wake Forest University, they also conducted in-depth research and interviews, found ways to visualize their research, wrote and recorded narrations to accompany their visuals and collaborated with their classmates to order the short films into a larger narrative.

17_wc_jmotlagh_lumix_jpg_april_272_1.jpg

Pulitzer Center grantee Jason Motlagh describes how he reported on the collapse of the Rana Plaza textile factory in Bangladesh for journalism students at RJ Reynolds High School. Motlagh visited over 700 students in Winston-Salem, NC, in April 2017 as part of Pulitzer Center's NewsArts program. His presentation is featured as part of the film Weaving Connections. Image by Diana Greene. United States, 2017.

Pulitzer Center grantee Jason Motlagh describes how he reported on the collapse of the Rana Plaza textile factory in Bangladesh for journalism students at RJ Reynolds High School. Motlagh visited over 700 students in Winston-Salem, NC, in April 2017 as part of Pulitzer Center's NewsArts program. His presentation is featured as part of the film Weaving Connections. Image by Diana Greene. United States, 2017.

img_0302.jpg.jpeg

Diana Greene, who developed and facilitated the Weaving Connections program, and Pulitzer Center Senior Education Manager Fareed Mostoufi work with students to develop story ideas for their part of the Weaving Connections documentary. Image by Karen Morris. United States, 2017.

Diana Greene, who developed and facilitated the Weaving Connections program, and Pulitzer Center Senior Education Manager Fareed Mostoufi work with students to develop story ideas for their part of the Weaving Connections documentary. Image by Karen Morris. United States, 2017.

img_7405.jpg

RJ Reynolds students interview and record documentary filmmaker Peter Gilbert at the Historic Brookstown Inn in Winston-Salem, NC. Gilbert told students that media and technology are playing in transforming the economy of Winston-Salem. His interview is featured in the students' film Weaving Connections. Image by Diana Greene. United States. 2017.

RJ Reynolds students interview and record documentary filmmaker Peter Gilbert at the Historic Brookstown Inn in Winston-Salem, NC. Gilbert told students that media and technology are playing in transforming the economy of Winston-Salem. His interview is featured in the students' film Weaving Connections. Image by Diana Greene. United States. 2017.

rm_170605_01.jpg

Diana Greene introduces Weaving Connections in the black box theater at RJ Reynolds High School on Monday, June 5, 2017. Greene, an artist-educator who is based in Winston-Salem, designed and facilitated the workshop that resulted in Weaving Connections as part of Pulitzer Center's NewsArts program. She also acted as the film's Executive Producer. Image by Robert Merritt. United States, 2017.

Diana Greene introduces Weaving Connections in the black box theater at RJ Reynolds High School on Monday, June 5, 2017. Greene, an artist-educator who is based in Winston-Salem, designed and facilitated the workshop that resulted in Weaving Connections as part of Pulitzer Center's NewsArts program. She also acted as the film's Executive Producer. Image by Robert Merritt. United States, 2017.

rm_170605_22.jpg

Documentary filmmaker Stan Wright, who co-facilitated the Weaving Connections workshop with Diana Greene and acted as the film's Associate Producer, addresses the crowd at the film's premier. Image by Robert Merritt. United States, 2017.

Documentary filmmaker Stan Wright, who co-facilitated the Weaving Connections workshop with Diana Greene and acted as the film's Associate Producer, addresses the crowd at the film's premier. Image by Robert Merritt. United States, 2017.

rm_170605_20.jpg

Craig Richardson, an associate professor of economics at Winston-Salem State University and consultant for HanesBrands, describes his experience teaching the student filmmakers about the history of innovation in Winston-Salem as a part of their research for Weaving Connections. Image by Robert Merritt. United States, 2017.

Craig Richardson, an associate professor of economics at Winston-Salem State University and consultant for HanesBrands, describes his experience teaching the student filmmakers about the history of innovation in Winston-Salem as a part of their research for Weaving Connections. Image by Robert Merritt. United States, 2017.

rm_170605_12.jpg

Over 60 RJ Reynolds staff, students and family members attended the premiere of Weaving Connections in the black box theater at RJ Reynolds High School on Monday, June 5, 2017. Reynolds High School has partnered with Pulitzer Cener on events that reached nearly 500 students this year as part of the NewsArts program. Image by Robert Merritt. United States, 2017.

rm_170605_08.jpg

RJ Reynolds High School students Alison Eppley and Fleet Wilson describe their experience developing and creating their segment of Weaving Connections. Eppley and Wilson were among over 40 journalism students who contributed to the film. Image by Robert Merritt. United States, 2017.

rm_170605_18.jpg

Pulitzer Center founder and Executive Director Jon Sawyer, who is originally from Winston-Salem, describes his vision for the NewsArts program and congratulates the RJ Reynolds students on their contributions to the Center's first year of NewsArts programming. Image by Robert Merritt. United States, 2017.

rm_170605_28.jpg

The work of the students on "Weaving Connections" got high praise from Betsy Sawyer, the mother of Pulitzer Center Executive Director Jon Sawyer—and a biology teacher at Reynolds High School in 1947-48. Image by Robert Merritt. United States, 2017.

Weaving Connections represents a blending of the students’ short films into one documentary that presents the research and process explored by the students. It documents an important reflection on Winston-Salem’s development as a city that once employed 60% of its population through textile manufacturing into a hub for technological innovation. It communicates the human impacts of a globalized textiles industry. It also captures a group of passionate student-filmmakers rediscovering their city.

“We got to see Winston completely different than we did before,” says RJ Reynolds student Joyner Gross in Weaving Connections.

“I would have never thought that all these things were right in front of me and now I’m kind of open to them and now I see that there are so many remnants of this industry that used to be here and there are so many ways that it affects us,” adds her classmate Nupur Shah.

“A really cool part of this experience has been learning about our town and part of our history back in the day but also getting visited by reporters,” says Reynolds student Emily Youssef at the conclusion of the film. ”It was really cool when Jason Motlagh came and spoke to us. That really inspired me because you can really see the kind of impact that journalism can make.”

NewsArts aims at creating and sharing programs that explore connections between news and art. If you are interested in developing NewsArts programming at your school, contact the Pulitzer Center education team by email at education@pulitzercenter.org.