InterGen Studio: Using multimedia to create intergenerational links

To address this issue, the InterGen Studio project, a winner of the Civic Incubator‘s fall 2020 cohort, seeks to create opportunities for the generations to meet and forge ties. By offering mentorship in the production of digital narratives, InterGen Studio meshes the creativity of youth with the rich lived experiences of seniors. Within the framework of an extracurricular activity, young people are guided in the creation of multimedia content that valorizes the experiences of seniors and enhances their lives.

A professional program in the service of social innovation

The story begins with a strong attraction to visual storytelling. The idea has its roots on the experiences of video editor and director Ely Bonder. Early on in Ely’s career path, he became aware of the contrasts between the generations, as well as the creative potential of young people and the need to give them more space in the media. He noticed, for example, that the traditional audiovisual landscape frequently lacks diversity and originality, which causes young people to lose interest and turn instead to platforms that give free rein to their creativity, like YouTube and TikTok. Older people, on the other hand, have a lifetime of experience that is often unexplored and unappreciated. In its own way, each group has reason to feel forgotten: How can we establish a media-production framework to bring these different generations together collaboratively?

These were longstanding questions and interests of Ely’s. They came to the fore when he was approached in 2017 to create three short videos as part of the InterGenerational Video Project, an initiative in which young people tell the life stories of seniors using images. To create each video, a group of students sought out a senior citizen, asked them to share their personal story, and then, under the guidance of professional production teams, adapted that story into a video. Under the auspices of this program, which was produced in collaboration with CCS Montreal, Ely also met Frederick Jansen, the organization’s executive director, who subsequently joined InterGen Studio as a co-leader.

In the wake of this initial fruitful deployment, Ely is now seeking to deploy the project on a larger scale.

“I’ve observed the creativity of young people for a while now. They’re eager to express themselves, yet their skills are not valued in the traditional circuit of content production, which is often closed to them. I sought to offer an alternative—one that is more accessible and more inclusive.” — Ely

Clarifying the impact strategy within the Civic Incubator

During the pilot project, Ely and Fred noted with interest that the producer they were working with naturally adopted the role of a mentor. In that capacity, the producer’s contributions were invaluable—not only in the project’s technical and creative aspects, but also in building links between the young people and the seniors that broke down silos and initiated conversations. In imagining the next phase of the project, Ely and his partners consciously placed mentoring at the heart of the concept they developed: a virtual television studio allowing youth to connect with seniors, whether in person or virtually, under the guidance of a mentor. The young people would be provided with the resources of a digital platform to enable them to carry out multimedia projects that meet the standards of quality television broadcasting.

It is with this broad vision of the project that Ely and Fred are joining the Fall 2020 cohort of the Civic Incubator.

“We needed to get it down on paper, to clarify our ideas in order to come up with a minimum viable solution. We said to ourselves ‘Let’s do it!’, knowing that the line between the success and failure of the project was very thin. The Civic Incubator program was going to help us identify our blind spots so that we could clarify impact and deployment strategies.” — Fred

During the Civic Incubator workshops, Ely and Fred analyzed and then simplified the various elements of the project in order to break it down into realistic and tangible steps. They then took a step back in order to place mutual empathy between youth and seniors back at the heart of their thinking.

“The MIS also helped us to realize that the project relies fundamentally on its participants’ capacity for empathy. We were encouraged to look in greater depth into the gap between the generations and to take account of the fears that may exist in communicating between them. This led us to work with CanAge on their intergenerational program, which aims to bridge the age gap in our communities.” — Ely

Other organizations have expressed interest in the project, such as the McCord Museum, whose Sharing Our Memory, Our Stories program brings together young and old around the history of an object. Others would like to join the team as well. In the fall of 2020, Ely and Fred met Rana Liu, who saw in InterGen Studio an opportunity to help break social isolation. With her expertise in management, she complements the visionary spirit and skills of Ely and Fred. She joins the project to lend a hand in structuring it:

“I was looking for a way to break the isolation that both young people and older people experience, especially during periods of confinement, with an educational dimension. Meeting with Ely was an obvious choice, especially since it was clear that he intended to take on an initiating role in InterGen Studio, then hand over the longer-term management. Thanks to the MIS tools used to present the outline of the project, my integration was efficient and fluid; so was the integration of the team members who arrived after me. We still use these tools today to develop our marketing and communication initiatives.” — Rana

As the team continues to grow, its recruitment of collaborators, partners, volunteers, and prospective mentors from the multimedia industry continues across Canada and as far away as Iran, supporting the launch of the second phase this fall. The team plans to engage youth in the production of a new video series featuring the words and experiences of seniors, as well as to develop the InterGen Studio platform, which will be used to host collaborative editing tools and create opportunities for meetings.

Follow the news of InterGen Studio on the principal social networks and discover videos about the project on the YouTube channel InterGenVideoProject.

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