Date of Submission
Film and Electronic Arts
Project Advisor 1
She & Her & Me
A Senior Project
Submitted to the Division of the Arts
Film and Electronic Arts Program
by Sarah Louis
“In the act of observing others, you may recognize yourself.”
The ideas of high school and teenagerdom have been on my mind since long before I was even a high school student. I spent the better half of fourth grade imagining my entire high school career in a journal we were required to keep for class (although the actual contents were completely up to us). These experiences mostly did not come to pass when I actually was a teenage girl, but the vision I had of high school at that age is one of many visions of teenage girls I’ve seen since I’ve formed cognitive thought.
There’s something distinctly nostalgic about being a teenager. Being a teenager means being in this in-between place where you are both a kid and an adult, striving to cling to certain aspects of childhood because they’re hard to abandon, being all that you know; and wanting desperately to try something new and daring – like adulthood and all that represents it. Looking back on my teenage years is a bizarre experience, even though I am only a few years out from actually experiencing teenagerdom myself. There was so much transitioning in such a short span of time that I can hardly track it.
It is mostly because of these personal experiences with high school that I decided to pursue a senior project that explored similar themes. Another important element was the feeling that everyone else I’ve ever known has their own histories with being a teenager that they drag along with them for the rest of their lives. I’m not talking about films and television and other fiction, I’m talking about my own parents and friends and classmates. Hearing about my parents’ adolescence for the first time when I was younger was in itself an odd experience, and having seen their yearbooks, seeing images, hearing stories, has only made it clearer the baggage they brought with them into adulthood and have fought against since. A weirdly disproportionate amount of time at Bard, for me, has been spent analyzing our education. It’s wonderful but also strange to constantly compare notes with my classmates and friends about what we think high school is and what our experiences were like. Who hated high school? Who loved it? What was the best part? The worst?
Thus, I spent the past several months immersed in the lives of other teenagers – specifically, Sam Smith and Kat Novko. When I first met both of them, I couldn’t help but think how similar we all were to one another. We all love music and theater and we’ve all got somewhat odd senses of humor and have this weird habit of being both quiet and outgoing. Kat even owns a pair of purple skinny jeans she wore the first time I saw her out of her school uniform that are near identical to a pair I own. Sam commented how much she loved those pants. Oddly enough, I wore them the first time I met Sam. Then I was worried I might be too colorful a character.
I needn’t have worried because both of these girls have proved themselves to be colorful characters. I feel like I’ve become an expert in a category you won’t even see on an obscure episode of Jeopardy – the lives of Kat and Sam. I know them far too well at this point and can describe them based on my months with them with a sort of intensity that shows just how deeply I’ve come to care for both girls since I’ve met them.
When I first sought these girls out, I wasn’t sure what I expected. Two girls who exemplified a part of teenagerdom I had missed, perhaps? Things I had imagined in those journal entries I wrote as a kid but had never come to pass because I thought I was the exception, not the rule? Somehow, before I was a teenager, during my teenage years, and since, I have never felt like I was ever the typical teenager. Then again, I have rarely met anyone who was. Neither Kat nor Sam considers herself to be typical – whether because they want to be special or because there really is no “typical teenager” I am not sure. Both yearn for something that is already inside of them but has yet to explode and truly be explored. They know what they love, but not exactly where they are going, no matter the pictures they paint of their futures. I know too well that those pictures are rarely accurate.
With all of this in mind, I think my project, which initially was supposed to be more about high school and that experience, has turned more toward exploring these common ideas of transition and expectation. I want viewers of my film to see these girls and how I frame them and make their own decisions about who they are. I fully expect everyone to find their own similarities and differences, much how Kat and Sam found their own similarities and differences between each other. I want my viewers to ask themselves the same questions about who they are and how they see themselves.
I suppose the thing I want to bring out the most through this project is the ever-changing nature of identity. I can nearly guarantee that in a year, maybe even a few months, Kat and Sam would look at these things I captured them doing and saying and protest that that isn’t who they are anymore. Adolescence is a period where everything changes, but it never really ends – we never really end. We’ll always be transforming and, by the end of this picture, I want everyone to see her or his own transformation in that light.
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Louis, Sarah, "She & Her & Me" (2012). Senior Projects Spring 2012. 328.