Jenica Frederickson says nothing is more important than community and family. And she’s finding people who share that same passion.
The Flagler County-based artist and teacher is developing a documentary on how students and teachers define community.
Frederickson, 36, teaches theater at Matanzas High School in Palm Coast, Florida, and owns an art company called House of Hen. Because most of her students will be graduating in the coming year, she said, she felt the time was right to start working on her film.
Her subjects come from an array of backgrounds including English teachers, artists and a social psychologist.
The theme of community rose around the time of the 2015 riots in Baltimore. She said her father is from Baltimore so she has a deep connection to the city.
“People need to feel love, safety and understanding, she said. “If you feel disconnected from your community,
you’re not concerned about what happens to it.”
So far, she has conducted eight interviews for her film. Most of the social and identity problems her subjects faced stemmed from a lack of those feelings.
Because she is surrounded by the point of views of artists, teachers and healers, she said she wants to gather their experiences into one cohesive film.
For the film, she is also accepting video submissions with subjects answering her questions. She said these interviews include questions about community and how to create a sense of ownership.
Some of the questions focus on definitions of community, how to reinforce the sense of togetherness, and how to create and nurture lasting relationships with people.
Although she is focused on positivity, some of Frederickson’s subjects and film assistants come from troubled families and hardships.
And those problems were not easily remedied.
Troubles At Home
Leslie Rouser, a 26-year-old Chicago resident and Frederickson’s cousin, has experienced homelessness twice.
But it wasn’t because she couldn’t make rent. Because she is a transgender woman, Rouser said, she was discriminated against and evicted from two homes.
She met two other transgender women and stayed with them until she was able to find a job as an executive assistant at TransTech Social Enterprises, a creative design firm.
Now she has her own place.
As she became more involved in the transgender community, Rouser realized that she was not alone.
“I had this community that cared about me selflessly,” she said.
This came through in her interview for the film. Rouser said her favorite contribution she made to the project was answering questions about community because of the positive effects people who helped her cope with her problems had on her life.
She hopes the project will teach people to be more compassionate.
Rouser wasn’t the only interviewee who endured difficulties. One young man dealt with death.
Justin Punsalan, a 19-year-old Palm Coast resident, has worked for Frederickson’s company for about two years. His mother died from cancer when he was an infant. Life got harder when his father died in January.
He said the best part of working on the documentary is the family aspect. Frederickson builds a safe and open environment that makes people feel comfortable enough with each other to share their own opinions.
The film will focus on the connection between people and their communities and how they cope in trying circumstances. For Punsalan, these themes are reflected in how the group meetings on the film also serve as activities that bring participants closer together, he said.
The story’s impact will help people to become more in tune with their community.
Obstacles And The Project’s Future
Despite the project’s development, there are still some obstacles in the way of reaching the finish line.
Issues include subjects who are long distance and have busy schedules. Often, Frederickson will facilitate Skype interviews with them. She has reached out to members of the community through her school work and networking through artistic friends.
Eventually, she wants to get the documentary on Public Broadcasting Service.
As of now, she doesn’t have a title for the project. Her short-term goals involve finishing the film and launching it locally. She wants to have it shown at film screenings and raise more funds.
But as far as money goes, Frederickson said assembling the project doesn’t cost anything but time. She has been using her own equipment, including cameras and computers.
Because the idea for the film is new and different, she said people tend to have less faith.
In light of some these doubts, she remains optimistic.
“When people haven’t seen something, they think it doesn’t exist,” she said. “But that’s not the case with creative minds.”