“Beautiful Girl” by Claudia Escareño-Clark and Gabby Valdez
My assignment for my Multicultural class was to pick a topic “Outside of my Comfort Zone” pertaining to a cultural view. I chose to make a film documentary, which took much discerning to make public, about body image. In seeing the final cut, it was such a moving experience for me because it opened my eyes to the truth of how I really saw myself. With the help of my friend, Claudia Escareño-Clark, who has the talent, skills, and expertise in film, she was able to capture this raw, very vulnerable, and transforming moment for me. I feel like I live in a society where women are not appreciated for their natural beauty, and the only acceptable beauty is to be superficial. I suffer alongside many women who feel they are NOT beautiful because we don’t have the “perfect” body, the “perfect” facial features, the “perfect” hair, or however/whatever media deems to be beautiful or “perfect.” Many women and young girls suffer from body dysmorphia and eating disorders due to this sad reality, and my hope is that through this video I can make a difference in the lives of other women who feel the same way.
Claudia’s Reflections: (Psst . . . this video looks better bigger and in HD.)
This past spring I made a short film documentary called Beautiful Girl for my “Multicultural Perspectives in Counseling” course with my friend, Gabby Valdez. Now that some time has passed and I’ve been able to get some distance from it, I think I can more clearly reflect on the process. The assignment was to do something that was outside of our comfort zone. Gabby wanted to focus on body image issues and had asked me to do a photo shoot. That sounded like a fun idea, but as time passed it became clear that we needed to do something more. I wanted to support her in her quest to confront her issues as I have also dealt with them my whole life, regardless of how big or small I have been at any given point. These issues run deep, and for me, I know that even at the perfect body size I wouldn’t be satisfied, at least not for very long.
Though the focus of the film is important to both of us, I chose to focus on a different “out of comfort zone” experience, calling myself a filmmaker. My undergraduate degree was in Moving Image Arts. Said another way, I basically went to film school. The experience wasn’t entirely negative, but those were some of the hardest years of my life. I moved to the states from Mexico when I was three years old and no one in my family had gone to college. I wasn’t entirely unsupported, but I don’t know that my family knew what I needed. I barely did. I was constantly short on funds, and quickly found ways (often negative) to cope with my situation. When it came time to create projects for school, I found very creative and affordable ways to do what was required. So while I learned to think outside the box or outside the frame, I often felt like I didn’t know what I should know about actual filmmaking. I can talk to you about different films all day long, but when it comes time to show you what I’ve created, there’s a lot of video art in there and no talking heads. Prior to working with Gabby, I had actually never worked on a project that had people in it. I found ways around that in school. Sometimes I even found ways around using traditional video equipment. While my experience in undergrad wasn’t the most ideal, it was a necessary step to get me where I am today. At Southwestern College I find myself in an environment that is very encouraging and supportive and has allowed me to explore what I need to explore in the way that I need to explore it. I know this is a Master’s program in Counseling and not Film, but I know that the opportunities that are often presented here will play a big role in me learning about counseling, myself and the world at large. I cannot say I am 100% cured of my self-doubt in regards to filmmaking, but this collaboration with Gabby has shown me that I am in the best place possible to face my fears head on.
When I look at the film now, I have two very different reactions to it. While I know what our time constraints were as well as the equipment we were dealing with, my microphone died, we had no lights, that sort of thing, I can easily see what I would change now. I would make it shorter. I would add some B Roll footage. I would change some of the actual camera settings. But what stood out most was seeing Gabby’s reaction when we transferred the footage. The image she saw of herself in the footage was not as big as the one she had of herself in her head. Even with all of my ‘production’ mistakes, her reaction made me feel that we had somehow succeeded. We had different instructors for this course and were able to present it in each of our classes. I think it was very eye opening (and sad) for both of us to see that many women struggle with body image issues regardless of how their bodies actually look. What Gabby did was extremely brave, and I hope this is not the end of the conversation but the beginning. Many people have seen and commented on the film, even strangers on YouTube who were really moved by her honesty. My hope is that when people recognize Gabby’s beauty and courage that they will also begin to recognize it within themselves.