NewsPositively San Diego


San Diego teen's documentary helps bring kids closer together

Posted at 6:48 AM, Aug 12, 2021
and last updated 2021-08-12 09:48:10-04

SAN DIEGO (KGTV) -- There is no question the last year and a half has stressed out most students like never before.

San Diego middle school student James Mylenek decided to use that experience to express what he was feeling and, in the process, discovered what others were going through, too.

A year in isolation inspired James to create his documentary titled “Teens in Isolation.”

“I wanted the beginning to be very flashy and crazy like how it was during the beginning of quarantine,” James said.

The first images are quick cuts between news reports about the bleak early days of the COVID-19 pandemic. At age 13, James says for him, the physical isolation gave rise to emotional isolation.

“I felt kind of like I was alone in this, like I didn't feel like anyone else was fighting the fight with me,” said James.

However, while interviewing other students for the documentary, James discovered he was not alone.

“I've talked to so many people, friends and family about what they've been struggling with and how it was emotional for them and seeing this film was emotional for them. I'm glad this was like a gateway to connecting with other people,” James said.

James created his gateway as part of a Media Arts Center San Diego teen project, part of the San Diego Unified School District’s summer enrichment program. The short documentary was presented during the San Diego Latino Health Coalition's youth panel on mental health and was chosen to be an entry in the 20th iVIE awards and Student Film Festival.

James says his interest in making films began at the tender age of five.

“It would just be like me dancing in front of my little iMac,” he said.

From there he progressed to mini movies. James said while he has put himself in front of the camera, he felt he needed to be behind it for his documentary.

“I thought if I focused more on getting their voices amplified that it would make it better,” said James.

The way, James says, this film made other teens feel better, knowing they were going through their separate experiences as a group.

At the end of the film is a montage of students saying, “We got through it.”

James said, “I'm just proud of everyone in the film for being vulnerable and being able to share the truth.”

James also added the state's reopening has felt "surreal" because of the nagging question, “What if we shut down again?”

But he says he's ready to go back to school and is already planning for his next film.