The Memphis Soul Prize is an opportunity to elevate the conversation about Memphis, and it starts with the community’s high school students through poetry and filmmaking. Donny Granger, who owns Creation Studios, saw an opportunity to change the narrative when his agency decided to create The Memphis Soul Prize last year. “We care about Memphis. We get to create effective content through photography and videos for so many amazing clients who need to get their message out to the world. There are so many great stories in Memphis! With that, though, we discovered a problem that we thought we could help with. The problem we discovered is that there are positivity-bubbles in Memphis where we all know the great things happening; but not everyone lives in one of those bubbles.”
The Memphis Soul Prize joins filmmaking to poetry to convey the positive ideas of the community’s students. It started with a pilot program last academic year in Central, Trezevant and White Station high schools. Granger’s team invited teachers from those three schools to their studio to create the curriculum of the Memphis Soul Prize together. “When we fully launch it later this school year, we hope all of the high school teachers across Memphis and Shelby County will embrace it because it was created by teachers,” Granger said. So why poetry? “The two things that most profoundly affect the human heart are pain and beauty. Through beauty we can change a culture and elevate a city. And as filmmakers we can bring the poetry to life and create a new, shared narrative.”
The program will launch in January with a week of in-class poetry lessons. It’s open to all freshmen through seniors at every high school in Shelby County Schools along with private and municipal schools. Memphis Jones will provide a video history lesson on Memphis and its music, as well as poetry. After watching the video, students will use a poetry workbook to advance their knowledge and prepare them for a project at the end of the week that includes writing their own poem about their unique Memphis experience. The students’ poetry then goes through in-school judging that narrows it down to one poem per school. Those winning poems then will go through a round of professional judging, narrowing it down to four finalists.
Once the four finalists are chosen, Creation Studios will create short films that are inspired by each poem. “That is where we elevate the beauty of the message,” Granger said. “Students share their hearts through poetry, and we share it through film. It’s something the community can embrace.” Creation Studios makes the films over the course of the spring with an unveiling at a premier party in May where the films are shown and a winner announced. Winning students, teachers and schools receive prizes. And after the conclusion comes the creation of a book containing all of that year’s winning poems. “To give the fine arts students the same level of honor as athletes is so much fun!”
Granger is excited to see the buzz going now in preparation for January’s launch. If you think your school, business or foundation would like to join the celebration of Memphis, or if you would like to watch last year’s winning films visit memphissoulprize.org.
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