"Hi, my name is Amelie, I'm twelve years old and I like swimming, playing the flute and sending postcards to my grandparents in France. I live with my parents and little brother and sister. We-"
"No! You have to remember the people watching this film know nothing about you. Why are you called Amelie and not Amelia? Why do your grandparents live in France? Look INTO, not around the camera. Come on, this isn't difficult!" I give Michelle a withering look and try again.
"Hi! My name is Amelie, and before you ask 'why not Amelia?' I will explain. My parents are French and came to England for work which is why I was born here. They wanted to bring a bit of our family history with them, so what better way than to confuse every school teacher I will ever have by calling me, a girl who looks and sounds English, a French name? Anyway, I'm Amelie, I'm twelve years old and I like swimming, playing the flute and sending postcards to my grandparents in France. We visit them every Christmas, but they like to stay updated and they live too far out in the countryside to have a working phone. My little brother and sister draw pictures on the postcards because they can't write properly yet. Me, my parents and my siblings all live together in one happy household and I can't wait to tell them about all the fun I'm having at summer camp!" Michelle looks relieved, if not slightly annoyed that I didn't say that on the first take. "Yes, better." She forces a smile, "Just say it once more with a smile and look INTO THE CAMERA." Smoothing out her dress, she tries to compose herself but I can tell she is flustered. I don't know why I agreed to do this.
After about ten more tries, Michelle seems satisfied. I feel sorry for Gracie who is up next. She is quiet, shy and although the same age as me, everyone always thinks she is younger. We have become good friends since we came to camp this summer and I really hope Michelle gives her a bit of leeway. I don't think Gracie has it in her to stand up for herself.
"Off you go then Gracie, you only have to speak for half a minute, there's no need to be shy." Michelle is trying to be nice but she doesn't get it. Gracie doesn't choose to be timid, she just is. "Hello, I'm Gracie. Um, I'm twelve and I have three brothers. They're at university though, so I don't really see them that much. I live with my parents but my mum's away a lot for work and, er, she has to go and look after my Grandma. My dad's parents lived in Africa but I never met them. Mum says they would have liked my singing. I don't usually let anyone listen, only if they stand in another room, but I think she must have heard me when I thought no one was around. Yeah, so, that's it."
"Gracie, I'm afraid you're going to have to do that again." I can tell Michelle is really holding back from yelling at Gracie. "I'm really sorry, did I do something wrong?" Gracie looks so vulnerable stood up there, in front of the white paper which has been taped together to get as close to the 'professional background' as possible which Michelle wanted for her film. I know what is coming and I really wish it wasn't. "DID YOU DO SOMETHING WRONG?" Michelle screams, astounded that Gracie can't see what everyone else can. "You mumbled, stumbled and blundered your way through that like a blind man trying to find a coin in a fountain the size of North America. I don't know what you think you did RIGHT." I can see that Gracie is on the verge of tears and Michelle's analogies are only going to get worse. I think it's time for me to step in, "What Michelle means is that it would be great if you could cut out the ums and ers and just pause if you don't know what to say. We can always edit out the mistakes later, right Michelle?" I turn to face the now trembling Michelle and hope to God that she agrees with me for once. Luckily I think she is in too much of a state to retaliate and just points to the camera. I hit record once more and Gracie tries again. And again. And again. It must have taken just over an hour to get her section looking presentable, but somehow we managed it without either of them bursting into tears and storming out. At least that's the talking part over with. Now Gracie and I can just appear in the other clips without having to address the audience.
I realise I haven't explained what's going on. Our time at summer camp is almost over. In fact, we only have one week left. In this last week, we have all been set the challenge to create a film, showcasing the camp, so that it can be put on the website to attract new people for next year. However, obviously there can only be one film and it's not feasible for 100 girls to all work together, so it is a competition instead and the best film will be put on the website. Michelle is clearly desperate to win and as we are friends (ish) I agreed to help her.
Michelle did introduce herself for the film but I think my analysis of her might be slightly more enlightening and truthful. She is thirteen years old and won't let any of us younger girls forget it. According to her, because she is older, she has a bigger brain, and therefore gets to make any decisions which may arise. This is fine by Gracie seeing as she is so indecisive, but I have other ideas and we often lock horns over Michelle's mantra "I am the Director. What I say goes." This is not only a saying she uses for the film, but for life in general. Appearance-wise, she is tall and a little overweight, nothing much, but she is very self-conscious about it. She tries to compensate for her figure by straightening her extremely curly hair and pasting gooey liquid stuff over her freckles. She calls it 'foundation' but I've never used it. I think she looks nicer how she is naturally, but if it makes her feel confident then I suppose it's worth it.
Her and her mum live together in a little flat because her dad was killed a few years ago when he was reporting for the news in a war zone and a bomb went off. Everyone was so shocked and even now I don't think any of us can quite comprehend what has happened. It was just all too awful. Michelle tries to stay strong but she has only recently begun talking about her dad again. She says part of the reason she wants to win this competition is because he used to make short films for her to watch on the weekend and she wants to do him proud. I know that life must be very difficult for her and that's mainly why I'm helping out with the film. If this is her way to connect to her dad, then she should definitely get the chance to do it.