Bellingham Sister Cities Hosted Filmmaking Workshop with Their Sister City Partnerships

Bellingham, Washington Sister Cities held an event in which Bellingham Sister Cities and their sister city partnerships screened videos that their international teams produced.

See below to see their work and their impacts!


A Cross-Cultural Filmmaking Workshop
Teenage students from four continents and in four different times zones excitedly awaited the screening of the videos their international teams had just finished producing.  It was Sunday evening, May 2nd, in Bellingham, Washington for the ZOOM premier although for three of Bellingham’s sister cities it was Monday at 7:00 AM for those in Vaasa, Finland and Monday at 1:00 PM for Tateyama, Japan and 3:00 PM for Port Stephens, Australia.

Under the direction of Tom Flint, founder and facilitator of, and Lauren McClanahan, a Western Washington University professor and director of the Bellingham Youth Media Project, the 14 students worked together in three teams to create videos around the theme “Resemblances.”  Resourceful teenagers that they are, they used a translator program to overcome any language barrier, and they used WhatsApp and Instagram to communicate with distant group members in other time zones.  Good communication was essential as they encouraged each other to obtain still photos and video clips that fit their vision of lifestyle and geographic resemblances between their various countries.

The week began on Saturday evening/Sunday morning in late April with an orientation when Tom and Lauren “met” the students via ZOOM.  After some “getting to know you” activities, Tom helped everyone download the link to since that would be the cloud-based software the students would use to edit their movie projects.  Since the software is cloud-based, group members were able to load all their files in to one project timeline and then concurrently edit their work regardless of their location or time of day.  This was a great example of sister city cooperation since each of the three groups had at least three different countries and languages represented.  Tom also gave them a brief tutorial on how to utilize the editing features of the WeVideo software.

One other ingredient of the orientation was a brief history and overview of the Bellingham Sister Cities Association by Jeff Eastman, the BSCA city chairperson for Vaasa, Finland.  To conclude the orientation, participants were tasked with creating brief, personal video clips to include things such as their name, what makes them unique, what “home” means to them and what brought them comfort during these challenging times.  Throughout the next few days they imported their clips in to their group’s WeVideo project timeline and did simple editing wherever needed.  It was great seeing how quickly these strangers bonded in to a group to collaboratively create videos even though the group members were scattered around the world.

The following Thursday/Friday was the first of four days of consecutive ZOOM meetings for the participants, the wide-ranging meeting times being the same as they were for the orientation.  The first item on the agenda for this initial workshop session was to watch the three introductory videos each group had produced.  These helped to better acquaint everyone with each other and also gave everyone confidence that they could produce a video working remotely with one another.  The major portions of this session and the next were devoted to working in ZOOM “breakout rooms” where group members could collaborate apart from other groups to discuss what resemblances they shared in their lives, their schools, their hobbies, their foods, etc.  Two other early, major decisions group members had to make were what type of storyline or format they were going to use to tie together all their video material and what each person planned to videotape.  Naturally, all the recording of material had to be done on their own time as well as the uploading of it to WeVideo and the editing thereof.  Throughout these periods in the breakout rooms, Lauren, Tom and Jeff would visit the three “rooms” and offer any assistance and guidance if requested.

In the third ZOOM session the groups shared what they had completed so far.  Each group had followed Tom’s advice and obtained more material than was necessary.  This allowed them to be selective in choosing only the most appropriate clips to include in their roughly five-minute final video presentation.  Since the “premier” screening was to be done the following day, each group selected one or two members to do the final editing.  From that time onward, these editors worked hard to arrange the clips according to the storyline or format each group had decided upon, and they inserted music to add atmosphere to their movies.  One group even reconvened en masse an hour prior to the premier to do some final tweaks.

For the closing workshop session on Sunday/Monday, all participants were encouraged to invite family, friends, classmates, etc. to watch the video premiers via ZOOM.  Tom began the show by sharing with over 40 spectators the introductory videos the three groups had initially produced.  Following comments by him, Lauren and Jeff on the successful workshop, one of the “Resemblances” videos was shared with everyone.  Afterward, the creative students who produced that video were given an opportunity to reflect upon their production experiences, and then audience members were given an opportunity to ask questions or comment.  This same procedure was followed for the showing of the second and third “Resemblances” videos.

Positive comments abounded regarding the fantastic effort the 14 high school students had put forth to very successfully produce thematic videos with people living on other continents and in different time zones.  All three groups uniquely presented their interpretation of “Resemblances” of life in these four sister cities, and their portrayals were all very well done.  It was great to hear the students comment on the beauty of each other’s locations, the talents each displayed, the foods they ate, etc.  A number of them said they were going to miss working together with their group members and wanted to visit each other’s cities.

To view the three final videos, please visit:

To contact Tom Flint of, please write to him at [email protected]

To contact Lauren McClanahan of the Bellingham Youth Media Project, please write to her at [email protected].

Five typical comments from the participants’ program evaluations include:

  • “It was super cool to see how alike we all are, despite living so far away from one another.”
  • “I enjoyed talking to people with different cultures. I had fun explaining my culture to everyone else because it made me understand my culture a bit more.”
  • “Through communication with friends, I was able to discover wonderful things about the city, which also helped improve my English ability.”
  • “Working with people from other cultures is something that is of interest to me, and something I want to do more often!”
  • “[I discovered] That there is always a way to make other people understand you. Working together is key.”

In closing, this collaborative activity between Filmbuilding, the Bellingham Youth Media Project and the Bellingham Sister Cities Association was very successful due to the enormous efforts of the 14 students, the teachers who recruited them and the parents who helped the participants gather video material.  It is hoped that similar worldwide collaborative endeavors will occur again.


Article Respectfully Submitted by Jeff Eastman, Vaasa City Chairperson

Bellingham Sister Cities Association