#016 Exploring the Gifted Identity with Marc Smolowitz from The G Word Film

by | Mar 22, 2021

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Today I’m speaking with filmmaker Marc Smolowitz about his upcoming documentary, The G Word Film. The film is currently in post-production with an expected release date in early 2022.

The G Word Film is the first major documentary on giftedness and asks the question, Who Gets to be Gifted In America? The shorts released so far describe a scenario that is seen globally.

In the episode, we talk about trauma, hope, and empowerment, gender and sexuality, identity, and more!

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Memorable Quote

“Trauma is a huge theme in every story. But I’m not here to beat you up. That’s just not my, I don’t believe that’s my job. I believe my job is actually more about giving you hope or leaving you with a sense of possibilities, prospects for change prospects, for making things better. I’ve dealt with, all kinds of traumatic stories and, trauma is, one side of the story. The other side is empowerment.” – Marc

“I had a sense of being other in the world.” -Marc

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Introducing Marc Smolowitz

Marc Smolowitz is a multi-award-winning independent filmmaker based in San Francisco.

With three decades of experience in the film and media business, Smolowitz is a director, producer, and executive producer who has been significantly involved in 50+ successful independent films wearing many hats across the entertainment industry.

The combined footprint of his works has touched 200+ film festivals and markets on 5 continents, yielding substantial worldwide sales to theatrical, television, and VOD outlets, notable box office receipts, and numerous awards and nominations. His long list of credits includes films that have screened at top-tier festivals such as Sundance, Berlin, Venice, Chicago, Palm Springs, AFI Docs, IDFA, DOC NYC, CPH: DOX, Tokyo, Melbourne, Viennale, Krakow, Jerusalem, among others.

His film company — 13th Gen — works with a dynamic range of independent film partners globally to oversee the financing, production, post-production, marketing, sales, and distribution efforts of a vibrant portfolio of films and filmmakers. Founded in 2009, the company is known widely for being active on some 10-15 concurrent projects, both independent and inside Hollywood, and it has successfully advanced Smolowitz’s career-long focus on powerful social issue films and filmmaking across all genres.

In 2016, he received one of the prestigious IFP Fellowships to attend the Cannes Film Festival’s Producers Network and Marche du Film marking him as one of USA’s most influential independent film producers.

Join in the social media campaign! #MyGiftedStory

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Transcript

Sophia: [00:00:00] Welcome everyone. I’m delighted to be back here today with Marc Smolowitz the man behind The G Word Film. And as I have said before, in our previous podcast with Marc, a multi award winning independent filmmaker, who’s joining me today from San Francisco and almost decades of experience in the film industry with over 50 films under his belt.

Marc, I’m delighted to talk to you again. And welcome back to the podcast. How are you?

Marc: [00:00:32] I’m good. Thank you so much for this opportunity. It’s great to be here again.

Sophia: [00:00:37] We’ve talked before about The G Word film. We got to know about the project  and the inspiration behind it and for anyone who hasn’t listened to that episode yet, please check it out, dig down into our episodes and you’ll find our first episode there with Marc.

What we’re going to talk about today is your background as an activist and a filmmaker. And you’ve mentioned before in our previous conversation, how, within that body of work that you have already, you, you’ve never shied away from challenging conversations or topics. And you’ve certainly covered a lot of challenging topics within your body of work of all your films.

That’s  for sure, so in terms of giftedness, what I thought we could have a chat about today was  those controversies within giftedness and talk about those stories that you are unraveling within the film.

Of people who aren’t  the typical stereotype of giftedness. And so I thought we could dive a little into what some of those controversies are that you uncovered through your journey and what some of those different expressions of giftedness have been for you. So I guess my first question is.

We talked a little bit briefly in our last conversation about trauma and looking at giftedness through that lens of trauma. So in terms of when you did your research on the film and you follow those different journeys, how did the trauma express itself, where was the most obvious or what stories can you share with us about where that, that came up?

Marc: [00:02:25] Wow. So there’s trauma in every story that we will be sharing in The G Word documentary. So I say extensively, there’s seven stories in the film. That’s where we landed.  We have we’ve, we debate that internally on the team. Sometimes there’s eight, sometimes there’s nine, but I really think there’s seven stories.

So there’s seven places on the map where you’re going to go on, with us on a journey. And. Each of those places in spaces is a point on the map where trauma resides and that’s for sure. So let me Telegraph for you, some of those traumatic flashpoints. So number one you meet Ilon and Church or both, who

were transgender and gender nonconforming youth or artists. Okay. There is trauma baked into being a transgender or gender diverse person in the United States. No question. Okay. That’s one. We take you to San Luis, Arizona, which is on the border with with Mexico in Southern Arizona, in the desert. Primarily Latin X immigrant migrant families.

Some, really poor and impoverished families, poverty and racism and border politics. There’s trauma. We have a story on the native American reservation in then in the Northern part of Minnesota where there’s a gifted and talented program inside of tribal school. There, the kids are dealing with multiple generations of trauma, that go back to a phenomenon called the boarding schools, where they took native kids from their parents and they forcibly put them into these institutions, just horrific stuff.

Twice exceptionality and neurodiversity come with great trauma. We meet we spend a lot of time in our film with a family here in Northern California called the Hayes family. And we learn a lot about the trauma that comes with being 2E through their family experience. So yeah, we spend time in Baltimore and, deal with racism and giftedness and what it’s like to be black and gifted.

We’re in a prison. I told you in the last podcast briefly. So we have not shied away from trauma. And trauma is a huge theme in every story. But I’m not here to beat you up. That’s just not my, I don’t believe that’s my job. I believe my job is actually more about giving you hope or leaving you with a sense of possibilities, prospects for change prospects, for making things better.

You are talking to a guy today who believes that the glass is half full. Okay. That’s just really how I live. That’s how I roll. If I didn’t believe that I probably couldn’t get up every morning. Especially in this moment in our country and our, in our, on our planet, we’re living through a horrific pandemic.

The United States is going through huge upheaval and craziness. If I, if I. If I got bogged down by that, if I really woke up and believe that the glass was half empty, I wouldn’t be able to do this work. I take on tough subject matter. I’ve dealt with PTSD, I’ve dealt with poverty, I’ve dealt with aids,  I’ve dealt with, all kinds of traumatic stories and, trauma is, one side of the story.

The other side is empowerment. Okay. Those two things always sit side by side there, but for the grace of whatever you believe, some people have resilience in them to combat the traumatic aspects of their journey. And I can’t tell you exactly why, because it’s very complicated.

Each of us is a unique expression of our human journey. But I am a guy that has a deep well of resilience. Okay. I somehow know that I am okay. And I have a background where, my mother and grandparents were Holocaust survivors from Poland. I’m openly gay. I’ve been living with HIV since the late nineties.

These are all things I talk about very openly in all aspects of my life. You know my storytelling because I feel that as a documentary storyteller, like if I’m gonna, if I’m to, if truth is stranger than fiction, I’m in the business of truth, either when I’m working, when I’m making nonfiction, I also make fiction, but that’s another podcast or another time, when I’m making documentaries, like it’s actually who I am is in the room.

Okay. It’s ostensibly I’m there, right? I will never not be Marc making this movie. Okay. And the fact that I am gay, that I am HIV positive, and I am Jewish that I am a child of Holocaust survivors, all these things. Our filters through which I see my world every day. That’s the world I walk through every day.

So I bring those filters to the, the stories that I encounter in giftedness. And that’s what kind of got my tentacles. I noticed the trauma because of my own experiences with trauma and. What I understood very quickly was that there were amazing people in the room trying to help folks, find that resilience.

There’s an incredible community around people who are struggling and, really holds people close, in this gifted world and this gifted landscape that I have been able to witness and encounter that are, taking care of one another. So it’s not all just darkness. If it was only darkness, let’s just  it’s call it a day.

You know what I mean? There’s always light and I really try to show you the light and really show you the hope and really remind you that there, that hope and light are right there. Even if you can’t see them, they’re right there over there. Let’s move our attention over there. I think that there’s a certain kind of Comfort that I have with these dark stories.

I, I can, it, sometimes it’s clear to me why sometimes it’s not, I just feel comfortable, talking about these difficult subjects with people and being in, the moment with my characters, and creating environments of trust, where they open up to me,  I talk a lot about Ilon who is our trans character and

they, they met me when they were female, and were Gabby and they were 16 years old. And because of the trust that we created, they came out to me as trans, and that didn’t just happen because, it happened because I was listening and supportive to them on their journey.

And that’s the thing like with documentary, like these are real people with blood, sweat, and tears,  I have a soul, they have a soul.  There’s something that happens here that you have to trust and,  you’re giving someone an opportunity to represent you and to put you into a movie and to tell your story.

But, I don’t see myself as telling other people’s stories. I see myself in a collaborative dynamic with my subjects and characters, and I really want them to be a part of the storytelling and figure out ways to contribute or have their own voice in this journey. Because that too is a part of the empowerment piece for me.

More transcript here...

Like with a Ilan, Ilan is an artist and a Ilan is an animator and they are contributing like to the movie. And that’s vitally important to me. It’s not just about me taking the story and putting it in, on screen. It’s about how can we all create something? It may sound a little like idealistic, but how can we all create something where everyone has an experience and feels some ownership of their part in it.

And in the last podcast with you, I talked about how, when I interview people, I try to make people feel like they’re the most important person in the world for 30 minutes or however long I’m seeing, sitting across from them. I do that with every person, no matter what their sort of, their social status might be, you might be the most important doctor, in the history of medicine or you might be someone in prison, I’m going to treat you with the same level of respect and I’m going to like actively listen for the points in your story that I can help bring out through documentary storytelling that might be relatable to an audience.

Yeah. It’s, it’s trauma is a sess pool of, potential for storytelling, and there’s a lot of ways to dive into that pool. And a lot of strategies for, diving in and thinking that, it can be done in a way that is helpful for people. I really believe in hope.

When you watch the movie, there’ll be some dark scenes, there’ll be some tough scenes. There’ll be some chilling scenes you talked about, tear-jerking scenes, but they’ll also be laughter and joy and all that, because I really think those things co-exist side by side and we as storytellers, we get to highlight what we want to highlight in that process.

Sophia: [00:10:25] Yeah,

absolutely, and I completely understand where you’re coming from there because I’m very collaborative in nature as well and really liked to be able to bring people in and have that sort of joint ownership over the process. And certainly what I’m trying to do with Our Gifted Kids too. And. A lot of the stories I hear certainly have those elements of trauma.

And I think it’s certainly a connection point, but like you say, there is also a lot of hope in the world and a lot of people doing great things and it, I know that your filming and you’ve talked about this already. One of the short films that you have out and people can see in a number of small videos that you’ve spun out of the film looks at the I’m thinking of the North shore district.

Where it’s quite an affluent post code, zip code. And they had someone come in and do a review of their high achievers program or their gifted program. And they got that feedback that actually it’s like a, I think the words were a country club, your gifted programs, basically a country club because of the sort of affluent white students.

That were within that program. And it’s really interesting to see. I think it was the leader of that district in the video take on board, that information grapple with it. And. And then seek to do something about it, which is that it is that moment of hope in that journey. And there’s a lot of people out there certainly trying to improve.

And in that situation I think they went into universal screening and had some great results in finding a more diverse student body that were gifted because they were looking for them. So a lovely story there about race and about, like the movie says who gets to be gifted in America, but people doing something about that.

Tell us a little bit on the flip side, you mentioned already St. Luis. I think I’ve said that correctly, St. L uis on the iborder of Mexico. Quite a different situation there, again, another story, very much about race. So tell us a little bit more about what’s going on in St. Luis, which is. Not affluent, it’s on the border of Mexico and quite a different demographic to our, country club in the North.

So tell us a little bit about that.

Marc: [00:13:03] Sure. So it’s actually San Luis

yeah. All good. No worries. Yeah,  there’s. So officially San Luis is the second poorest zip code in all the state of Arizona. So it’s pretty poor. And when you go there, it feels poor. Okay. That’s just something I can say, because I’ve been there. I was very interested in.

Finding stories that sort of dove into sort of the experience of Latino and Latin X people in gifted what it might look like, what it might be to deal with your immigrant status and being gifted and what it might mean to be an English language learner. Okay. And so in that way, San Luis is a perfect place to explore those stories because that’s the entire town,  that’s really who lives there.

And this story I uncovered was it in the sort of backdrop of the, intense border politics. Of what was going on in my country. Okay. So under Trump, it’s been crazy with the U S Mexico border and his whole immigration policy. So we’ve been making the movie over the arc of the Trump years.

So these things are filtering into my own thinking all the time. And again, education is a social contract, so I’m thinking a lot about who gets to do what and. So the way that I discovered the story was that here in the United States, we have these advanced learners summer camps for students, they will, there’s the others also there’s these zooming out there’s these place called these talent development centers.

And they’re usually connected with very large and influential research universities. And so there’s about nine or 10 of them around the country. Maybe more than that, but nine that are really well known. And one of them is affiliated with Johns Hopkins and they’re called the Center for Talented Youth.

And they’ve been around since the seventies. And, I was doing some storytelling work with The G Word in Baltimore and they happened to be in Baltimore. And so I met with them and we had a really good meeting. They really liked this sort of spirit and kind of your stall of this movie. And it started a long form conversation because I was very interested in  they, clearly cost a lot of money to go to these camps, but the center for talented youth has a robust scholarship program.

They’re really, they have had, a track record of being an institution that was trying to do the interesting things in Baltimore with disenfranchised kids. They also are a big a part of this. Yeah, like the history of giftedness and the 20th century. So there’s there was a man named Julian Stanley.

He was a big part of the Movement, the push for acceleration and in, in the sixties and seventies. And this was all hubbed out of that, out of Johns Hopkins. And eventually that moved to another university. But there’s no question that CTY or the center for talent is an important stakeholder in this gifted landscape.

And, long story short, I struck up a nice relationship with the executive director at the time. And I met her at one of these advanced learners, summer camps, and spent the day with her and one of my producers. And we just walked around and talked to students and talk to teachers and different staffers.

And she orchestrated this very thoughtful lunch because she knew I was looking for stories. And one of the, one of the young gentlemen at that. Table was a 20 something who had grown up in San Luis. And so as people were going around the table at lunch, just introducing themselves, like at any lunch table, right?

You say who you are, what you’re doing, you’re where you’re from. And this young man is telling me that he grew up at the border, and, With telling his story and I pulled them aside and I’m like tell me more about where you grew up and, he was describing the place and how there was this man named Homero, who was the guidance counselor who had been this kind of, Unmatched cheerleader, for the community and its kids to unpack, the potential of these young people. And as I dug more into it with Elena was the executive director. This town sends more students to CTY learner camps than any other town of its kind in the nation. And it competes with the top 10 in the world.

So they’re performing extremely well. And it’s an interesting question. Like why is this poor town that is mostly immigrant, mostly migrant, mostly English language learners, mostly Latin X doing so well, especially when you put them alongside all these other white affluent districts. And so it just was immediately in the wheelhouse of the movie.

Because, and when we went there to film. It was clear that there was this kind of communal commitment to the kids. So it’s a town about 25,000 people, we’re walking around, we literally met the mayor. Like that’s the kind of town where you meet the Mayor, right?

Yes. Everyone knew we were, everyone knew we were coming to film every way. We were on the news, it was that kind of thing. And. Because these people care so much about their kids. And so there’s a beautiful virtuous cycle that is just like unfolding there every day, every school year. And it’s not something that happened overnight.

It’s been going on for over 20 years. And so they’ve had many of their students go to some of the top universities around the country and then they come back and reinvest in this town. And so that cycle of virtuosity was really appealing to me from a story perspective. And the fact that it was happening at the border was remarkable because it went so against the stereotype of what, like the mainstream media was feeding us about like life at the border and you go down there and it just doesn’t feel like what the media tells you, it’s going to feel like.

And it just was a delightful place to uncover. Students and families and teachers and administrators and community members who are all in for these kids. And it’s brutally hot in the Southern Arizona desert in the summers, like 120 degrees. And we were there filming in the summer. And I always joke what do you think kids are doing in the heat of the summer in San Luis?

They’re going to summer school because they’re in their indoors and air conditioning. And so they spend their summers just when they’re not going to CTY, because there are cause CTY is for a certain age, like learning engineering, learning, chemistry, learning, really being pushed to their, capacity and their potential.

It’s a pretty special place. The other thing I highlight about San Luis and the movie, and this is something I encountered a lot in, more poor and impoverished communities. Is that the way they got these kids excited was through music and culture, music and art. And so it was the music pathway that they emphasize to get these kids to learn how to love themselves.

So through music and art, these kids felt a sense of self worth. And then they were, had an easier time transferring over that excitement into math and science. And so it’s just, the whole story was just like brimming with beautiful views.

Sophia: [00:19:50] I love this story. I totally do. Having just said that  worked in Scotland with a cohort of, they have some of the most deprived areas within Europe, in these pockets of Scotland.

And I worked as a program manager there where we use arts to instill that self-worth resilience and confidence into these very vulnerable young teenagers to then help them shift them on to educational work and there’s something about the arts as a gateway. It’s really lovely. And why I just love about this story of San Luis.

And when I refer to having tears and getting the tissue in watching your videos it’s actually not about the trauma that sometimes, it’s discussed I think that in a way connects us, it’s these moments of absolute beauty, where people are stepping up and in this video San Luis

which I just encourage everyone to watch, it shows us the power of a teacher who believes a teacher who gets it, it’s not about resources. If they can get these results, if they can meet the needs of these students and all of their students individually, that, it shows us that the barriers, aren’t perhaps what we imagined, but it’s having the right adults there.

And I think one of the lines that I might get this slightly wrong was the. One of the teachers said, these children are our hidden treasures, so that sense of we’re doing it for the kids is incredibly strong and beautiful. And if we can have more people like that in the world who had just there to respond and meet kids where they’re at.

And you also talk in the video about, there. It’s it, they’re the way that they have helped these children to grow. It’s basically teaching them how to do hard work, teaching them to dream a but, how to make things happen, which is a huge thing for gifted children that. Resilience in terms of doing hard work and doing hard things.

And so they’ve really got this wonderful dynamic and I love that you’ve told this story of San Luis it’s one that we can all treasure, I think respect. So it’s really lovely.

Marc: [00:22:06] So I’d like to just on that really quickly. So what, so your audience understands what these shorts are. These shorts are a snapshot and then the movie will go even deeper, right?

So th the shorts are really a way for you to get, where are done some filming. This is the sort of, this is the tone of the film. These are this, the point of view of the film. This is the visual style, the pace and the editing, the music. And if you like it. Make sure to come back.

Sophia: [00:22:30] I look forward to hearing more of what they’re doing there it’s an absolute gem, so we’l shift  slightly there in terms of unexpected places to, to consider gifted expression.

Another one of your shorts as you talked about earlier centers around sexuality and one of the stories is about a transgender, as you said she was Gabby when you met her and and then they  , disclose to you about their transgender journey and right.

Because I want to touch on this because I think when we talk about giftedness there is an immediate misunderstanding about giftedness that it’s this kind of elite thing. But the truth is San Luis shows us it’s, gifted children are everywhere regardless of  demographic or race or culture.

But also I think something that we don’t look at very often is sexuality and how giftedness is expressed with that additional layer of sexuality. So I think it’s a really important thread.  In terms of the shorts that we’ve seen so far, and obviously you dive deeper into that within the movie as well.

Marc: [00:23:53] Yeah. What was interesting was it very early on when I was making The G Word? And I was started getting invited to conferences and being in gifted and talented spaces, if you will. I was being confronted with the fact that there were a lot of transgender and non-binary and gender non-conforming kids and teens and adults in these spaces.

And. I just noticed it anecdotally, it just was there. I, couldn’t not notice it because I’m queer and I’m an advocate of trans youth and I believe in, transgender empowerment and that’s baked into who I am as an activist and one of my own interests and priorities. And I’ve done other work with trans filmmakers and I’ve done other trans projects.

So my sort of, again, my tentacles were poised to notice this information and because of Ilon and Church and meeting them early on with the filming, both of them.  I found them both to be fascinating and amazing people. And I just wanted to tell their story. And I was also, there was a, the backdrop of their story was also of interest because I met them at an early entrance program where they were basically teenagers going to full-time college.

And that’s a special phenomenon that is available in some universities here across the country. And I met them at a  like a, not very prestigious school. It’s Cal state, Los Angeles. It’s not Stanford. It’s not MIT. It’s not some big Ivy league school. It’s a public university. No, as city campus, mostly commuters people of every age, every background.

And so these kids were blending in and you’re just going to college. And I thought that was really interesting. And that program in general was very diverse that early entrance program at Cal state LA, but Church and Ilon, then Gabby were super interesting students within that community that I encountered.

And so I go on glommed onto them because I was just interested in them. And not an out of that kind of there started to be this. Just increasing number of young people like them that were appearing in the rooms. I was, occupying in this movie and I have a very clear memory. I was at one conference in Chicago with, for gifted, where I was giving a keynote in 2017.

And I,  show, I must have shown the Gabby video, to that audience. And that night I was surrounded by parents of trans kids, and yeah. And  it just was so apparent that there was something going on. And. So much. So there’s  what’s going on here?

Has there been any research, has anyone ever looked into this? And so from a storytelling perspective, I figured out that there had been some research. There was some, there’s been some interesting research on transgender and autism, transgender and neurodiversity. And I just was interested in the fact that, that.

I needed to have, I wanted to have an LGBTQ story arc because it had really merged,  through my interactions with her, with a very prominent  author named  Andrew Solomon who wrote a book called far from the tree and far from the tree is a book it’s a very big read. It’s like 1200 pages, but.

The way that the book is basically a book about parents who had children, that they didn’t expect. That’s what the book’s about. Okay. And each chapter is as a different focus. And one chapter is on having a deaf child one chapter’s on having a dwarf child, one chapters on having a gifted or prodigy child, one chapters on having a transgender child.

And so I started seeing all these sort of, abnormal narratives, quote unquote in the same kind of space. And so I was just predisposed to it and we spoke very openly. Andrew and I, when I interviewed him about. The idea that when you are LGBTQ plus, when you’re raised as an openly gay person, when you grow up in a, as a gay person, you are predisposed to parsing out identity and experience and knowledges in ways that are pretty nuanced in part for survival, just to make sense of the world, to navigate the treacherous way of being in the world. And so he says very eloquently in Martin, my interview with him, About that. And and I’ve always felt that I knew that my gayness early on was a huge part of my giftedness. I didn’t connect those dots until I was an adult, but I know that was my understanding of the world, like when I was in those gifted programs, this is the joke I tell I was a very popular kid.

Like I was, my social skills were off the charts. My leadership skills were off the chart. I was good in theater. Good art, good. In language arts, great at history, super high achieving high-performing child. In those gifted programs, there were a lot of geeks and dweebs and kids who were bullied and struggling.

And I always used to fight for them. I used to stand up for them. I was a big social justice warrior, back in the day. And. I attribute that to my sense of knowing that I was different because I was gay. I didn’t know. I didn’t know the name. I didn’t know how to name it when I was seven years old, but that’s what was going on.

I had a sense of being other in the world. I could parse that meeting out at a very early age. Okay. Yeah. So I was able to figure those things out early. And then, so when trans kids were coming at me in this space of gifted, it was natural for me to want to explore it. Anecdotally as a storyteller.

And then as I did research, I saw that others in the kind of traditional research settings in universities and scholars were also researching. So it wasn’t just that I was like dreaming this up. When there are a lot of kids in the room, you start to notice them. It’s just how the world works.

And so I couldn’t not notice it. And so yeah, so the Ilon and Church’s presence in the movie is very much about exploring that question. Is there a correlation between gender identity and the brain and intelligence and creativity and giftedness and. Was thinking about that together, it’s really just, it’s another part of identity that I feel like is in the room, and I think I said on the other podcast that, we treat giftedness and neurodiversity in this movie as a vertical of identity. And so it’s your sex, your gender, your race, your class, your zip code. These are all verticals of identity experience that all show up with you when you walk into a classroom as a child.

And so if you have, a transgender child in your classroom, it would be who of you to be trained, to try to understand what’s going on with that child. It would behoove us as a society to understand that, I think that, this sort of long and the short of like why trans is so challenging, in this moment for so many has a lot to do with it.

It’s just new, it’s just, we have, and anything, anytime things are new and largely misunderstood and charting new ground. We do, people are like, what is this? That’s the thing is that new ideas around identity and how people express their identities.

Always throw people off, in large number. And that’s just how identity works. But the more we talk about these things openly, the more that we lean in to support, the more that we think of ourselves as allies of people who are different from ourselves, the more we will see that gender is not a binary expression.

I just really don’t. I think it is. And I’m delighted to be living in a century where we finally seem to have. A growing number of people who are open to the prospects of that. And I don’t think it’s going to be like the most, easily resolved set of, aspects of our lives, because I think gender is very complicated for a lot of people who are not comfortable with the idea of non-binary expressions of gender.

But. From my perspective, these stories belong  in The G Word because giftedness is everywhere.

Sophia: [00:31:15] Yeah, absolutely. I couldn’t agree more. And I think you, you really hit on something there that I can relate to. I wonder or feel that at the moment, because back in the day you just didn’t come across.

Trans children at school who are transitioning or even acknowledging that, or, coming out as trans. But with, I feel like we’re starting to see that now, but those children and parents are very much those trailblazers and in the decades to follow, it will, like you said, become normal life because it’s a new thing now, we’ll all get used to that and there’ll be less and we will know.

Where those children and parents are coming from will be better able to support them and understand them because yeah. Within my communities I know a few parents with trans children who have gone through that process. But I see that as this I think first wave of coming out in that space that can only be a good thing for the future, but certainly suddenly I think we need to.

I acknowledge and work to understand and support. And so it’s good to have that conversation within the gifted conversation as well and acknowledge that, of course, giftedness is everywhere and those expressions of giftedness  are everywhere as well. And that’s a part of that beautiful expression of being, neurodiverse and but also part of our identity and who we are.

Yeah. So thank you for touching on those issues and bringing them. And I look forward to digging deeper in the film, as you say your shorts. So your videos are just a snippet and a top level. So certainly look forward to digging deeper into those issues within the film, when it comes out. Now I’m very conscious of the time I had one last question before we wrap up these you’re okay for that, because there’s so much to talk about.

Okay, great. I was listening to a conversation that you were having recently with Nadja from Unleash Monday which is another podcast for gifted adults, which is great to listen to. And within that conversation, you were talking about the I, essentially IQ and the, how.

Gifted education relates to special education. And it’s not something that I’ve seen come up in your shorts, but I wondered if that was something that you’d come across in this journey within the film. And it piqued my interest because. About six months or so ago, I met with a friend of a friend.

Who’s a teacher within a special school because I was interested in how my gifted children and give to children, which are very much at one end of the spectrum how their their challenges might relate. Or if there was any connection to the challenges and the way that children within the special ed sphere experienced the world because in both of them in their extremeness and difference from center.

And I was interested that you were talking about that recently as well. Is that something that has come up within that journey that you’ve had.

Marc: [00:34:41] Absolutely. Absolutely. So the movie really does contemplate gifted ed alongside special ed. And what’s interesting is that in a lot of rural school districts here in the United States, the gifted ed coordinator and the special ed coordinator is the same person in part because of resources, because there’s so few.

Positions in some of these districts. So these people wear multiple hats, but it’s interesting that in an under-resourced environment, they put those two things together, because they see them in the same way. And they’re broadly a part of special needs intelligence, if you want to think of it like that.

And this sort of. Strange sauce of it is that, in part thanks to families and advocates and activists, special ed, had some, a wave of like explosive consideration that got it on the table in the 20th century, primarily in the sixties and seventies where, those families and those advocates and activists were able to get things changed and get things into law that got their kids, assurances in this kind of, free and fair, appropriate education model.

And, for all kinds of complicated reasons, the gifted ed side of that conversation became less and less. Of a priority, right? So in an environment where education, resources, was shrinking which was like very much the eighties it was really easy to say, Oh, the smart kids don’t need to don’t need special services because the number smart kids do, right?

Like you can make, you can justify what we have to fix that. Yeah. Especially in the language of, up down smart, dumb, all that sort of, not so nice way of thinking about the world. That’s why I like non-binary thing, because it’s like it leans into this sort of nuance of identity that is much more realistic and probably likely than not.

The, yes, there are people who are. Very much on this side of gifted very much on that side of special ed, but there are more people who reside in complex nuance. Aspects of intelligence. And we, the movie does lean into all kinds of things about sort of new ideas about intelligence.

Okay. So there are a lot of movements in the 21st century that are rethinking what even intelligence means and the, the movie does lean into this idea that. We’re overburdened by IQ. And that IQ is not a fair assessment of, of anyone’s intelligence. It’s bias, it’s Euro centric.

It’s, essentially doesn’t meet that need the child or the student or the person where they are. Given their cultural or other aspects of their experience. It’s interesting that earlier in our conversation, you talked about, giftedness and he used the word regardless of identity or regardless of gender, regardless of.

And I actually, and I guess, I understood what you were saying, but I think that’s a really simple sort of. We can just change our word there. It’s not regardless of identity, it’s actually because of identity. And I think, or gifting it’s, it operates like identity, and so I think, whenever you w when gifted is in the room, someone’s sex, gender, race, zip code classroom in the room, it’s just, that’s how that works.

And. You never bring you can’t you always bring your whole self to given moment. And so I think that’s, that’s extremely important. And yeah, Scott Barry Kaufman, who’s one of the experts that we interviewed in the movie. He talks a lot about personalized i ntelligence and how intelligence is,  much more personal than not.

And I think that is Likely, we’re, I probably feel comfortable sort of thinking about all these big issues is that it’s, each person is unique, and there are things like industry standards, education standards, there’s certain ways we have to put structure around conversations that help us understand programs and services and protocols and evaluation.

All, I get all that stuff like I’m not like lofty in my sort of, sense of reality. There has to be a way of, creating common language and common understanding of how we serve these students. But, in an increasingly personalized environment, each of us is unique and, if anything, the pandemic has shown us that, in a really powerful ways, right?

Like each student is unique and how they are not being served in the pandemic. Think of it, just take that basically out to the larger culture, in a non pandemic context. And it becomes pretty scalable to think about it that way. You just, things like pandemics show where the cracks are, show where the inequities are, show us where the challenges are.

But man, once we get out of this pandemic, we got to think differently about how to fix those challenges, highlight the strengths of people. I think, I’ve talked a lot about how there were this deficit based culture here in the United States, and I’m imagining it’s probably pretty similar in Australia focusing on problems we can fix as opposed to strengths we can highlight and cultivate.

And it seems so. Captain obvious, but for lots of reasons, we just don’t focus on people’s strengths. And we just, and we, and this is the century where we going to either break out of that stuff entirely and rethink systems and education among those systems or not. I really believe that I say this a lot.

I think the 20th century created a lot of problems. The 21st century, we got to fix those problems and that doesn’t, and that doesn’t mean that I try to fault everybody who comes before us, it’d be like, great work was done, always. That’s,  that’s, narrative of progress, but at the expense of what, and so we have, we always have the opportunity to learn and relearn how to. You know how to do this thing called civil society, and if there are, huge numbers of students not being served, isn’t that a worthwhile conversation to have, like, why are we not serving them and how can we serve them better?

And maybe there’s more there, right?

Sophia: [00:40:07] Yeah. No, absolutely. Absolutely. There’s so much in that. It’s hard to know where to start. I think one of the challenge of giftedness in terms of that broader understanding of giftedness is certainly interesting related to that deficit model of where we focus on people’s deficits or where they’re having challenges and where they’re not being seen to be typical. But for some reason in giftedness we think giftedness is all.

Sunshine and lollipops, that’s the misnomer and the broader community doesn’t have that understanding that actually within giftedness, there are lots of challenges. There are challenges relating to the way that you’re experiencing or perceiving the world and being in the world as a gifted person because you’re so highly sensitive and that causes a lots of challenges as well.

So very much like you said, it’s about seeing. That wholeness.  And it’ll be interesting to see if, language and perception shifts around that, over the next 10 years, certainly, hopefully And,

Marc: [00:41:08] I think we’re all on a journey, I think that it, this movie for what it’s worth has been fortunate to join with that journey at a pretty dynamic moment.

And in the narrative of what gifted looks like in this century, what intelligence looks like in this century. So yeah. I’ve certainly been enjoying that. And I really want to partner with people who are passionate about, steering this journey and interesting and important directions.

We’ve got to ask as these tough and important questions and the movie hopes to be of service, to this, these conversations. I don’t think that the movie can be all things to all people. There’s only one movie and it’ll be about 95 minutes or whatever. And it can’t, It, our stories will be the stories that I’ve selected, that we have curated, that we are putting into a package that we hope will make, broader sense to a large audience, but what we can support our public conversations about things that may not be featured in the movie.

So the way that I highlight that for people is that. You may not see your exact family in this movie. Okay. That doesn’t mean that we’re not saying your child isn’t gifted. That doesn’t mean that your version of giftedness isn’t real or important or powerful or even, potentially worth, being featured in and.

In a movie. But these are the things that I have spent time noticing and uncovering, and I’m trying to package them in ways I feel will be of interest to the largest possible audience. So I think if people come with that, open-heartedness when they watch our film, they will be surprised and delighted.

We have had pushback, from different corners of the gifted community, around different things that we’ve prioritized and. And people are allowed to believe whatever they want to believe, but the way I always frame it, this is go out and make a movie. If you’re, it’s so important to you to, chime in about moving on, making, go out and make your own, you go out, you go try and do that.

And you see how easy it is, how easy it is.

Sophia: [00:42:50] Absolutely. Absolutely. No, I look, I can’t, wait to see the movie.  As you said at the beginning, it’s in post production at the moment we’re looking for early 20,22 release, which is very exciting. So I just want to wrap up with how people can support the movie.

Our Gifted Kids is a friend and partner of The G Word film, and I would certainly encourage. Anyone out there who’s in this space to, to have  a look at The G Word film website and look into that it’s very accessible and it gives us the opportunity to support the work that Marc is doing.  And so Marc, where else can people find you?

How else can they support that what’s going on here and get involved in this conversation? Because I think this is a great. Spotlight on giftedness and certainly a wonderful opportunity for us to have all of those broad conversations.

Marc: [00:43:44] I certainly encourage people to go to our website, follow us on social media.

We are active on social media. I’m a real believer in the power of social media. I try to create a welcoming and inclusive tone in our social media. So I think people will enjoy, following us and being in community with us. In the earlier podcast, I talked a little bit about our storytelling initiative, which involves photo-sharing called hashtag #mygiftedstory.

So please go to our website to learn more about that. Anyone anywhere in the world can contribute to that tapestry of photos. We’d love to have thousands of visual contributions from around the world to create that visual tapestry. And you can learn more about our impact manifesto, which is our statement about how we want to change hearts and minds about giftedness.

It’s, in part focused on US initiatives, but I think a lot of those will translate over to Australian, supporters. What about our impact manifesto? And yeah, you’ve joined our partnership yet. So organizations of all kinds that are committed to gifted and talented and neurodiverse education populations, services programs if you like this sort of look, feel, smell, taste of these, of what you heard here today, go to our website, look at the link and you can join with us.

Partnership starts at $250 US dollars, so we would be delighted and honored to have anyone who wants to join with us. Join with us and thank you so much for giving me a chance to be a part of your podcast and to amplify our message around this movie. It’s been great.

Sophia: [00:45:11] It’s been wonderful to talk to you.

I really appreciate the conversation and I feel like I’ve probably kept you up a little bit but thanks for being with us today its wonderful thanks.

Marc: [00:45:22] Thank you Sophia. 

 

Written By OurGiftedKids

We want to provide a space where parents of gifted kids can talk freely about the challenges of parenting and their child's issues and achievements. We want to celebrate our community as well as prop each other up.

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