Bridget Galaty, a 2017 Coca-Cola Scholar, is used to being on the other side of the interview: asking questions, not answering them. A bona fide documentarian, her films have been screened at film festivals across the country. And in the social media era, when the average 18-year-old spends much of their time documenting the routine activities of their own lives, it’s refreshing to see someone with a passion for producing media that’s meant to add more meaning to reality.
“I like to dive into things people don’t necessarily understand and then try to reveal deeper stories of people or issues within the topic that aren’t often explored,” she explains. These things have included diverse subjects like the Mongolian Revolution, arts education, and transgender rights, the underlying topic of her senior capstone project at Denver School of the Arts, TRANSaction: Stepping Out of the Closet. A short film about the experience of shopping for clothing as a transgender student, Bridget wanted to explore a part of being trans that isn’t often discussed.
“We hear a lot about the Transgender Bathroom Bill and things like that, but so many people have never met a transgender person. So I wanted to introduce them to people who actually are and share what their lives are like,” she says. As a more masculine-presenting female-identified person, it also allowed her to reflect on her own experiences. “I like to tell my story vicariously through the stories of others. While I am not trans, I do dress in a more masculine way, and I still have to struggle with some of the same feelings.”
An official selection at the Scholastic Arts and Writing Awards, the CinéStudent Film Festival, Pine River Student Film Festival, the ACT Human Rights Festival, and Wicked Queer, the Boston LGBT Film Festival, TRANSaction was celebrated by critics and fellow students alike.
“I screened it at our Senior Film Fest and this guy came up and said, ‘I’m trans and your film spoke to my experiences and it really made me feel heard,’” Bridget shares. “It’s cool to know it’s having an impact. That when people see the film, even if it’s not their story, they can identify with it, and know that it’s out there for others to see.”
In addition to making an impact through film, Bridget also works to enact change with other forms of activism; this year, for example, she began an effort to bring more racial and socioeconomic diversity to her school, an audition-based magnet school for grades 6-12. “I sent out promotional materials to elementary schools that either don’t send kids to our school or don’t know about it to try and recruit kids from all over the city,” she explains.
It’s an initiative that grew out of her desire to expand the reach of another project: The film department had been teaching lessons on filmmaking to students at a local elementary school, but Bridget ended up helping a group of students learn how to write resumes and build their portfolios — requirements for admission.
“Kids were learning the arts, but I took the initiative to teach them resume building … I love the arts side but I also really like thinking about the technical side and knowing the process and the ins and outs of that,” she says. “Obviously the art part is the main element, but sometimes the other pieces get lost in the process.”
Bridget says she’s come to realize that film, and documentaries in particular, blends many of her interests, including education. “I’ve really come to frame this documentary filmmaking as a form of teaching,” she says, and talks about how she has long enjoyed working with kids, and taught Hebrew to elementary school students over the past four years.
She’s even considering education as a possible career path; Bridget just started studying at Colorado College, and though she hasn’t ruled out filmmaking (or math or science — other ongoing interests), part of her decision to attend the liberal arts school was because of their 5th year Master of Arts in Teaching program.
You can take in some real life-lessons from Bridget in the meantime; look for TRANSaction and a number of her other films online.
The Coca-Cola Scholars Foundation celebrates and empowers visionary leaders who are refreshing the world. With its 29th class of Coca-Cola Scholars, the Foundation has provided more than $63 million in scholarships to 5,877 program alumni who together have become a powerful force for positive change.
You could be part of the 30th class! Current high school seniors may apply to be Coca-Cola Scholars using this link through October 31, 2017, at 5 p.m. Eastern. Learn more at www.coca‑colascholars.org.