Lakefill Mag will virtually present stories from members of the Northwestern community from June 12 to June 14.
The live storytelling event, formerly known as Pop-Up Zine, made its debut last spring. Drawing inspiration from Pop-Up Magazine, Lakefill uses multimedia elements and theatrical flair to enhance the pieces narrated by each of its storytellers.
“You can play with animation, video and audio — everything you can imagine, you can do,” said Paola de Varona, Lakefill’s executive editor. “It’s a hodgepodge of all the different techniques, and you get to put them together in a way that tells the best story that you can.”
Plans for Lakefill began early in the school year. In Winter Quarter, Lakefill team members solicited pitches from Northwestern students. Medill junior Hannah Ni'Shuilleabhain pitched a story about names based on her own experiences with people being unfamiliar with or mispronouncing her last name. She initially thought Lakefill’s live storytelling platform would enhance her storytelling.
“I really liked that the initial idea was going to be a very immersive experience, and that would be a personal challenge in gathering information and presenting it, and also hopefully a more informative and confronting experience for people that would be there to witness it,” Ni'Shuilleabhain said. “Sadly, that had to change because of the circumstances.”
The production of the magazine faced challenges with the move to online learning for Spring Quarter. Even before the University officially announced that the quarter would be fully remote, the editors made plans to hold Lakefill virtually.
“It was definitely clear for me since the beginning that we weren’t going back, so I didn’t want to even plan for that,” de Varona said.
In place of a live event, Lakefill became a pre-recorded video featuring animation, videos and photos alongside recordings of each narrator. The team quickly checked in with each storyteller, scrapping some planned stories and soliciting new ones that were more timely.
While several of the new pieces address COVID-19, de Varona said Lakefill takes a human approach to the subject, focusing on the people rather than the logistics of social distancing. The editors also considered the tone of the show amid the global pandemic.
“You don’t want to bring people down when they’re already overwhelmed by everything,” de Varona said. “It made our team think a lot about how to uplift people with these stories while keeping some of the serious issues like mental health, sexuality and things that we are exploring in the show.”
The team further considered Lakefill’s ability to uplift viewers as protests occurred nationwide following the murder of George Floyd. The magazine’s first Instagram post contained a message from Lakefill’s editor-in-chief Jamaica Ponder, which began by stating the magazine is run by a Black woman. The post went on to affirm Lakefill’s support for the Black community and acknowledge the obligation of journalists to “uplift community voices, foster collective action, and spread accurate information.”
“With Jamaica’s statement, we wanted to make clear what our values were like as a team and organization,” de Varona said. “Since the beginning we were specifically looking at the makeup of who was on our team. We were like, ‘We want Black people, we want people of color, we want women.’ The people that were centered in our stories are people that I think aren’t centered in a lot of traditional journalism.”
With Lakefill set to make its virtual debut this Friday, de Varona is proud of the show the team has put together.
“I think it’s really well done,” de Varona said. “You can’t even imagine how many hours we’ve poured into this show. Everybody has managed to do this during a pandemic, during organizing against police brutality. We’ve been able to do all this and juggle our classes, so I think it’s a feat. I think it would be wrong not to celebrate that”
Lakefill Mag will launch at 7 p.m. CST on June 12, and the video will remain live until 11:59 p.m. on June 14. Viewers can register for the show on Eventbrite.