When it came time to tell the story of mentorship at Best Buy® Teen Tech Centers™ for a national ad campaign, personal was the only way to go.
The videos feature real teen/mentor pairs in their elements, and the campaign’s director and producer are passionate about mentorship and know its power firsthand. Filming took place at three Teen Tech Centers across the United States and other local places where the teens spend time.
The goal was to create videos that “represent a glowingly optimistic, and celebratory reinstallation of the values that make our communities unified and whole,” said Rodney Lucas, an acclaimed New York City-based documentary filmmaker who directed the campaign. (Rodney also directed last year’s award-winning Dream Huge video series featuring Teen Tech Center youth.)
“To mentor is an act of transferring knowledge through uniquely tailored channels — oftentimes countering tradition — in order to reach the minds and souls of beneficiaries in search of hope and purpose,” Rodney said.
He and producer Bridget Botchway Bradley and photographer Akilah Townsend worked closely with the teens and mentors to tell their stories and show the power and lasting impact of mentorship. The result: “Mentor Moments.”
The campaign, which was done in partnership with Best Buy Creative, ran throughout May on national TV and will continue to run on Best Buy social media channels throughout the summer.
It was an ad campaign, yes, but the objective was to amplify the important, everyday work of the community partners at Teen Tech Centers while doing what the centers do best: provide real-world mentorship and training for young people from disinvested communities.
“Mentorship is often the missing link between talent and success,” Bridget said. “I think even if you haven’t had a formal mentor, you’ve been mentored.”
Spaces for exploration
Teen Tech Centers provide safe, after-school spaces where teens can get hands-on experience with cutting-edge technology. Adult mentors give youth the support to create, innovate and explore their interests. Each center provides teens with opportunities to dive into their passion areas such as robotics, photography, music production and more.
With 48 locations open so far, the Teen Tech Centers are a part of Best Buy’s commitment to support youth across the country in building brighter futures through tech. Our goal is to support 100 Teen Tech Centers by 2025, expanding the program’s reach to 30,000 teens each year.
For the three teens featured in the campaign, viewers get a glimpse of them in their element at their Teen Tech Centers: making music, taking photographs and writing poetry. Their mentors provide a narration that’s equal parts admiration and inspiration.
Tèa Bennett attends the Best Buy Teen Tech Center at the Clark County Public Library in Las Vegas. She and her mentor, Megan Nykodym, were featured in one of the videos. It was important to them that they had control of their story.
“I had never been in an environment like this before,” said Tèa, referencing her first day on set. “It was totally overwhelming at first but, at the same time, I was able to adapt quickly to the environment around me. Megan and I just looked at each other and said: ‘We’re going to just do what we do best here and be ourselves’ — and I think we did!”
Learning on set
The production was a mentorship opportunity itself. In addition to the teens featured on camera, Teen Tech Center attendees from each of the locations were hired on as production assistants.
Another priority of the project was to have BIPOC (Black, Indigenous and people of color) representation on both sides of the camera. The teens on set were surrounded by people they could identify with and feel safe around, from Rodney and Bridget and Akilah to the makeup artist and wardrobe stylists.
“The day before the shoot, we did a little poking around and read about Rodney and the team and the projects they’ve worked on,” Tèa said. “It meant so much to me that they all could understand our experiences. When you’ve all been through something similar and someone else shares key parts of your story… it’s not even really just a film set anymore, it’s a bigger piece we’re all creating together.”
The production crew created on-set moments for the teens to learn about the different aspects of filming a TV commercial, from using the equipment to setting up lighting to working with the subjects being filmed.
Rodney has a collaborative approach, and he also spent time with the teen/mentor pairs, talking to them, coaching them and helping them feel comfortable on camera.
“The moments I spent vibing alone with Rodney taught me to look at life in a bigger spectrum,” Tèa said. “The way I see the world is different from others, and I didn’t know I could find someone that could relate to that so deeply. It goes to show that no matter what we go through, it’s all about how we can turn that into something beautiful and better. That’s what Rodney taught me.”
A passion project
Rodney closely identified with the campaign’s subject. His first mentor ignited confidence in him and showed him how to navigate the challenges faced by BIPOC individuals, including and especially within the Black community.
“Our relationship was — and in many ways still is — the cornerstone of my success,” Rodney said. “Mentors I’ve had along the way made me feel beautiful, powerful, and seen.”
Bridget was drawn to tell the Teen Tech Center mentorship story because it reminded her of a program she participated in during high school that provided a professional mentor and exposure to different careers.
“In fact, this was that same program that first introduced me to becoming a filmmaker. So this [ad campaign] all felt very full-circle for me,” she said.
While the project is wrapped and the videos have aired, Rodney had one more mentor moment of his own in a message for the teens involved.
“What you do isn’t tangible or based in results, there’s not always a reward,” he said. “But it’s about upliftment, and the mark you’re leaving will last for generations.”