Meet Julian Iriarte and Meronne Teklu, the producers of The Real W&M

William and Mary’s outstanding web series on diversity, identity, and everything in between

Julian Iriarte and Meronne Teklu are the creative minds responsible for one of William and Mary’s most popular web series.

The Real W&M offers insight into the experiences of minority students at a PWI. According to their Facebook page, they aim for their content to “instill a real conversation on campus” about diversity, identity, and everything in between.

The earliest version of The Real W&M was a final project for Professor Francis Aguas’s class “Sex and Race in Plays and Films.” For the final project, Meronne, Julian, Felicia Wong, and Jillian Bates worked together to make a documentary that emphasized diversity on campus. The film emulated multiple aspects of William and Mary’s “For the Bold” fundraising campaign.

This was the first film project that Meronne and Julian had ever worked on. Professor Aguas enjoyed the project so much that he encouraged them to develop it in future semesters.

The Real W&M promo

Our first episode premieres tomorrow! Explore the Minority Experience at a PWI with us. Full trailer:

Posted by The Real W&M on Thursday, September 15, 2016

The project would have been an hour-long documentary covering issues of diversity on William and Mary’s campus. The documentary would have been made for faculty and staff. In essence, Julian and Meronne wanted the administration to also recognize that there were still some steps necessary to increase diversity on campus via course selection or special programs.

The vision for the project has changed tremendously since then. Since Jillian and Felicia had graduated, the team was now down to two members. Much of the footage captured last spring was no longer useful. According to Julian: “No one was gonna watch that long ass film.” Julian and Meronne realized that they would have to take their project in a new direction. The new target audience would be the student body.

The pair tailored their project to meet the demands of William and Mary students. “We wanted it to be short and quick…so you can scroll, laugh a bit, and keep going. It had to grab their attention and be on subjects that you wouldn’t normally hear.” Julian and Meronne also emphasized that the project needed to feature students on campus.

Episode 5: Reactions to the 2016 Presidential Election

Preston Neukirch, Allison X Esquen-Roca, Jeff Buffkin, Ayumi Matsuda, Noah Kim, and Nadia Danielle Ross share their Reactions to the 2016 Presidential Election.If you would like to be interviewed by The Real WM, please fill out this questionnaire! you have feedback for our series? Please fill out this short survey! Informational session: Wednesday, November 16th at 7:30pm in the Ford Classroom, on the ground floor of Swem library.Shout outs:SoHHL (Students of Hip-Hop Legacy at William and Mary) & CO Beatz for the dope track!Christine Fulgham for camera equipment!Like what you see? Don't forget to subscribe and connect with us!**Disclaimer: this is not an all-inclusive collection of the full minority experience. Join us every other week to hear new stories and new perspectives.

Posted by The Real W&M on Monday, November 14, 2016

Both Julian and Meronne agree that the main goal of the Real W&M is to give students a platform to voice their opinions on multiple issues. The show’s interviews feature minority students on campus.

“Why don’t we give a medium to our minority students who don’t have a voice or are never featured in the school paper? They are never at the center of that sphere.”

In the end, the Real W&M has earned views from minority and non-minority students. “We’re putting out content that our minority students want,” said Meronne, “but other people are listening too.”

The Real W&M tackles a multitude of topics. “[We cover] anything that relates to being a minority on campus,” says Julian. They choose to focus on a variety of issues in order to provide a voice to minority students.

The episodes don’t specifically focus on race, however. “[People assume] we talk about race because we feature minority races on our show,” says Meronne. “We actually cover a variety of topics that actually resonate with the minority experience. Race has never been a subject of ours.” The episodes have covered the Presidential Election, the notion of “locker room talk,” and remaining critical of William and Mary. The duo avoids showing episodes on things such as “the Asian-American experience” in order to provide content that the entire audience can relate to. The current potential lies in building narratives based on different minority experiences. It’s about emphasizing diversity.

There are topics that Meronne and Julian would like to cover, such as the Black Lives Matter movement. But for right now, the goal is to cover more general topics with an array of different perspectives.

The reception for the Real W&M has been more than Julian and Meronne could have hoped for. “When we first started, we didn’t think we would ever reach as many people as we did. Our last video got over 12,000 views…We really thought it would be just us and our friends, resonating with these experiences. It ended up being a lot more people.”

#RealReminder: Being critical of William and Mary isn't to say you don't like it here…it's to say, "I like it here so much, I want to see it better". Thoughts by Sam Yu.

Posted by The Real W&M on Friday, December 9, 2016

To Meronne, changing students’ minds on topics they might not know about is one of the most rewarding aspects of working on the series. “One of my [white] friends messaged me saying he really appreciated one of our episodes. He came to the realization that he had grown complacent with things and hadn’t truly considered the perspectives of minority students. He says that his perspective has changed and that he’s willing to step it up for his minority acquaintances. If somebody says ‘this made me change my mind about things,’ that’s the goal.”

Julian and Meronne have accomplished a great many things in one semester. They will be expanding their team this semester to ensure that the Real W&M will remain at William and Mary after they graduate this spring.

You can catch the next episode of the Real W&M “Inclusion in Academia” today!

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