Review by Sabrina VetterDevelopmentally Edited by Alexandra HidalgoCopy Edited and Posted by Jennifer Bell Maki, (2018).…
My Kid The… (2018). Produced by Beatriz Browne. Web series. Featuring David Yaakov, Kayla Yaakov, Jason Mills, Aubrey Mills, Dan Tilton, Kellan Tilton, Brad Reisner, Josh Reisner.
A 6-year-old boy in a wheelchair conquers a rock wall. An 11-year-old girl takes first place racing motorcycles with competitors over twice her age. A 14-year-old culinary wiz prepares a four-star meal for his parents. These are several of the inspiring stories spotlighted in the non-fiction web series, My Kid The… The series is the product of Fatherly, an organization and web resource directed towards men embracing roles as fathers and as mentors to their children. Produced by Beatriz Browne, My Kid The… is not simply a showcase of talented children. It highlights the fathers who provide encouragement and support for their kids’ passions.
Energetic editing and an overwhelmingly verité camera provide an exciting rhythm to each of the four webisodes. The cinematography itself is kinetic as it follows the activity of each lively child, the camera amplifying the spirit of their youth. Static interview shots with the fathers provide moments of reflection and parental insights. The color palette is slightly washed out, providing a cinematic softness to the digital production.
Each of the four webisodes in the series run between five and thirteen minutes, yet the storytelling in the individual videos is so strong that it suspends time. The stories are engrossing regardless of length. The characters carry each piece. For instance, in My Kid the Motorcycle Champion, the viewer is introduced to Kayla Yaakov, 11, a motorcycle racing prodigy with an infectious smile, impossibly long blonde curls, and a drive to compete. Her father, David, is positioned as a positive force. He introduced Kayla to the sport, and she idolizes her dad’s own history as a motorcycle racer. Though he’s retired from the sport, he remains well connected with its sponsors and competitors. While David provides a narrative anchor for the episode, Kayla takes center stage. Yet it’s clear that without the relationship between father and daughter, Kayla might not be where she is today – a nationally recognized racer with dozens of first place finishes.
In My Kid the Rock Star, father and son share the spotlight. At the opening of the webisode, shots of audio cords on the wall suggest a working space. The movement of the camera from behind a door frame and into a musical studio introduces Aubrey Mills, an 11-year-old at the helm of a drum kit. He’s fine boned, and large headphones hold back tight brown curls. He tells the viewer that he loves music and that his father is his favorite musician.
The viewer hears from Aubrey at intervals throughout the piece, but his father, Jason, functions as the most prominent storyteller in this webisode. He describes a musical family tree and introduces his current musical group, a collaboration that includes Aubrey. Aubrey’s talents are clear as he moves from clarinet to drums to guitar. However, it’s Jason’s story that imbues the webisode with poignancy as he describes recovering from brain surgery with the aid of music in his life.
The other two webisodes in the series, My Kid the Rock Climber and My Kid the Chef move back and forth between foregrounding father and foregrounding son. The rock climber is 6-year-old Kellan Tilton. The remarkable thing about Kellan is not his age, but rather the fact that he uses a wheelchair – the result of cancer in his infancy. Disability doesn’t hold him back, and he’s a spark of light and exuberance on the camera. It’s Kellan’s father, Dan, who tells Kellan’s story. The viewer hears little narrative from Kellan, himself, due to the rock climber’s young age.
The opposite is true in My Kid the Chef. 14-year-old Josh Reisner offers perspective and poise rarely exemplified in someone his age. A quick look into his background reveals a stint on Masterchef Junior and suggests he’s both media savvy and wholeheartedly authentic. His father won’t take credit for his son’s culinary talents. Rather, he’s his son’s biggest fan and the lucky recipient of his creations: meals fit for royalty.
Each webisode focuses solely on the father-child relationship, often making it difficult to determine the familial relationships that exist in each household. Exceptions are found in two webisodes. In My Kid the Motorcycle Champion David Yaakov reveals that he’s the single parent of Kayla and her toddler sister. This statement opens the situation up for questions, but no answers are delivered. There’s no indication of a mother’s connection to the family at all. Understanding this circumstance – whether the mother is deceased, fully absent, or sharing custody of the children – would potentially bolster the emotional appeal of the story. If the series is meant to showcase successful fatherhood, a key ingredient to storytelling is providing narratives about obstacles that have been overcome. As a viewer, I get the sense that there’s more to the story.
The other webisode that mentions a mother is My Kid the Rock Star. Again, the webisode doesn’t necessarily reveal the relationship between child and mother so much as it highlights the mother to provide context. Her husband, Jason, explains that they live in a musical household. To build his case, he mentions that his wife is an original cast member of Stomp, a percussion-driven musical performance group. However, her name is never shared with the viewer, insisting Jason remain foregrounded in the piece. The fact that she’s such a powerful presence in the household and narrative, though, begs for a name and a deeper story.
While the web series aims to serve a primarily male viewership, it’s important to note that it’s a woman, producer Beatriz Browne, whose keen eye for character and story provide such a robust and engaging series. Browne seeks the heart of each story and dismantles any guard each father might be clinging to. The result is an authentic, sincere portrayal of each father’s love for their uniquely gifted children. I would recommend this series for fathers’ and parents’ groups looking to highlight the bonds dads and their kids can forge. As we get a firm footing in the 21st century, My Kid The… upsets decades old stereotypes that cast fathers as detached and aloof. Perpetuating the image and roles of the modern, invested father is an embrace of changing, positive societal mores.
You can watch My Kid The… on the web series’ YouTube playlist on the Fatherly YouTube channel. To see what else Beatriz Browne has done, take a look at her website, Instagram, and Twitter. Learn more about Julie Casper Roth on her profile.