Project 303

Pictured left to right: Mehki Liggon, Project 303 member; Toni Jackson, Clement Hall Directer interviewed for an upcoming video feature; Audrey Gao, Project 303 member.

Last month, two students started Project 303, an on-going video series aimed at sparking important and relevant conversations.

Project 303, named after its origins at the 303 Flats apartment complex, covers various topics, from Black life on campus to female students’ mental health. Each video runs about 15 minutes in length and contains conversations with people who have experience in the topic at hand. The videos focus on these people and their stories. The videos can be found on YouTube.

Mehki Liggon and Audrey Gao created the series. Liggon is a business analytics major and has some video making experience. Gao dual majors in political science and Chinese. They use their combined knowledge and skills to craft each episode and its topic.

They started this series to help students understand, learn and talk through tough subject matter.

“Essentially, it’s just having college students have sensitive conversations that you usually wouldn’t have on camera or in public and facilitating that and capturing that,” Gao said.

Liggon added that they hope their videos will help “inspire understanding and empathy between people” by discussing these topics “at an age where they’re not necessarily always had.”

Project 303 began in the summer out of Liggon’s apartment building. They originally started with the topic of racial issues because of the protests surrounding police brutality. Over time, they expanded it to include other topics, like mental health, religion and politics.

By discussing these topics, they expect students to feel uncomfortable and to attempt to understand other people’s perspectives. They want to use these conversations to help people act better and feel motivated to create change.

The videos do not have scripts. Instead, they come up with a topic for a video and they film the discussion that occurs as a result. Occasionally, they will write questions down before filming. They cite shows like “Red Table Talk” and “The Shop” as inspirations for the style of conversation that they want to convey.

“We wanted it to be a conversation flow that felt natural,” Liggon said. “That’s obviously kind of hard to achieve and we’ve kind of improved as it goes on.”

Currently, Liggon and Gao create each episode by themselves. They are inexperienced, but they improve with each video that they make. They hope that other creators and filmmakers will reach out to them to help make new videos.

Along with collaborations, they want people to share new topics, stories and experiences with them to widen the range of what they cover. They do have a few ideas about what their next videos will discuss.

“I want to do an episode for Asian Americans on campus and then body image issues with dancers,” Gao said.

Gao added that “if there are any dancers that would be willing to participate in a conversation (with them)” to reach out to them.

“... personally, I am eager to have a male discussion about mental health,” Liggon said. “Mental health is important to me and I feel like it doesn’t get talked about enough and I’d love to be a part of that discussion.”

Liggon talked about doing an episode surrounding politics and the current divisive nature of it. He wants to get different people’s perspectives and hold a civil discussion between them.

They said that they want to act as an outlet for students to reach out. Whether someone needs advice or just someone to talk to, they want to listen to people and be there for them.

If people want to appear in a video, Liggon and Gao will find a place for them to speak. Even if someone does not want to appear on camera, they still want to work with them to get their story told. Students just need to reach out to them.

Students can message them either on Instagram or through email. Their Instagram handles are @mehkiliggon and @audrey.gao. Their emails are mehki.liggon@gmail.com and agao1@vols.utk.edu.

At the moment, Liggon and Gao have only published two videos. They have the next two videos already filmed and plan on posting them before the semester ends. They post the videos on Mehki Liggon’s YouTube channel, under the channel name “Mehki Liggon.”

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