‘Code Red’ Period Poverty Film Trailer Released

‘Code Red’ follows sixth-grader Karman as she gets her period for the first time while at school and skips class with her best friend to go on a quest to find a menstrual pad. Written and directed by Ringling College Film graduate Jada Poon, Code Red uses comedy, whimsy and metaphor to bring awareness to the scarcity of menstrual products provided by schools and the resultant challenges and inequities faced.

Code Red is a whimsical, coming-of-age short film that confronts the lack of easy access to period products that girls face in school. When sixth grader, Karman, gets her period for the first time at school she skips class with her best friend, Tiffany, to go on a quest in search of a menstrual pad. Throughout the film, Karman’s experience is intercut with metaphorical imagery that illustrates the feelings girls experience during that “time of the month.” It’s a fun and bold way to show the bittersweetness of growing up and bring awareness to the issue of period poverty.

Ringling College of Art & Design film student Jada Wing Hang Poon initially wrote the short film for her screenwriting class and had no clue it would become the full-fledged professional film it is today. Jada wrote Code Red as a senior as an act of spite while feeling unwell in a predominantly male class class due to her own period and began writing about the trials and tribulations of being a woman and experiencing “that time of month.”

The idea took hold and Jada began preproduction, but Covid-19 shut it down in March 2020. Jada thought her Senior Thesis short film about the struggles of being a young woman getting her period for the first time would never come to life after she graduated from Ringling College of Art and Design in 2020 with a BFA in Film. 

With the help of a host of generous donors, the Ringling College Film Department and Office of Advancement, Jada was able to return to Sarasota, FL from her new home in Toronto in August 2021 to resume production on Code Red.

She hired on Ringling alumni as her crew and auditioned middle school actors from around Florida until she found her perfect cast of seven talented kids. The film was shot in five days under Covid-19 protocols, including regular cast and crew testing and mask-wearing, at Girls, Inc. in Sarasota County and in the Ringling College Studio Labs.

Eighty percent of the crew and 60 percent of the cast were female, Poon says, a subconscious choice, but one that she feels offered great insight to the film. “Ultimately, I want people to be able to casually mention they are on their period, without everyone feeling grossed out or feeling ashamed,” says Poon. “Periods are a natural thing and I want to normalize them. I believe this film could help start some conversations toward that change. I wanted to write something fun, something coming-of-age,” Poon adds. “I hope that whoever watches Code Red can find something they can relate to.”

“Period poverty involves lack of access to feminine products in underprivileged areas of the country and world,” Poon said. “There are many public schools where young women do not have access to pads, tampons and other educational resources that inform and empower them about their own bodies. I wanted to create something that highlights these issues.”

Code Red has been submitted to several national film festivals.

Code Red also has a Facebook page that highlights some of the national organizations Poon and other crew members are getting involved with that support women’s rights and help to eliminate period poverty. This ranges from providing pads and tampons in school and community center restrooms to going to Congress and fighting for the elimination of the “pink tax”—that is, taxation of feminine products sold in stores.

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