Case Study / Build Me A World

the story of the howard school

build me a world

The Howard School was founded in 1865, making it the oldest black public school in the South. Four years ago, the AP titled it a “dropout factory” with a graduation rate of 28%. In 2011, film studio Fancy Rhino began teaching a documentary class within the school to help students voice their own story of life under a dying system.
Everyone is two people, and every city is two cities. The documentary captures the struggle between the two. 
“You can’t be two people. I used to get under the influence. If I hadn’t been introduced to this program I probably woulda been throwing my life away. It’s better to leave all that behind.”


–D’Angelo Foster, Sophomore

Our Process

Handshake copy

Actually get to know the people we’re working with.

Footstep copy

Be a low-footprint, high-impact player. Don’t be Michael Moore.


Like hunting dinosaur bones, this takes patience and skill.


Once the story's told, you’ve got to celebrate it in the community.

JULY 23, 2011


Every student at Howard High School deserves to be seen as more than a statistic to be printed or a theory to be proved. Each of them wakes up in the morning and must enter into their lives with the weight of an unfolding story on their shoulders, a story in which they see, speak, listen, think, hurt, hope, hate and love. Voices attempt to speak on behalf of these students, but they can only be someone speaking about someone else, offering solutions to situations they have not experienced and will never fully understand.

“We believe it is time for the students of Howard High to speak for themselves, to tell their own stories.”

We believe that every day at Howard High, tales of goodness go untold and the reality of the struggle goes unseen.We know that the story lies in the students themselves, and it cannot be told if not from their own lips. The students themselves will be enriched. We will put tools in their hands that empower them. As they work, they will be given a chance to see outside and experience how the world opens for you if you take your own voice seriously and use it wisely. It is our hope that each student involved will end this project knowing that when they speak, someone will listen. We hope to work hard to plant seeds that will, through painstaking care, blossom into a more dynamic relationship between the students of Howard and the larger community.

Film is what we do. We are a business, but we are made up of individuals who prize the community we live in and are earnest in our desire to help. We would enter into this endeavor with clean consciences and good faith, and we are confident that you would neither be disappointed by the process nor the product. As Fancy Rhino, we will use all our resources to push the documentary created in collaboration with these students as far and wide as possible. By influencing the conversation in Chattanooga, we hope to see a ripple effect beyond Chattanooga.

It is a sad fact of life that often those who are speaking should be silenced, and those who are silenced should be speaking. Communities are loud and filled with strife. Laziness and callousness can spread quickly and leave us wondering who to listen to. We believe that it is time we turned our ears and eyes to Howard in order to hear what needs to be said and see what needs to be seen: the true experience of the students and faculty of Howard. Please give us the chance to see from their eyes.


The Team at Fancy Rhino


The brand for Build Me a World came together naturally. Photos from the Howard story flowed with a free-form logotype to show the bright but real aspirations of these students and teachers.


The documentary lit a flame. Students at Howard began to examine their own life stories. But flames go out if no one tends them. The Studio is a place where young people fan the flame. It’s a place where they create new stories for themselves and for our community.
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