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Synopsis: Take Your Own Notes features the stories of five women veterans who live in the greater Rockford, IL area. The documentary demonstrates how the five women make an impact in their families and local communities and connect with each other through their shared experiences in the United States military. Take Your Own Notes provides an outlet for women who experience challenges featured in the documentary, cultivating an open dialogue for those who wish to tell their stories.



Run Time

80 minutes


Melody Brocato
Stephanie Jordan
Milana Herman
Melissa Beckford
Erin Dietrich

Directed by

Madeline Burke
Kyra Newnam
Emily Guske

Director's Statement

In Take Your Own Notes, the film crew utilizes documentary filmmaking to highlight the stories of five women who are connected by their experiences in the United States military. The crew of Take Your Own Notes got its start by participating with the Harlem Veteran Project at Harlem High School in Machesney Park, IL. The main focus of the project is to preserve oral histories and participate in the vibrant local filmmaking scene in the greater Rockford, IL area through collaborative, grassroots filmmaking.

Take Your Own Notes started as an idea to celebrate women who have served in the military. When the idea was first discussed, the anniversary of the 19th Amendment was coming up and two former female students who had previously participated in the Harlem Veteran Project were passionate about focusing on women and their experiences. The original concept was to interview a number of local women veterans to highlight a perspective that is often overlooked. The project quickly grew into something much more meaningful to those involved. Each of the five women immediately opened up and invited us into their lives. Through the interview process we quickly recognized that while each woman had their own unique story to share, there was a growing similarity to their treatment and overall sense of identity in the military.

During the process of creating this documentary, COVID 19 impacted the filming and timeline. Due to the slow down of things we as a film crew got a chance to really see the beauty and strength in all of these women. We were granted the opportunity to watch Erin’s dream of opening her own barber shop come to fruition. We were given a chance to continue to work with Milana and Melissa in different capacities in their efforts to continue to support veterans, and we saw the power of companionship as Melody said goodbye to the love of her life, David. In highlighting these women’s stories and seeing their strength and compassion, we as individuals learned more about ourselves. We learned the importance of service and showing up for others. We learned the importance of self respect and the importance of lifting each other up. Hearing these women’s stories and seeing how they continue to show up for their families, friends, and community was truly inspiring.

Director's Bio

Madeline Burke will graduate in May 2022 from the University of Wisconsin-Whitewater with her Master’s in Education and will continue to work towards her Education Specialist Degree in School Psychology. Madeline has been a member of the Harlem Veteran project since 2016 and has worked on a number of projects including a short documentary for Habitat for Humanity.

Production Year


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