The Art of Film Making At Our Summer Camp For 21st Century Skills

For much of the fall I have been using my Tuesday blogs to profile some of our talented coaching and teaching staff. In particular, I have highlighted some of the methods that they use to teach both the technical skills of their activity areas, along with 21st century skills like critical thinking, adaptability, and creativity. Here are some of my more recent Tuesday posts:

In speaking with parents about being a summer camp for 21st century skills, I’m often asked how we help our campers learn to be more effective communicators. As an answer to that question, I would like to introduce you to Jillian DiBlasio, our head of filmmaking. Jillian teaches campers as young as 8 years old the fundamentals of making movies. Her lessons include how to frame a shot, how to construct a narrative, and how to non-linear edit using software like Final Cut Pro.  She teaches 7 periods a day, and runs one of the most popular activity areas at our overnight camp!

I asked Jillian to share with our readers her thoughts on why teaching filmmaking to children is so important:

Campers often come to Kenwood & Evergreen with a background knowledge of sports, art, music, theater, etc. often through lessons they encountered in school or even extracurricular activities. But film is often sold to kids as a ‘treat’ by most educational institutions: it’s that thing you get to watch when you have a substitute teacher or holidays are right around the corner. It’s not a standard subject like Math or Language Arts. So chances are most of the campers that come through my doors every morning have never been exposed to film as a method of learning but rather as pure entertainment.

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The campers learn pretty quickly that film is not passive entertainment when you are the one behind the scenes bringing the movie magic to life. Do you want to create the next big Terminator movie? Great! How are you going to do that? How are you going to convince us that the actress on screen is the new Sarah Connor? How are you going to convince your audience that you they characters are in an airport right now? Film is all about problem solving and solving those problems as quickly as possible, because at the end of the day, there’s only ten minutes left of film and you still have four more scenes to shoot. And the film festival is tomorrow.

Even when campers have all the time in the world to complete their films for the festival, they still have to work together, which isn’t always easy. A painter can create a mural alone and allow his or her complete artistic vision to shine through. A filmmaker will always need help, whether it is someone to hold the camera or someone to be the subject matter. And sometimes when working as a group, artistic visions will clash. Film is not just about working together to reach a common goal; it’s about finding a compromise so that the goal is the same.

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Jillian helping a young group of filmmakers answer a film editing question

In all honesty, I never feel like an instructor when the campers create their films. I can teach them the technical skills: this is how you operate the camera; this is how you use iMovie or Final Cut Pro. But when it comes to problem solving and compromise, these are things the campers had to learn on their own. I could guide them in the direction I think they should take, but at the end of the day it was their decisions and their solutions to the problem at hand. I was merely the facilitator.

One of the most important (and overlooked) parts of teaching film is focusing on the storytelling. Film is all about storytelling because, at the end of the day, it is entertainment. All great writers read. All great filmmakers watch films. And when this summer’s camper film festivals were all said and done and the kids had had their chance to tell their stories, we learned about how others told stories. Rather than being a passive audience, we learned how to start becoming more active in the media we are always surrounded by. Who is the main character of Pirates of the Caribbean? Is it Jack Sparrow? Are you sure? What is Ana’s want in Frozen? What is her need? Once you start understanding the story of a film, what it’s trying to tell you and how it’s telling it to you, it opens the doors for creativity and how to tell a story visually. As a summer camp, Kenwood and Evergreen has the stated goal of teaching children 21st century skills. In my film studio I not only have the opportunity to help campers be creative, but to help them learn to be more effective communicators. That is a crucial 21st century skill.

I was a senior in high school when I took my first film class. It opened the doors to me for endless possibilities. The fact that Camps K&E is able to start opening these doors even sooner for young people is a great opportunity for campers who are living in a generation where they will always be surrounded by entertainment, and always have a need to express their ideas and emotions clearly to others. 

Would you like to see some of the movies that Jillian helped campers create this summer?

This is from a weekly newscast that our campers wrote and directed this summer. Jillian helped them develop their ideas, research their stories, and edit the film that they shot.

This beautiful short film made by our Evergreen juniors was one of the favorites at the Summer 2014 Camps Kenwood and Evergreen Film Festival.

Camps Kenwood and Evergreen is a 7-week brother-sister summer camp in NH. We teach 21st century skills like resilience, collaboration, critical thinking and effective communication to children who will be tomorrow’s leaders and innovators. 

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