Local pros offer tips to kids at Shorties U film workshopWritten by Sarah Ottney | Managing Editor | firstname.lastname@example.org
Wielding an array of tablets, smartphones and video cameras, 51 area students spent a morning learning some basic filmmaking skills from local experts.
The first session of Shorties U, a four-week workshop for fourth- through eighth-graders, was held Feb. 22 at Sylvania Northview High School. At the end of the day, the students were able to test some of their new skills at a surprise performance from “American Idol” contestant Keri Lynn Roche of Ann Arbor.
Shorties U is part of the second annual Tree City Film Festival, set for April 24-26 and organized by the Sylvania Community Arts Commission.
The idea behind the workshop is to introduce techniques that will help kids create their own three- to five-minute films to submit to the film fest’s Shorties film challenge, said Tree City Film Festival committee member Jeremy Baumhower, who is organizing the Shorties and Shorties U events. Baumhower is also a columnist for Toledo Free Press.
“Last year we did the Shorties film challenge and when it was all done, I thought it was kind of unfair to ask kids to produce something that they may have never had an education in, so we took that and we filled the need,” Baumhower said. “I wanted to create a four-week workshop where we can connect the kids with all kinds of people and ultimately inspire them to make a movie, but also just use their device in a little bit bigger fashion. Right now there are 50 kids who are super excited about something they were a part of and that’s the goal.”
Last year’s inaugural Shorties challenge drew about 20 submissions, said Jennifer Archer, executive director of the Sylvania Community Arts Commission.
“We had a good response, but we saw there just wasn’t a lot of depth to the content because of course they are kids, so we thought, ‘Why not give the kids an opportunity to take it a little bit further and learn some of the things that are going to help them make a movie with a little more oompf to it?’” Archer said. “Our hope is that most of the kids who participate in this workshop will make a movie as a result of being involved in it and going through the learning process.”
But beyond teaching technical skills, Archer said she hopes Shorties U will help kids gain confidence and inspire their creativity.
“I want to give kids the opportunity to see that there are different ways they can be creative,” Archer said. “A kid who might be too shy to get up on stage and sing or dance in front of somebody, they can either be behind the camera and create and put their work out there or maybe they can be in front of the camera, but it’s a safe way to show yourself to the world.
“I’ve never been able to draw or paint; I’m just not that type of creative,” said Archer, whose mother was an art teacher and brother is an independent filmmaker. “There’s not a lot of opportunity for kids to have this kind of chance to see that there’s another side to it. It’s just a different way to express yourself. I want to give kids a different way to soar.”
Shorties U drew students from across the region, including Sylvania, Toledo, Perrysburg, Maumee and Michigan, Archer said.
The Feb. 22 presenters were Baumhower, Toledo Free Press design editor and film critic James A. Molnar, WTOL-11 reporter Ali Hoxie and MacCafe employee Julia Koralewski.
Baumhower led the students in creativity exercises to start brainstorming ideas for their films. Molnar had the students design posters for their favorite movies, thinking about art elements and taglines that would best draw in viewers. Hoxie covered how to decide what is most important when filming a news story. She gave groups of students a series of real-life news facts from the flooding incident that shut down the Anthony Wayne Trail earlier this month and had the students put the details in order of importance for a newscast. Koralewski, an art teacher at Sylvan Elementary School, covered basic tips and tricks for shooting videos, including lighting, composition, focus, perspective and planning shots. The students were given an assignment to shoot some photos and videos for practice editing them in the next session.
After the four sessions, organizers announced that there would be a surprise guest. “American Idol” season 13 contestant Keri Lynn Roche, an Ann Arbor native, sang for the kids as most of them filmed the performance.
“It’s awesome,” Roche said of Shorties U. “It’s really cool to cultivate creativity into kids at this age because it’s important. The most important part of my youth was music so just kind of implementing that and showing them how it can be more than just a song, that it can be therapeutic, it can be good brain food.”
Kiri Thibert, 11, a fifth-grader at Maplewood Elementary in Sylvania, said her favorite class was the tips and technique class.
“We talked about how to hold a camera, how to focus, the lighting and zoom,” Thibert said. “I learned not to have a person straight in the middle of the camera, but to have them at another angle.”
Riley Murphy, 10, a fifth-grader at Highland Elementary in Sylvania, said she had a lot of fun.
“I learned how to create ideas about the stuff I love,” said Murphy, who plans to submit a Shorties film that will be “a love story with a twist.”
Emily Birmingham, 10, said her class at Sylvan Elementary School submitted a film to last year’s Shorties challenge, but this year she plans to submit her own. The fifth-grader, whose favorite film genres are fantasy, horror and mystery, said she will direct and act in the film, that will be about “a ghost dog that comes back to haunt his previous owners because they mistreated him.” The best piece of advice she learned from Shorties U so far was that it’s best to film with a tripod.
Morgan Harrison, 13, a seventh-grader at Toledo School for the Arts, said he’s not sure if he will submit a Shorties film, but wanted to take the workshop because he loves to make videos with his friends.
Grace Fite, 10, a fourth-grader at Woodland Elementary in Perrysburg, said she loves making videos and her favorite part of the day was filming Roche singing.
“There’s always a filming device near me somewhere,” Fite said. “I just like it because it’s something I can do when I’m bored.”
That’s why her mom, Liz Fite, enrolled her in Shorties U.
“She’s very creative and always filming something,” she said. “I thought it would be something she would be interested in.”
The next three Shorties U sessions will be held March 1, March 8 and March 15.
The Tree City Film Festival will include the Shorties on April 24; a screening of the Oscar-nominated shorts on April 25; and a screening of films created during the 50-hour film challenge on April 26.
The deadline to submit a three- to five-minute Shorties film is April 8. The challenge is open to students in kindergarten through 12th grade. There is no cost and filmmakers do not have to be enrolled in Shorties U to submit a film.
The 50-hour film challenge, to be held March 21-23, is open to high school, college and adult teams who must produce a film in 50 hours or less. Cost to participate is $25 for student teams or $35 for adult teams.
For more information, visit treecityfilmfestival.com.
Tags: 50-hour film challenge, Ali Hoxie, American Idol, James A. Molnar, Jennifer Archer, Jeremy Baumhower, Julia Koralewski, Keri Lynn Roche, Mac Cafe, Shorties, Shorties U, Sylvania Community Arts Commission, Sylvania Northview High School, Toledo Free Press, WTOL-11