Shorties U to help kids learn filmmakingWritten by Chase Will | | firstname.lastname@example.org
Much like the hero of a summer blockbuster, Shorties U is on a mission to protect the future of cinema.
Two years ago, Jeremy Baumhower, a writer, producer and Toledo Free Press columnist, and Jennifer Archer, executive director of the Sylvania Arts Commission, introduced Shorties, a film festival aimed at involving kids in the arts.
Despite a great turnout, Archer and Baumhower felt there was something lacking in what was being offered to the kids.
“They’d gotten excited about making movies with their iPods, but we hadn’t given them very much direction or guidance in learning how to do it,” Archer said.
“Because of what I do, writing for a living and being a producer, I wanted a higher quality,” Baumhower added. “I came to the conclusion it was a great idea, but it might not have been fair in my mind to ask for higher quality when they had no idea what they were doing.”
The duo brainstormed and Baumhower came up with Shorties U, a four-week Saturday course that would not only teach kids how to point and shoot with a camera, but also offer a comprehensive course in the entire production process.
Baumhower imagined this as an evolution of their original intentions, the next step in teaching kids the craft behind cinema.
“We’re not limiting the curriculum to just movies,” Baumhower said. “It’s also how to take better pictures, how to write, how to draw storyboards. These are all things we did last year, and we had 50 kids, a huge response. It was just a normal theater camp, so to speak.”
The immediate flood of applications from parents as far away as Detroit, all wishing to further their child’s artistic aspirations, only backed up what Baumhower and Archer already knew: Kids of Toledo and the surrounding areas need an outlet for their creativity.
Now in its second year, the program continues to evolve as the team finds creative ways to boost enthusiasm.
This year, each kid will leave the course with an original short film they’ve taken all the way from concept to screening.
“We’ve kind of restructured the program a little more so they have a mentor who’s with them the whole process,” Archer said. “We pair them up with filmmakers each week, and they’re actually going to make a movie while at Shorties U.”
Graduates of the program are not only able to enter their two- to three-minute film into the Shorties Film Festival, but can also use what they’ve learned to create other movies before the festival’s entry deadline, Baumhower said.
“We’re putting on more of a TED talk-style approach with literally, I think, the most talented people the area has to offer,” he said. “The kids aren’t going to know exactly what to expect each week, and we want it that way. We want to really get them in the ‘wow’ factor.”
Although he can’t divulge all the details yet, Baumhower said people will be amazed at who the program was able to get involved in the mentoring program. Several local directors approached him, all of them eager to give back to the art scene by inspiring the next generation of auteurs, he said.
Part of Baumhower’s willingness to contribute to the education of young artists comes from being a father of four children.
“A lot of our life is spent around travel sports, and my kids have very different interests in art, and there’s never been anything to celebrate that,” Baumhower said. “Sometimes those kids tend to get left behind. There’s no weekend tournaments to do a film festival, and that’s what we’re trying to change, to give them recognition for thinking and creating differently.”
In order to maximize the program’s effectiveness, space is limited to the 50 kids who write the most compelling essays describing why they want to participate.
“So far we’ve had some really interesting insight into why parents are wanting to sign their kids up and why the kids are inspired to try the class,” Archer said.
“These are the 50 luckiest kids in the area because they get selected to do it,” Baumhower said. “This is something we’re only doing once a year, and we want to have completely energized kids who are excited, who will be really receiving of what it is we’re trying to do.”
Financial constraints shouldn’t hold parents back; Shorties U has a scholarship program, so no kid will be turned away, he said.
Applications are available at www.sylvaniaarts.org, and are due by Feb. 7. Shorties U begins Feb. 21.