By Lisa Biehle Files
Six One Earth Young Filmmakers Workshops started in the heat of summer, on August 11, and finished up amid a winter chill on December 9. Recent art school graduates and accomplished, award-winning film directors taught content, which ranged from stop-motion to live action.
This year, One Earth Film Fest expanded outreach by collaborating with YMCAs in Little Village (Chicago) and Evanston, which serve children in specialized after-school programs. They were delighted to augment their offerings with our stop-motion animation workshops utilizing iPads, Legos and backgrounds provided by Steve and Kate’s Camp.
High School Environmental Filmmaking Workshop
Estelle Carol’s Garden, August 11
Matt Wechsler and Annie Speicher of Hourglass Films taught the first workshop on August 11, for 10 high school students. Thankfully, the weather was clear, because participants shot with high-end cameras, focusing on an outdoor, environmental topic: new ways to care for suburban lawns. They interviewed Ryan Anderson of the Midwest Pesticide Action Center and Estelle Carol of Deep Roots Project, who talked about the dangers of using chemicals to achieve the perfect green lawn and the health benefits of growing our own food instead.
High School Film Editing Workshop
Oak Park and River Forest High School, October 21
Students shot gorgeous, lush footage in Estelle’s garden on August 11, but there wasn’t much time left to assemble the results into a final film. Hence, One Earth Film Fest organized a follow-up, half-day editing workshop on October 21, with 5 students from the original group, at Oak Park and River Forest High School. Utilizing his classroom computers and software, film teacher John Condne (producer for “America to Me”) and Annie Speicher showed students Premiere Pro software for film editing. At least one student completed a final film, which will be featured on the Deep Roots Project website.
Outreach Stop-Motion Film Workshop for Grades 3 to 8
Rauner YMCA, Little Village, Chicago, November 30
Next, One Earth Film fest held its first outreach workshop this year for an after-school program at Rauner YMCA in Little Village, Chicago, on November 30. Amy Hermle and Hannah Potts of Steve and Kate’s Camp set up iPad stations with stop-motion software and provided Legos and backgrounds in order for the children to produce films of their choice.
Jeremy Handrup, a recent graduate of the School of the Art Institute masters’ program, led the class along with Caroline Wood, a current graduate student. Jeremy told the children about the Young Filmmakers Contest as a possible option for their content. One technique employed by many students was use of clear string to show figures floating or swimming. Film content varied, with many showing battles between superheroes and villains.
Live Action Film Workshop for Grades 3 to 8
River Forest Park District Depot, December 2
The first live-action workshop for grade school students took place on December 2, at the River Forest Depot. Filmmaker and teacher Jonathan Moeller led the class by introducing the Young Filmmakers Contest and the option to make a narrative-style film rather than documentary. He brought a box full of hats and costumes, which sparked imaginations to come up with stories related to energy, food, transportation, waste, water or open space/ecosystems.
Jonathan then split up the group of 15 students into 3 groups of 5, which rotated through 3 stations, learning how to use a green screen, interview “experts,” and advance their stories. Students used their own iPads, tablets, or cell phones to film their narratives.
Fine arts teacher Jonathan Braun and high school student Natalie Serratos helped with the small groups as they moved through the 3 stations. On feedback forms, when asked how to improve the workshop next year, one student wrote, “add 30 more minutes!”
Outreach Stop-Motion Film Workshop for Grades 3 to 8
McGaw YMCA, Evanston, December 7
The McGaw YMCA in Evanston offers a special after-school program for middle school youth called “MetaMedia.” In this free digital media center, youth have access to technology and mentors in order to pursue passions and projects in a safe atmosphere.
MetaMedia was the perfect venue for another outreach workshop for One Earth’s Young Filmmakers. Teachers Jeremy Handrup and Caroline Wood worked with Hannah Potts and Sara Ferguson of Steve and Kate’s Camp to teach 17 children about stop-motion filmmaking techniques on December 7. All equipment, Legos, and backgrounds for creative exploration were provided by Steve and Kate’s Camp.
Within a few hours, at least two students completed films about wildlife and waste, which they entered in the Young Filmmakers Contest. More have films in process which they hope to submit to the contest.
Live Action Film Workshop for Grades 3 to 5
River Forest Park District Depot, December 9
On December 9, Jonathan Moeller, Jonathan Braun and Caroline Wood used the same approach they used for the first live action workshop on December 2. This group of 15 students split into 3 groups of 5, with each developing their own sustainability-themed story using costumes and a green screen, with a variety of backgrounds.
For the sake of experimentation, students wrapped themselves in a green “invisibility cloak” to see that they had disappeared on screen or that their heads were floating in mid-air with nothing underneath. One group used this to conclude their film about energy conservation by saying, “Saving energy is magical,” and then covering themselves with the cloak to disappear.
Each group completed a rough film to enter in the Young Filmmakers Contest, even stepping outside the building for a few outdoor scenes despite the cold, windy weather.
Immediate feedback was very positive, with one student answering the question, “What was your least favorite aspect of the workshop?” with, “The point at which I have to leave.”
In answer to the question, “How can we improve the workshop next year?” another student wrote, “It was just as good as it could be.”
The Young Filmmakers Workshops are meant to spark imaginations and expose kids to sustainability themes to consider entering the Young Filmmakers Contest. To learn more about the Young Filmmakers Contest, go here: https://www.oneearthfilmfest.org/contest-details/