That’s a Wrap: Young Filmmakers Camp 2017
by Tom Winterbottom, SFFILM Education Program Associate
“Pretend you’ve got a few minutes with a famous face, someone who’ll be swinging in for an interview,” said Jason Wolos, the lead instructor of SFFILM’s Young Filmmakers Camp, which wrapped on August 4. Even if it was just a practice activity, he wanted to give the students the chance to know what’s involved, from how to set up the room and preparing questions to getting sound levels right and adjusting the lights. Quiet on set, roll sound, roll camera, and slate.
The close-knit, impassioned group of teenagers immediately took to it. “I loved being able to work with other kids who are interested in films and filmmaking, and it was awesome to learn about things like lighting and sound, which I hadn’t really paid much attention to before,” one student reflected after camp.
They did one version of the mock interviews and then switched up roles, so that each got a chance to practice. Jason gave some tips: think about how his face is lit up, what’s in the background, how’s the framing. “You see how much goes into it?” he asked, and all the students nodded in recognition. “I never realized that it could take hours for a team to set up an interview, or that you might have to do the same shot over and over to get the right take,” said another camper after a hard day’s filmmaking.
SFFILM’s Young Filmmakers Camp, hosted at the Don Fisher Clubhouse of the Boys and Girls Club in Hayes Valley, was split into two sessions. The “Starter Lab” ran from July 10–21 and the “Advanced Lab” from July 24–August 4. Both sessions drew a dedicated and engaged class of students aged 13–17 that saw instruction, advice, and activities covering the key components of filmmaking from story development to post-production. In both sessions the objective was for students to conceive, produce, and edit final projects to be screened on the last day of camp.
Wolos and his assistant instructor, Mary Guzmán, designed and led the camp for the fourth time, aided by two fabulous interns, Katie Sharkey and Yuanyuan Zhu. The first two weeks, aimed at students with no prior experience, explored the fundamentals of filmmaking with introductory sessions and immersive activities. These included visits from guest teachers. Shane King, who shot and edited recent 2017 SFFILM Festival selection Tania Libre (directed by Lynn Hershman Leeson), came to talk about cinematography and how to shoot. Jason Halprin, a professor of cinema at City College of San Francisco, came to do two workshops on sound. In addition, students learnt about storytelling, lighting, and editing, as well as watching a series of clips and movies to better understand how to watch films. Helping them in that task as a special guest speaker for both labs was local film critic and journalist Michael Fox.
In the “Advanced Lab,” students consolidated and deepened their prior knowledge of filmmaking to take it to the next level. In one project, Nouvel Enfant (available below), the students worked with actors from the Boys and Girls Club to create a short narrative about a young person’s challenges in adjusting to life in a new city. “It was great to work with actors from outside our class,” Mary Guzmán said, “and it helped make the filmmaking feel more real and upped students’ professionalism.”
After it was all over, it was left for students to reflect on camp after their films had been screened to family and friends. “It’s by far my favorite camp I’ve ever been to,” one said, “and it taught me a lot about films and I also made more connections with filmmakers.” After the screening, one parent commented that the camp had “inspired a new contingent of passionate filmmakers.” Let’s hope so: keep your eyes peeled for these emerging storytellers in the future.
Our thanks go to the Boys and Girls Club of San Francisco, who hosted and supported our camp, and to Adobe who provided Creative Cloud licenses free of charge for our camp computers.