And…Action! Film Buffs, the Library and Artistic Expression

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Creative types unite!
By Rebecca Walden

Chances are a library near you has hosted or is soon to host a teen filmmaking workshop. This could be the perfect time to bring your talents to bear with both business pros and other teens, all of whom will challenge your thinking, enhance your skill set and help you become a meaningful part of a project bigger than yourself.


Write On

It’s the YouTube era. Gaining an audience has never been easier. Maybe it’s a journal entry you dashed off that seems to have particular promise, or a short story you’ve written (err…thought about writing). Now is the time to help it come to life in a full-fledged production! After all, story is king.

At Denton Public Library, Denton, TX, literary whiz kids gathered throughout the month of July for a four-part filmmaking series, led by Denton-based multimedia company Storied Productions.

After a brief intro, each of the 22 participants divided into groups of three production companies. Each production company received a worksheet to gather information about each group member’s interests and hobbies. “This allowed them to find ideas for their short films,” says public librarian Juli Gonzalez. “Believe it or not, the groups were able to come up with story ideas quite quickly.”

One concept that these workshops emphasize is in teaching young writers how to turn their musings into storyboards, which paves the way for the pace, tone and plot of the film.

Young Adult Librarian Kimberly Ann Edwards, of the Ronald J. Norick Downtown Library in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma, which hosted its 4th Annual Filmmaking Contest, “I Can’t Believe I Shot That!” in May, says, “They seemed excited once they knew that they were going to film something. The biggest draw is filming something that they created.”


Call The Shots

Once stories and storyboards complete, these film workshops typically turn their attention to the more technical angles of filmmaking – think camera angles, sound techniques and the like.

At Alexandria Library in Alexandria, Virginia, which recently hosted its Teen Filmmaking Workshop earlier this summer, participants were given hands-on access to much of the technical equipment associated with filmmaking.

“[Our presenter] discussed sound, lighting, and editing techniques and showed the students examples of videos by other teens that displayed good use of certain techniques,” says Young Adult Librarian Ginny Rawls. “He also emphasized that inexpensive items could be used in place of more costly equipment if one used a little imagination and creativity. For example, one video was lit using only colored light bulbs but achieved the desired ‘creepy’ atmosphere.” 

Once you’ve familiarized yourself with a bit of the technical know-how, you can try you’re your hand at the slightly more glamorous aspects of the workshops, like location scouting and acting.


All the World’s a Stage

Structured as short, multi-part series and given their emphasis on the creative and technical aspects of filmmaking, these workshops are perfect for teens with a variety of talents. Whether you identify more with the stage crew kids or the thespians, you can find a meaningful way to contribute to the finished product while also rounding out your own skill set by participating in a library-sponsored teen filmmaking event.  

“The acting portion allowed the kids to try out different scenarios, [to] learn different techniques,” says Gonzalez. “The camera portion taught them different camera angles and why you would use them. [They received] other camera info relating to the cameras we have and they also saw examples/clips of movies and shorts [after which they were] asked to look at the angles and what type of shot was being used. They also got a chance to role play being in different roles: actor, director and camera person,” she adds.


The Envelope, Please… 

Undoubtedly the most anticipated event of these workshops is “premiere” night. After diligently working on your movie, you can invite friends and family to the “premiere,” a wonderful opportunity for you to showcase your newfound talents. And if you need a little added incentive, these often come with “Best Picture” prize money, to boot!

On August 25th, Alexandria Library will host a Family Night Out reception where they will show all filmmaking workshop entries on the big screen.

“We're going to give an award to each teen who enter[ed], such as Best Lighting, Best Comedy,” says Rawls. “[But in addition], one middle school student and one high school student will also get a Best Picture award and prize of $75 each.” And to help these future filmmakers perfect their craft, each participant from the Alexandria Library event will also receive a personalized report with compliments and critiques from each of the film competition judges.

Many years down the road, when you are delivering your Oscar acceptance speech, just remember to thank your local library, eh?


Resources List

Film Directing Shot by Shot: Visualizing from Concept to Screen
by Steven Katz

Filmmaking: Direct Your Movie from Script to Screen Using Proven Hollywood Techniques
by Jason J. Tomaric

Cinematography: Theory and Practice: Imagemaking for Cinematographers and Directors
by Blain Brown

The Digital Filmmaking Handbook
by Ben Long and Sonja Schenk

Creating the Winning Script
by David Heavener


Rebecca Waldenrrebecca walden

Rebecca Walden is a Birmingham, Ala.-based freelance writer. She has more than a decade of experience in information services, during which time she has worked with all types of libraries throughout the United States.




Photo credit: Camera operator setting up the video camera by jsawkins


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