By Susan Collins-Smith,MSU Ag Communications
The Picayune Item
CANTON — The filmmaking process recently came to life for 13 4-H’ers who attended the Canton Young Filmmakers Workshop.
With instruction from experienced film students and professionals, teens from George, Pontotoc, Greene and Union counties spent six days conceiving, writing, filming and editing a 3- to 5-minute video. A 4-H Tech Wizard grant funded their participation in the camp. The grant enables children of military families from three areas of the state to attend the camp.
“Filmmaking is one of the best whole-learning experiences I've been involved with,” said Linda Mitchell, 4-H youth development specialist with Mississippi State University’s Extension Service. “There is a role for everyone, regardless of their particular interests and strengths. All career paths require good communication, teamwork skills, networking ability and collaboration. Filmmaking excels at teaching every one of these. Already, former 4-H’ers Meredith Koch of Marshall County and Kameron Jackson of Pearl River County have both worked on the sets of films as production assistants, camera operators and actors.”
This is the second year Mississippi 4-H partnered with the Canton Film Office and the Mississippi Film Office to teach children how to tell a story on film.
Experts guide participants through the entire process of making a film, beginning with devising and developing the story. Campers choose actors, costumes, sets and props. Then they spend nearly two days filming. They end their week editing the final product for the premiere, held for family and friends.
Technology is a focus of the program, but all types of skills are integrated into the learning experience, Mitchell said.
“The ability to have a successful product requires a broad set of skills and jobs, including writers, directors, camera operators, set designers, costume creators, carpenters, make-up artists, actors and software masters,” Mitchell said. “The first thing the participants learn is that it takes a team to make the dream happen.”
In the process, campers also learn life skills, such as creative problem-solving and the ability to get the job done under time and money limitations, she said.
Glenda Hall of Pontotoc County said her son, 14-year-old Caleb, has reaped all the benefits of the camp.
“I homeschool, and I’ve seen a complete turnaround in Caleb’s writing,” Hall said. “He was really struggling with writing a few years ago, but he’s improved tremendously after attending this camp. His leadership skills have blossomed. He has come up with some original skit ideas for the drama team at our church and led the other kids in learning them. He’s gained a lot of self-esteem.”
Video and editing skills will come in handy right away for Alex Bryant of Union County.
“I run the camera and edit the film at my church,” he said. “I got a lot of ideas about camera angles and different shots that I am going to use.”
Bryant, along with the rest of the 4-H group, will travel around the state in the next few months to help train other 4-H clubs to do their own filming.
“This workshop is a train-the-trainer opportunity,” Mitchell said. “We work on filming from at this camp. Then at night, we debrief from the day and analyze what worked best, the changes we need to make to accommodate our goals, and the material we’ll use for training the other 4-H clubs.”
Workshop organizers said they have been pleasantly surprised by the camp’s success.
“he kids want to come back every year,” said Nina Parikh, Mississippi Film Office manager and film instructor at Millsaps College. “Filmmaking is not an overnight process. It takes practice, and they want to do it. I have parents say, “I don’t know what you are doing to my kid, but he wants to get up early and go to class.”
“I think where that attitude comes from is the fact that the kids own their projects,” Parikh said. “They do every bit of it on their own. The instructors give them guidance, but we don’t do it for them.”
The camp helps train local talent filmmakers can employ when making movies in Mississippi. Movies, including My Dog Skip and The Help, have been filmed in Mississippi.
The state legislature recently instituted special incentives to encourage more filming in the state, which brings jobs, money and visibility to the state, Mitchell said.
“We need a trained workforce so that production companies can hire Mississippians instead of shipping in their workers from other locations,” she said.