For the past 5 months I’ve been volunteering as a film instructor at an after school program for underprivileged youth. Yes, yes, I know I’m a saint blah blah blah. Don’t worry. This isn’t an article about a Michelle Pfeiffer-esque woman teaching inner city kids that they matter/can do anything. It’s trite and to be completely honest, insulting to urbanites. Rather, this is a story about how a weirdo writer/director (Me) learned a thing or two about filmmaking from a bunch of kiddos.
You have to put in the work (pre-production) in order to play (production.)
These 7-11 year olds absolutely hated doing work of any kind. After 8 hours of school who can blame them though? But I never realized that learning about genres, camera angles, and storytelling WAS considered work to some people. They wanted to start filming immediately. Which led me to realize that…
The process of filmmaking is not instantly gratifying.
Kids these days (oh god, did I just say that?) live in an instant world. Their wants and needs can be met quickly in this age of technology. Everything is a click away. It’s very rare that things in their lives are done over a large span of time. So when they were faced with the task of storytelling, I had to keep their attention because…
The Digital Age lacks tangibility.
Videos are so passé to the younger generation. They’ve always had recording equipment at their fingertips. Because of this, current kids have never had a physical relationship with their projects. Never have they ever maneuvered the film they were editing on a bay, with a gloved hand and the gentle touch of a new parent. Nor have they loaded a camera and prayed to the gods that the gate was shut properly and there weren’t any light leaks. That deep bond and the respective reverence and fear that goes with relying on something material brings a certain dedication. At the after school program, we didn’t have access to film or film cameras, but I still wanted to establish a tangible relationship with our project so I got creative.
Imagination will get you everywhere.
These kids had the BEST ideas. Their brainstorming was fearless and weird. We decided to write our characters, conflict, and setting on (tangible) pieces of paper, choose them randomly out of a hat, and then build the story from there. A demon ball with googily eyes? A pink flying dog? A character named Silly Brenda? UM, YES PLEASE!
Narrative constructs can hold you back.
Children aren’t aware of story/plot structure or character development and thus cannot be constrained by them. It’s freeing to have literal endless possibilities.
Everyone’s ideas should be heard
From the soft spoken little girl with tangled hair to the hyperactive mile-a-minute gabber. They all have something to say, none is the same, and most of it is GOLD.
I highly recommend that anyone who has a passion for something should try and teach it to the next generation. Young ones have a way of seeing things from a different perspective that can open your eyes to a whole new world.
And challenge the hell out of you.
In the words of renowned playwright Bernard Shaw:
“Those who can, do. Those who can’t, teach. Those who can’t teach, teach gym.”
(Just kidding! Woody Allen in Annie Hall 1977)
But seriously, the folks dedicated to shaping the lives of children deserve the universe. I have no idea how they do it.
Visit Hands4Hope for more information if you’re interested in donating time or money to benefit some incredible kids!