by Chamidae Ford
Last week, the Rainier Arts Center premiered its first BIPOC Youth Film Camp. Reel Youth Film Camp is a week-long program that allows Black and Brown kids, ages 7–11, to learn the ins and outs of filmmaking and explore their creative side.
The idea for a BIPOC film camp stemmed from program instructors, Tiffany Bennett and Obadiah Freeman, who were feeling disappointed by the lack of diversity at other youth film camps.
“Originally we started doing camps with the Seattle International Film Festival (SIFF) and doing those camps was amazing,” Freeman said. “We both love teaching students of all ages of all types, but we recognize that SIFF was really only providing service to a certain demographic because of the network that they help. So we found that there are opportunities to make that opportunity for others as well … I’ve always been inspired by filmmaking and being Black. And that’s kind of what brings all of what I do together and, I think, what we do.”
The camp is rooted in flexibility, letting the readiness and progress of the students guide how quickly they move through concepts.
“We give you the basic structure, an introductory course of filmmaking,” Bennett said. “And then depending on how far within, I say at least two days at the camp, are we able to advance? [Should we] stay where we are to then get more of a structure and understanding? And we use their first film to be able to tell us, and then their second film, and with each film, they grow.”
The camp featured nine filmmakers. Over the week, they each made three films ranging from two to three minutes. Students were given prompts when necessary, but Bennett and Freeman tend to let the students’ ideas guide their lesson plan.
“They come in, they create what they want to create, and then we sort of guide them through that process,” Freeman said. “Our curriculum sometimes rhymes with the Montessori sort of a structure where the student sort of leads what we’re teaching. So they say they want to make a movie that’s a horror movie. And that’s what we’re going to make.”
The program provides kids with applicable knowledge, prioritizing traditional filmmaking and introducing different stylistic approaches.
“I think our program introduced art and filmmaking in a way that kids wouldn’t think,” Bennett said. “TikTok is one thing, but we’re not TikTok. We’re teaching you some real deal skills that you can take to film school in a sense because then you’re calling out the film cues and you’re understanding the process of a film. And so I think our program will introduce BIPOC children to art forms that they didn’t think existed for them.”
At the end of the week, the attendees invited their family and friends to a viewing party of their films. With over 50 people turning out to see the students’ work, the love and support for the kids were palpable.
“We show the films in the order that the students created them so [the audience] can get a sense of the growth that [the students] had,” Freeman said. “Both the parents and the students get to see sort of where they started and where they ended up at the end of this.”
The premier was catered by Kibibi Monie and emphasized community and coming together to support Black youth.
“If you think about Black and Brown families and BIPOC families in general, food is sort of like that central thing that gets us together, right? And that’s an element that we felt was really important, like a hot meal or just a meal in general, really speaks volumes to ours and children and our cultures,” Ben Leiataua, Rainier Arts Center’s program manager, said.
Reel Youth Film Camp will be hosting their winter camp from Dec. 27 to Dec. 31. You can register for the camp online at Reel Youth Film Camp’s “Winter Camp Enrollment” webpage. Reel Youth Film Camp is a pay-what-you-can program.
Chamidae Ford is a recent journalism graduate of the University of Washington. Born and raised in Western Washington, she has a passion for providing a voice to the communities around her. She has written for The Daily, GRAY Magazine, and Capitol Hill Seattle. Reach her on IG/Twitter: @chamidaeford.
📸 Featured Image: Students Terry Hill, 11, (left) and Ezekiel Rapier, 11, (right) position the camera while filming a movie they helped write during the five-day Reel Youth Film Camp August 16–20 at the Rainier Arts Center. (photo: Susan Fried)
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