BY JUDY CARMACK BROSS
From cyber-security to debate, hockey to etiquette, summer camp options abound in Chicago. There is something to suit the wishes of ever discerning child (or parent).
Some of the happiest campers are the future filmmakers found at Facets. For the past 20 years, expressive and energetic Chicago middle-schoolers have been learning how film can change lives at Facets Kids Film Camp.
We visited Facets recently to learn how a group of kids who’ve never met can collaborate on and produce a film in a week, thanks to Camp Director, Kathleen Beckman.
Facets founder, Milos Stehlik, told us:
“I love hanging out with the kids at the camp whenever I get a few minutes. It’s so amazing to see how film—and Kathleen—gets them so enthusiastic; how their imaginations just fly and how smart they are. It’s a magical combination: engaging kids through film, which they’ve already embraced from an early age, and helping them to master it as a means of communication on their own.”
For eight hours a day the campers view and critique films produced by previous campers, examining camera angles and plot lines. From there, they break into groups where they brainstorm their own movie, realizing that consensus building is the only way to go.
Some boast of having made films on their parents’ cell phones, but soon they are talking about blocking wide shots and adding sound effects, determining who will be the director, and what the film’s message might be.
Kathleen knows just the way to pace the day for kids, with a particular eye for keeping high-energy students engaged.
“In the end, we want to inspire kids to continue to explore films and to give them insight and compassion by bringing ideas forward that they have never been exposed to before. We view films that are appropriate for children: ones that have been shown in our Children’s Film festival or made by other campers. I tell them that they don’t have to like every film they have seen but to take a deep breath and give every film a chance.”
Always passionate about movies, Kathleen loved Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory, A Little Romance, Breaking Away, and Smokey and the Bandit in her early days. Her career first began in children’s film production, but she found that what she truly loved was sharing her enthusiasm for film with kids.
During the school year she works with the growing number of classes Facets offers in schools throughout the city and suburbs.
“We have just the basics here for the kids at camp—no green screens or other exotic backgrounds. What they learn to do is to make a great movie with nothing.
“The campers must write the screenplay, agree on what camera shots and visuals they need, determine music to be used, and how to make transitions between shots.
“Campers also learn a little about film history and how to critique and review a film. There’s no other program that puts all of these skills together. And we always have popcorn!”
While one group decided to set their film on an imaginary Mount Everest, another at a lighthouse, a group of fifth graders devised a plot about a seemingly worthless horse whose value suddenly becomes extraordinary. As Kathleen points out to the students, “You can’t always tell a book from its cover.”
“Some of our former campers are currently studying film in college, and others have become interns and staff members here at Facets. They are most amazing kids and become like my family. It’s amazing how a tiny thing like a week at camp can develop a lifelong, deep passion.”
This summer Facets has expanded film camp to Lake Forest and Lisle locations. The final camp session will be held July 24-28 at Benedictine University, 5700 College Road, in Lisle.
For more information about Facets and its programming for children, visit facets.org.
Photo credit: Emily Graves