4-H national film festival attracts young filmmakers

4-H Graphic

Young people from nine states gathered in Independence, Missouri last week for the seventh annual FilmFest 4-H film festival.

Of the 27 films accepted for screening, many were produced by the youth in attendance. In addition to film screenings, teens attended workshops geared toward them by film industry professionals.

In its seventh year, the film festival is a collaboration between Missouri 4-H and the Missouri Film Office. “FilmFest 4-H is fun, but it’s also about preparing for future careers,” said event organizer Bradd Anderson, state 4-H youth specialist for the University of Missouri Extension. “Technology is changing the landscape for many jobs, but a robot can’t write moving poetry or create a film that inspires people.”

“These video skills are going to be necessary for future careers, just like reading and writing are today,” agreed co-organizer Andrea Sporcic of the Missouri Film Office. “I believe the arts will be more and more important as teens prepare for future careers.”

Los Angeles-based writer/director Morgan Dameron presented a workshop about lessons learned from self-funding independent films to working on the set of blockbuster films like Star Wars: The Force Awakens. Dameron just wrapped her first feature film, Different Flowers, and previously served as first production assistant to JJ Abrams of Bad Robot Productions.

Marvel and Netflix writer Nathan Louis Jackson also presented a workshop on the different processes of writing for television and stage. Jackson’s credits include writing for Luke Cage, Arrow, Resurrection and 13 Reasons Why. In addition to television work, Jackson is currently the Playwright in Residence of the Kansas City Repertory Theatre.

Paying homage to Walt Disney’s first studio, Laugh-O-Gram, which was founded in 1922 and still stands today, event planners engaged locally-based professionals for workshops that reflected Kansas City’s rich history with animation. Mary C. Taylor, of Flip Productions, instructed teens in a variety of techniques ranging from 2-D hand drawn approaches to computer-generated techniques. Through Taylor’s hands-on instruction, youth created animated bouncing balls using pencil and paper. Stuart Bury and Isaiah Powers, of Other Brothers Studio, focused on stop-motion animation, teaching teens the timeless techniques and current technology of the art.

A highlight of FilmFest 4-H was a visit to Kansas City’s Bic Media, a creative production studio, where young people enjoyed a tour by head producer Valerie Anderson, 4-H alumna. Participants visited with professionals in sound, graphics, filming and editing departments to learn how digital content is created.

The final workshop was led by Pei Cheng, public relations and celebrity relations manager for the National 4-H Council, who conducted a workshop on creating a pitch in the entertainment industry. Cheng has worked in talent production for the Time Inc. digital brand, including content for Fortune, Essence, People, Sports Illustrated and Vanity Fair. Teens worked in teams to create a pitch around provided scenarios.

Participants from Oklahoma, Ohio, Texas, Nebraska, North Dakota, Iowa, Delaware, and Arkansas attended the festival.