Kids get movie-making tutorial in library district program

Steven Spielberg might have some competition. A special program through the Las Vegas-Clark County Library District, TechArt Studio, has young adults learning the ins and outs of movie making in a two-day class.

The next one is planned from 1 to 5 p.m. Oct. 26-27 at the Sahara West Library, 9600 W. Sahara Ave. Teens took part in the program Sept. 29 at the Centennial Hills Library, 6711 N. Buffalo Drive. Bob Cabeza, vice president of community development for the YMCA of Greater Long Beach, Calif., and Change Agent Productions, helped develop the program and oversaw the event.

“We found out that a lot of young people know how to make movies with their iPhone, but they don’t know how to conceptualize movies,” Cabeza said. “They don’t know how to tell stories. They don’t know how to use the technology or the software, and they don’t know how a videography camera works. … A lot of them didn’t know what the term ‘digital media’ was.”

The 20 young people might be making movies, but part of the intent was to show them that libraries are not limited to books. He said it also taught them abstract thinking, sequential planning and critical thinking.

The program was made possible by an $89,650 grant from the MacArthur Foundation. It provided Macintosh laptops, movie cameras and tripods and determined the best software to use, such as Apple’s GarageBand, for the soundtrack.

“Kids are born digital,” Cabeza said. “They don’t know what a record player is, except something you skip hip-hop beats on. They were born not knowing what a phone with a cord looks like. Once you teach them the basics, they run with it.”

The basics included being issued equipment and handed a plain object and told to make a two- or three-minute clip about it.

Before any movie could be made, each team had to pitch the idea to their peers to ensure their idea had merit. They also made up a storyboard, wrote a script and scouted possible locations for shooting it. Software such as iMovie, InDesign, Illustrator and Photoshop were used.

Sari, 14, wants to attend the New York Film Academy for a career in cinematography. She had tried to make a movie on her own over the summer, but it didn’t turn out as she’d imagined. The TechArt class taught her “that you can put backgrounds in to make it look like you were somewhere that you actually weren’t. And I learned you don’t have to do the sound effects as you’re doing the video. You can add them after.”

The TechArt Studio projects included the difficulties of being shot on location. There was no way to avoid curious library patrons pausing to see what was going on. Book carts and book shelves were seen in the background.

One group went outdoors to make a movie about a device that alerted the litterbug police. The opening scene had a teen tossing a cup carelessly on the ground and walking away. The first take would have been perfect, the filmmakers said, if a well-meaning library user hadn’t stepped in and admonished the teen to pick up his cup and put it in the nearby trash can.

But there were highlights, too. One movie had special effects pop magically onscreen. Another group took a heavy-duty binder clip and decided it was a self-activated man-eater, used to ensure that a job candidate had no rival. A portion was cleverly shot from the perspective of its “jaws.”

Kim Clanton-Green, project manager for the program and branch manager at the Sahara West Library, said the movie-making program stood out after seeing how her niece Daphney, 15, used the technology to stay connected over the summer.

“This (program) sparked me,” Clanton-Green said. “One of the things we did at my library was, we had a person from Gamestar Mechanic come out and give a video game shop, and that was the first actual program connected with this that we did. And the level of enthusiasm was huge, the turnout was huge.”

The library district started the TechArt Studio camps in July, beginning with the West Las Vegas Library, 951 W. Lake Mead Blvd. Starting in January and running through June, Clanton-Green said, the library district plans to rotate the equipment between three hubs to further the program and make it more accessible.

Before the Sept. 29 program ended, the participants were asked what they had learned. They responded with numerous observations: Not realizing how hard it was; how imperfect the final product can be; how much filming it took to get mere seconds of usable footage; how much patience it takes; how much attention to detail it requires; and how often Murphy’s Law played into filmmaking.

Cabeza sent them off with reassuring news.

“Your first effort is always the hardest,” he said. “… With each successive attempt, you’ll do a better job.”

The Sahara West Library session will have kids 12 to 17 making their own Halloween horror movies. Regisration is required. To register, call 702-507-3644 or visit the Children’s Services Desk.

Editor’s note: Last names of participants were withheld from this story at the library district’s request.

Contact Summerlin/Summerlin South View reporter Jan Hogan at jhogan@viewnews.com or 702-387-2949.

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