Sunscreen's Filmmaking Camp Lets Teens Learn From the Pros
Campers wrote, filmed and produced short films at an unusual St. Pete camp that drew kids from Florida to Massachusetts.
ST. PETERSBURG – The teen filmmakers started camp by penning a great story.
They checked, and rechecked, the weather forecast to see if their planned outdoor shots would escape summer rains.
Their checklist was detailed: define screen shots, find actors, bring props, scout downtown St. Petersburg locations.
All for good movie making in a one-of-a-kind summer camp.
Nowadays, anyone can be a director. Grab a Flip camcorder or iPhone, a couple of friends, and your movie could potentially turn into a YouTube star.
But good filmmaking requires more than the ease of technology.
For the 12 teens at the Young Movie-makers Summer Camp, professional filmmaking involves screenwriting, filming, editing and producing a great story.
Screen classics are born from great stories.
Storytelling is the foundation of the Sunscreen Film Festival, which spreads awareness of independent films with its annual spring festival, screenings and workshops.
The organization extends its educational programs by presenting the youth camp, now in its third year.
The Studio@620 transforms into the camp's movie studio, where the kids learn the ins and outs of film making.
They're learning from the pros.
Award-winning director, Dave DeBorde teaches the course.
DeBorde's films have won over 60 awards. In 2008, he created the film department at Lakeland's Southeastern University, where he also teaches.
His students' films have won awards. Some students have graduated to professional film careers at Warner Brothers and NBC.
In addition to teaching college students and teen campers, DeBorde is extraordinarily busy.
His current work includes post-production of a series of short films. He is writing and directing a feature film, "Roundhousen's Roast," a comedic mystery.
DeBorde will be also producing a nationally distributed film with Sony Pictures. The title has not been released.
DeBorde's two, college-aged assistants also teach at the camp.
Kyle Tye, a current film student at Southeastern, created his own production company, Tyed Up Productions.
Cassidy Routh, 18, attended the first two years of camp and returned to volunteer this year. A Florida State University student, Routh takes film courses and is applying to the college's media production department.
The three are passionate about film and inspiring the kids' creativity.
The intensive, two-week program teaches movie making from beginning to end.
It starts where every film is born: with a single idea.
In the first week, the kids start with a basic idea for a movie then build it into a full screenplay. After their work is critiqued, the students go back to work and make changes.
"That's the hardest part, the screenwriting," said DeBorde. "Your script is part of you, and you're putting it out there for other people to see and judge."
"Letting other people see your script is a vulnerable position. Some kids almost didn't want their story chosen," said Tye.
The campers voted on their favorite two screenplays, which would be turned into short films.
"The kids worked really hard on their screenplays. They took it seriously, and aside from a couple of printer problems, all the kids completed a full screenplay," said DeBorde.
In the second week, the camp split into two production studios. Each group filmed, edited and produced a five-to-six minute film.
The kids learned the technology: angles, lighting, shot scenes, camera equipment, audio, editing and more.
"They're practicing for set etiquette. They're learning everything that's required for a real production," said DeBorde.
The teens took turns in production jobs, from audio and camera operator to assistant director, director of photography and director.
"They've really bonded. They're talking and sharing. Everyone's really getting along without any frustrations, which can happen in filming," said Tye.
The teens created two, mobster-themed films, titled "Hot Dog Mobster" and "Godmother."
"That's never happened before," said DeBorde, referring to the movies' shared theme.
For scene locations, the students use the studio's vast space and different areas in downtown St. Petersburg.
In addition to professional local actors, the films feature Tye, Cassidy, a local hot dog vendor and a guest appearance by DeBorde.
Four of the campers are returning students, including 16-year-old Emma Rubini.
Rubini attends Canterbury and is interested in art and theater. She loves acting, competiting in her school's thespian troupe at district competitions.
She's primarily interested in the arts and credits the camp for a fun way to learn the film making medium.
"I've been here every summer. It's a lot of fun. And I've gotten more into film," said Rubini.
St. Petersburg High School student Max Asayesh-Brown, known as the camp's film buff, already had movie experience before attending the camp.
"With screenplays and movies for school, I was very interested in pursuing this as a filmmaker," said Asayesh-Brown.
When asked about his first experience at the film camp, Asayesh-Brown said it was "a lot of fun," and he'd definitely return next year.
This marked the first year for most of the campers, including Asayesh-Brown and Clio Perkins.
Perkins submitted three films to compete for the camp's three scholarships. She won second place.
A year ago, Perkins became interested in films after taking a media production class. She creates movies with clay and whiteboard, and uploads movies to her YouTube account, Stargirl10173.
That first class grew into a career goal.
"I'm going into the movie business, in CG (computer graphics) animation," said Perkins.
She plans to attend Lakewood High School's program for TV production.
"I'm really pulled into green screens, drawing and computers."
The camp has attracted students from the local area: St. Petersburg,Tampa, Largo, Madeira Beach, Ft. Meyers and Bradenton.
In its inaugural year, a student from Mexico attended as part of his family's summer vacation.
This year, Blake Larson made the trek from Massachusetts.
The teen owns a video production company named BZL Productions, which creates and edits videos for clients. Larson also produces his own local TV show.
He knew the film camp would be a good way to gain more experience.
Larson's early interest in film pointed him to a career path. He plans to become a director of photography.
Newpoint High School student Ramsey Khawaja, 14, also wanted more film experience.
Khawaja, a self-taught stop motion animator, creates movies and edits videos for himself and clients. He posts short films to his YouTube account, LegoMan1203.
His career goal is to be a director or cinematographer.
"It's fun to learn the etiquette," said Khawaja.
"It takes you from the start to finish in making your own movie. Get equipment, actors, and you can make a really good five-minute video
DeBorde knows how to reach teens and teach the tools of the trade.
He hopes to add an advanced class in the future. His goals for the camp are to became a beloved mainstay in the community.
"We're reaching out to the community. I want the camp to become part of the community, where years from now, people can say, 'Yeah, I attended that camp'," said DeBorde.
Next spring, the films will be shown at the Sunscreen Film Festival.
For more information on the camp or the yearly spring festival, visit the Sunscreen Film Festival website.
2011 Youth Movie-makers Camp Attendees
Clio Perkins, Evan Carnevali (first place scholarship winner), Samuel Dolson, Max Asayesh-Brown, Matthew Caputo, Nathan Paisio, Brennan Briakley, Talia Vechazone, Blake Larson, Quinn Chittenden, Emma Rubini, and Ramsey Khawaja (third place scholarship winner).
Disclosure: Reporter's son attended the camp.