By Olivia Eckerson (firstname.lastname@example.org), MMW+C Development Intern
Most students enter Maine Media’s Young Artist Program with little to no experience with photography or any of the other visual media arts taught here. That fact was quite comforting to know when I first came to Rockport the summer between my freshman and junior years of high school and became a YO—the nickname the campus faculty affectionately called us.
I thought my lack of experience and technical knowledge would be embarrassing and hold me back, but there was no need to worry. When I got here, I was pleased to find out that other students in my class were at the same level I was.
Together, we learned camera basics, while embarking on a quest to embrace our creative visions. YOs studying filmmaking, acting, animation, and screenwriting felt the same way—camaraderie with their teenage peers, as well as lots of support from an amazing group of teachers who are some of the best storytellers out there. From my own experience here, I know my self-confidence skyrocketed during those two weeks. I learned valuable life skills through challenging assignments, critiques, learning to photograph strangers, and working together with other students.
All together I spent three summers as a YO. I learned so much, not only about photography, but also who I am as an artist. Now that I’m in college, I decided to come back as part of Maine Media’s summer staff. Curious to see what this year’s group of young creatives were learning, I spent a few days on their trail.
One afternoon, I saw YOs on campus dressed all in white and smeared in colorful dust. Through giggles and ear-to-ear grins they described the filming of an epic color dust war! It’s fun, silly, and also challenging events like these that spark creativity and keep students invested in their final project. The class is called Media Mash Up with Andy & Alex, a course focused entirely on creating the absurd, ridiculous, and entertaining. This class offers a truly unique chance for students to exercise their creative voice and develop a diverse range of artistic skills. Over the two weeks this course takes place during the summer, the entire campus knows they’re here. Co-taught by Andy Bloxham, an MMW photography instructor, and Alex Bilodeau, an MMW filmmaking instructor, the Media Mash Up course always encourages students to explore something new, so the most important perquisites are an open mind and an active imagination.
Later in the week, I checked in on our young writers, a medium I also enjoy. We all know that the basis for any great film is a great story. The Young Screenwriters course is for teens that want to learn how to write and develop screenplays. As a creative writer myself, it’s easy to become intimidated by other people’s ideas and constructive criticism. However, this class is an especially warm and welcoming environment that invites young writers to explore their creative genius, like James Sunne from Rockport, Maine: “Maine Media, let me just say this was the best four weeks of my year,” said James. “I have never done anything like this before, it helped me meet so many new friends and taught me so many things. I will definitely be coming back next year.”
The Young Filmmakers create some of the most time consuming and complicated work in the YO program. This workshop is for teens that want to learn the latest skills and techniques in filmmaking from accomplished filmmakers and working professionals. The workshop is intense and offers hands-on opportunities to use film and HD cameras as well as professional sound and lighting equipment. Students design shots, plan action, light scenes, conduct interviews, and direct a crew and actors. Students learn the roles of director, cinematographer, camera operator, camera assistant, grip, gaffer, and boom operator.
This all sounds intense and a bit overwhelming, right? Truth be told, it is. Most students start this class with little to no experience, just an intense desire to learn. The class pushes students far beyond what they thought they were capable of doing. “The Young Filmmakers class is easily the coolest, most challenging, rewarding experience I have fit into two weeks,” said Young Filmmaker student Annie Swenson. “From staying up until midnight to finish a script and eating three meals super fast only so you can keep editing, you are truly emerged in creativity.”
Not only does this experience boost confidence and build character, but students also build a unique knowledge about cinematography. The participants in the Young Filmmakers workshop produce music videos and dramatic shorts, which takes effort and perseverance. The goal at the end of their two weeks is to have their own short film. Professional editors work with students to complete projects. At the end of the course, students receive a DVD of their projects and leave with an understanding of the filmmaking process and a sense of their individual talents.
Before there were iPhones and filters on Instagram, creating photographs was a slow and tedious process. The Young Photographic Alternative Process workshop is unique to this generation of youth because it takes a step back in time. Alt Pro teaches students the original processes and the beauty and patience of creating a work of art. Throughout the history of image making, there were a variety of cameras and tools, many of which are still in use today. From the simple to the sophisticated, all have one thing in common—the ability to capture light.
Young Artist Florence Li, here for her third summer, said she was excited to discover a new passion for Alt Pro. “Prior to this course, I had never used alternative process in the darkroom, but having learned a couple of the processes has really opened my eyes and inspired me to explore the alternative world of photography.”
I loved watching the new YOs transform just as I did four years ago. On their first day, they are so visibly nervous and a bit apprehensive, but after two weeks, it’s incredible to see the bonds formed between students, the excitement and confidence gained by expressing themselves creatively, and how they’ve become part of the MMW family.
Input by Christine Anuszewski , MMW+C Young Artist Counselor (www.christineanuszewskiphotography.com)
Edited by Jennifer Cook, MMW+C 2014 Professional Certificate Graduate, PC Program in Visual Storytelling