Keen filmmakers and youth-program founders Kim Groth (left) and Elija Sorensen set up lighting equipment during a recent shoot.

Teaching film in an ever-changing world

Summer program aims to educate, inspire budding filmmakers

It’s a summer film program that may end up being much more than a summer film program.

Elija Sorensen says the plan for the South Surrey and White Rock’s new film school for teens (www.youthfilmschool.com) – which he’s starting up next week with co-founder and fellow filmmaker Kim Groth –  is to develop the initial classes into a year-round after-school program.

Overall aim is to teach budding film makers just a bit younger than themselves (both are in their early 20s) how to take full advantage of the new democratization of the process, thanks to the rapid development of inexpensive high-quality digital equipment and the current potential of reaching an audience through such social media as Facebook and YouTube.

Sorensen, who grew up in South Surrey, has been involved in the Gulf Island Film and Television School both as a student and instructor. Noting that program (www.giftsfilms.com) draws many students from the Semiahmoo Peninsula, he realized there was scope for a local alternative by providing similar training here for 14- to 18-year-olds.

Vancouver-raised Groth, who met Sorensen recently while both were students in a recent eight- to nine-month intensive program at the European Film College in Denmark, is also eager to share his experience and enthusiasm through the program.

A situation of accessibility in which just about anyone with a camera can create an online video, has resulted, as one might expect, in some very crude and inexpert results, Sorensen said.

On the other hand, some are achieving very slick results for minimum outlay, he added.

“A lot of kids are asking ‘how can I do that?’”

Sorensen and Groth come to the classes fresh from the European Film College program, which they graduated in May.

“It’s a great program,” Sorensen said, noting that studying with students from around the world made him realize that film-making is still a vital and thriving medium, even though some of the old genres and delivery models are undergoing inevitable change.

And not being that much older than their students will help in communicating the ideas in terms that teens will understand, and being able to move ahead that much faster, he said.

“That’s why I think we’re the perfect people to be doing this,” Sorensen added.

The technical aspects of the course start with how to get the best results from available cameras, he said.

“We’ll be using SLRs (single lens reflex) cameras as a place to start, as they provide the best optical quality for video,” he said. “But you have to be quite careful you don’t set the camera aperture at too low a level. It’s very easy to go for a very low aperture which results in a shallow depth of field and problems keeping the action in focus.”

In addition to basic camera technique, he said, the course will also cover how to light in an indoor environment, basic theory of camera technique, the shape, movement and composition of shots, plus basic editing techniques and how to shoot effectively for the editing process.

Also considered will be such pesky but crucial considerations as eyeline, direction of looks and reaction shots, and how to make sure that inserts blend seamlessly with the ‘master shot’ or main coverage of a scene.

It may sound a little intimidating and technical, Sorensen said, but some grounding in basic film grammar will help avoid clunky mistakes and give a professional assurance that can strengthen any kind of film making.

Sorensen, who started making his own films as a preteen, on 8mm videotape before progressing to a digital video camera, admits he has a few early efforts he’d prefer to forget.

“I’ve watched a few again and cringed,” he said.

“It doesn’t take much for an audience to stop believing,” he added. “But when you have a few pointers like this it’s better than having to learn it all by trial and error.”

Even so, he says, “everybody’s got to make a few mistakes – it’s all part of  learning.”

The film school, at least at the beginning, will serve as “an introduction to the industry.”

“It will help the students skip a bunch of pitfalls that would take up a lot of time, and get them to a point where they can take more advanced classes.”

The first workshop is five days long and each student will walk away with two three-minute short films that they can show their family and friends.  For more information, call 604-356-0981.

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