By George T. Marshall, RIIFF Executive
(March 2005) Now that
we seem over the worst of winter (blizzards, snow, ice
and sleet storms)—or perhaps I am being a tad
optimistic—thoughts are on planning spring and
summer activities. For professionals within the industry,
it’s a time to regroup and plan for exterior work.
In Rhode Island, the excitement of an ongoing production
for the Showtime Network of the recently acquire series,
“The Brotherhood,” spells work for many
as well as an ideal internship opportunity for many
of our region’s college students.
There seems a much healthier attitude within New England
right now towards the industry and work does appear
to be expanding. Perhaps an excellent gauge is the continued
expansion of film festivals along with several excellent
programs providing hands-on experience to learn the
ropes. From programs specializing in editing; camera
technique; directing; to pitching a script, there are
numerous opportunities to learn the craft of filmmaking
in small painless day or weeklong sessions.
In am particularly fond of one unique program called
“KidsEYe™” which was created to provide
youngsters from ages 8 to 15 with an introduction to
the world of film. A labor of love for those who create
and run it; it occurs only once yearly; follows the
guidelines of the American Camp Association; and was
never designed to be a cash cow exploiting youngsters
and their families with substandard or derivative programming.
Now some truth in advertising: I created the original
program and taught the first classes. But, it has taken
on its own life with an energetic staff who have brought
their own vision which has kept it fresh and having
distinct voice heard by the young participants.
Now heading into its seventh year, the popular summer
filmmaking camp got its start through a event held in
Pawtucket when the Providence Convergence Arts Festival
presented sidebar programming throughout the state of
Rhode Island. Held over a two-day period, KidsEye™
gave area youngsters a chance to learn simply camera
techniques and provided an opportunity to participate
in a video shoot out. From this simple event, spurred
through the enthusiasm of Bob Billington, President
of the Blackstone Valley Tourism Council, KidsEye™
grew into an original summer camp program that drew
youngsters from all over the country to attend a one-week
intensified filmmaking camp.
During the camp experience, students participate in
specialized classes designed to give them “hands-on”
experience and a backstage look at the fascinating world
of filmmaking. Staff is comprised of area professionals
and educators who share their own real-life insights
and experiences. Many are recent graduates of area colleges
and universities, thus allowing for greater identification
by the camp participants. Workshop segments include
film production, screenwriting, storyboarding, shooting,
editing, makeup and special effects.
The principal goal of the KIDSEYE™ program continues
to be the nurturing of students who aspire to understand
more about this medium of self-expression.
“Our mission”, says Shawn Drywa, one of
the original creators of the programs, “has been
to provide an opportunity for young people to learn
about film and the media arts through experiential based
learning in a non-competitive atmosphere. Every year
the ideas and suggestions that the kids come up with
blow me away. I think people forget about the power
and strength of a child’s imagination.”
Current co-director of the program, Christina Mealey,
talks about the national attention KIDSEYE™ has
“Each year the program becomes bigger and more
successful. Last year we had representatives from the
Nickelodeon Network come down to view the film and talk
to the students. Classes fill up really quickly and
we’ve already gotten a tremendous number of inquiries;
and these come from all over the country. Last year
the furthest distance traveled was from the state of
Now that’s rather amazing for a program that focuses
exclusively on kids and the media. Yet, with the advent
of digital technology, cheap mini-DV cameras and home
computer editing applications; it’s easy to understand
why so many young people would be drawn to the medium.
And, it’s also easy to see why they are so in
touch with the language of film at an increasingly younger
The KidsEye™ camp always takes place in the month
of July. Many families plan their vacations to enable
their children to participate. With the camp held on
the beautiful campus of the University of Rhode Island
in Kingston, which has long been a sponsor, families
have easy access to many of Rhode Island’s summer
activities: beaches, trails, fresh water ponds, rafting,
etc. Youngsters enrolled have the opportunity to attend
workshops on screenwriting, storyboarding, acting, directing,
makeup, costuming, editing and special effects taught
by filmmaking professionals. Many are associated with
RIIFF and come in from California or New York, specifically
for KidsEye™. Then, campers will apply what they
learned when they shoot their KidsEye™ movie during
the latter part of the week.
I recently spoke with Keith Brown, current co-Director
of KidsEye™ about his vision of the program. Keith
began as an intern KidsEye™ prior to obtaining
his Masters Degree in Film Studies from Boston University.
An award-winning filmmaker in his own right; Keith has
adopted the KidsEye™ program and has brought a
unique perspective to its growth and direction.
GTM: What do you think is so important about
having this type of program available to youngsters?
KEITH BROWN: I think this type of program is important
because even though most kids today have access to video
cameras and home computer editing systems, they usually
don’t have the knowledge on how to shoot a movie
so it can be assembled in a way in which it creates
meaning for the audience. There are a lot of programs
that are now offered in high schools, but they teach
the technical aspects of filmmaking – how to work
a video camera, how to use editing program. I believe
that a visual aesthetic needs to be learned and I think
we are able to integrate this into our program. Not
only showing kids how to do something, but explaining
the purpose and meaning of doing it that way.
GTM: What do you think the participants gain
from their participation?
KEITH BROWN: I think kids really have a better understanding
of what is involved in making a movie. It’s not
just turning the camera on and having action unfold
in front of it. It’s thinking about what types
of shots you want and working with both technology (camera)
and people (crew and actors) in order to create moving
images for words on a page. I think the kids learn that
you really need to work together to complete the shoot
in the time allotted. And I think they gain a sense
of pride from our public screening of their work. After
all, that’s part of the process too.
GTM: What did you learn from your involvement
with this program?
KEITH BROWN: I initially learned how to better work
with children which helped me during the production
of my film “Tough All Over” in which I directed
many kids. I have since learned that kids can do this.
With the proper tools and creativity any kid can make
a film. And I’ve learned that many kids are interested
in learning more about this, which is great. I wish
I had the opportunity to do this when I was younger,
but then again I have a lot of fun with my Super 8 camera.
GTM: Tell us a bit about your interest in film.
What were your sources of inspirations?
KEITH BROWN: I am inspired by everyday events. The film
that I’m working on now is a documentary about
the crazy people who go shopping the day after Thanksgiving.
I can call them crazy because I am one of them. I am
also inspired by just watching people. Sometimes life
is more interesting than anything you can make up. I
shot a lot of 16mm footage at the beach this summer.
I just love the way it looks. It’s really beautiful.
Of course a good film or even TV show inspires me.
GTM: What would you tell a parent, whose youngster
wants to be a filmmaker, why they should send them to
KEITH BROWN: I truly believe that if you are going to
go to a filmmaking program, the focus should be on filmmaking.
This program is not a place for a kid who just wants
to hang out and play with other kids…
GTM: …or to do an afternoon swim or unrelated
physical to knock out any excessive energy that might
be a bit difficult to manage for those who don’t
have, like or even understand kids.
KEITH BROWN: Don’t get me wrong, the filmmakers
who come to KidsEye™ definitely have fun –
but it’s the kind of fun you have when you’re
doing something you think is cool and you are working
with others to achieve a goal. I just love seeing the
kid’s faces when they watch what they’ve
made. I think we allow kids to work with equipment that
they don’t have at home, we allow them access
to filmmakers and professionals that otherwise they
probably wouldn’t have access to. We really focus
on the filmmaking process.
GTM: With the introduction of digital technology
and cheap accessible cameras, film now has become a
very democratic medium, what do you think the future
holds given where we are today?
KEITH BROWN: I think it’s great that people have
more access to these tools. I think it’s great
that I can have a computer in my own home that allows
me to easily work on my own projects. But like I said
before, I think it’s a nice mix between technology
and artistic vision. Just because you have a camera
and a computer-doesn’t necessarily mean you can
make films. Plus, it also forces me to learn how to
trouble shoot computer problems, whereas a long time
ago, that wasn’t a pre-requisite. But I think
– or I hope – that this shift in technology
will allow us to be exposed to work from people who
otherwise would not be able to afford to do this. In
a way, it gives a voice to those who many not have one.
GTM: What would you like youngsters who participate
in KidsEye™ to take away from the program?
KEITH BROWN: I want them to know that filmmaking is
hard work, but yet it’s so rewarding. And fun.
I want them to be able to take what they learn at KidsEye™
and go home and apply that to their own projects. I
want them to shoot movies and show them to large groups
of people. And I think that they are very capable of
Who are the principal players behind this cutting-edge
Christina Mealey, Program Director
Christina Mealey has years of experience working at
and coordinating children's summer camps, such as the
ACA Accredited Kent County YMCA, the YMCA of Greater
Providence and Perspectives Corporation Youth and Family
Services Day Camp. With a Bachelor of Arts in both Education
and English, she teaches children of all ages in core
curriculum areas, as well as in nonviolence and filmmaking.
She began work at the Rhode Island International Film
Festival as a volunteer in the summer of 2002 and subsequently
became a Program Director of KidsEye™. She is
thrilled to dedicate another year to KidsEye™,
which allows her the unique opportunity to combine her
passion for teaching with her passion for the art of
Keith Brown, Program Director
Keith Brown is a native Rhode Islander who first started
making films as soon as he was old enough to borrow
his parent's Super 8 camera. He holds an MFA in Film
Production from Boston University. His latest film,
Tough All Over, has screened at the Boston Cinema Census,
the Antelope Valley International Film Festival, the
Georgetown Indy Film Fes, the Syracuse International
Film and Video Festival, FilmStock, and the Rhode Island
International Film Festival. His previous film, Moving
Pictures, was honored with First Place Student Experimental
Film at the Columbus Ohio International Film and Video
Festival, First Place Experimental Film at the University
of Rhode Island Visualizations Film Festival and the
Best of Festival Award at the University of Rhode Island
Visualizations Film Festival. Keith is currently the
Creative Director for Pro-Change Behavior Systems, a
health research company based in Kingston, Rhode Island.
KidsEye™is a very hands-on program and every year
the program reflects the input of the campers and staff
of professionals. To protect the integrity of the program
and to provide one-on-one training, enrollment is limited
to 30 campers. Registration is $325 and includes copies
of the final produced work, hands-on writing and camera
work, and the official KidsEye™ t-shirt. Plus,
participants receive access passes to RIIFF main events,
including the annual KidsEye™ International Film
Festival and to the opening night of the Annual RI International
Horror Festival in October.
For more information, go on line to www.RIFilmFest.org
or call 401/861-4445. Enrollment is handled on a first-come,
About the Author:
George T. Marshall is the Producing Director of the
Rhode Island-based Flickers Arts Collaborative, the
creators of the annual Rhode Island International Film
Festival for which he also serves as Executive Director.
He teaches film and communications at Rhode Island College
and speech communications and documentary film at Roger
Williams University. He is a director, writer, producer
of commercials and industrials for numerous business
clients in the region and is currently completing the
multi-media components for a museum exhibit saluting
American veterans in Woonsocket, RI. He can be reached