Teen Filmmaking Workshop

Laurie Bartz May 1, 2016

A four-part Teen Filmmaking Workshop was offered as part of summer programming at Hedberg Public Library in Janesville, WI.  The workshop was held for two hours on four consecutive Fridays for students in grades 6-12 and was presented by Drywater Productions, a small local filmmaking and production company.  

Members of the library's Teen Advisory Board suggested the program to the young adult librarian as several had attended a similar workshop during the Beloit International Film Festival in a nearby community. Owners of Drywater Productions are long-time residents of Janesville, library supporters and fully invested in youth development.

Type: Active
Age: High school
Optimal size: 11-20
Estimated cost: $100+
Planning time: 2-5 hours
Frequency: Weekly

Learning outcomes

The goal of the Teen Filmmaking Workshop was to connect interested students with local media experts and equipment for creation and sharing of films. According to YALSA’s The Future of Library Services for and with Teens: A Call to Action: “Working with other community members can expand what a library can provide for teens and create with teens when it comes to media literacy education, and this will give teens the chance to connect to others who can play a valuable educational, informational, and personal role in their lives, especially in relation to workforce preparedness.” 


The Teen Filmmaking Workshop was divided into four sessions. Registration preference was given to those students who could attend at least two sessions. All equipment used during hands-on activities was provided by Drywater Productions.

Workshop #1 - Developing a Story: Teens learned the importance of developing the story structure by identifying the important elements and correct sequence in several short films. They worked together to create a basic story plot.

Workshop #2 - Rules of Filmmaking: The basic rules of filmmaking such as composition, utilizing proper camera angles and placement of the subject in the frame were demonstrated. Students broke into groups to set the camera and experiment with various camera angles.

Workshop #3 - Lighting and Sound: A simple three-point lighting system was used during shooting and directing of “The Interrogation," a short interview piece created during the workshop. 

Workshop #4 - The Edit: Storyboards helped to facilitate the introduction and transition to new scenes. Editing techniques were demonstrated during the final session.  Drywater staff also returned for a separate class to teach students film editing techniques in the library’s computer lab using available free software.



Following the Filmmaking Workshop, students were eager to use the knowledge they gained and decided to enter the 2014 Teen Video Challenge contest sponsored by the Cooperative Summer Library Program. Drywater Productions assisted by suggesting that students form a group to work on writing the script to match the Teen Video Challenge theme. Other groups worked on developing characters, props, costumes and filming locations. All teens collaborated by using the free screenwriting tool Celtx.  "Dire Straights” was filmed and directed by students and won first place in the 2014 Teen Video Challenge for Wisconsin.

There is continued interest in filmmaking among teens, and JATV Media Services, an award-winning local public access studio, has joined Drywater Productions to help guide students with additional film projects. Through the dedication of community partners, teens involved with the Teen Filmmaking Workshop and Teen Video Challenge acquired media skills and leadership roles. Participants have also gained jobs and internships through Drywater Productions and JATV Media Services.

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