FilmScene Summer Camp helps kids learn filmmaking

Four years since its creation, FilmScene’s youth filmmaking summer camp shows no signs of slowing down.


The Daily Iowan

FilmScene’s gallery is the proposed spot for an additional 40 seat theater due to delays of the Chauncey Tower development, FilmScene is located at 118 E College St in Iowa City, Iowa.

Austin J. Yerington, Arts Reporter

Summer camps and filmmaking are two things many might not think go together, but each summer for the past four years, FilmScene has hosted weeklong filmmaking camps for Iowa City children.

The first camp was two weeks long. The camp has now evolved into an eight-week program with 15 or more children in each class.

The programs range from third to eighth grade and a mix of first-time campers and camp veterans. During the camp, students will learn creative animation techniques to create scenes, short films, and music videos. But the students all start with a base level day to help learn the ropes of film animation.

“No matter the age group, we always start animating with a shoe, and we animate it crossing the table,” animations instructor Jarrod Derooi said. “It just shows how quickly and slowly you need to move something to make a fluid picture.”

The students not only learn how to film animations, they also learn about the storytelling side of filmmaking as well. With a focus on the core aspects of filmmaking and animation, the camp instructors hope to not just teach the craft to aspiring youths but also to help demonstrate that anyone can create the art.

“There’s the technical aspect, and there’s also that storytelling aspect — the students do start recognizing a beginning, middle, and end,” FilmScene programming director Rebecca Fons said. “Every single week, I watch the finished product, and I think, ‘How did they do that?’ ”

With a record number of students turning out for this summer’s program, all eight weeks filled up fast, including the new advanced week based on the narrative side of filmmaking.

“The biggest thing I wanted the kids to get out of the week [was] to realize how much play involved with filmmaking,” narrative instructor Kaitlyn Busbee said. “When you get deeper into it, it becomes a lot of work, but first and foremost, it’s about having fun and exploring.”

The number of returning children is high, Derooi said, with many of them returning with their own films they made while away from camp.

“The kids at these camps are really highly motivated,” animation camp founding member Mark Jones said. “They’re doing this in their spare time even after their camps, which is cool for me to see.”

Jones is an original member who helped build the summer curricula four years ago. Since then, classes have tripled, and the instructos hope to extend the programming and perhaps widen the ages of classes to include adults, Jones said.

The program has become a hot ticket for the youths of Iowa City. The camp tuition can range from $375-$400, which includes equipment such as cameras and iPads, and lunch from Bread Garden each day. For parents who don’t have that kind of extra funds, FilmScene offers scholarships and reduced rates with the help of Hills Bank, a longtime sponsor.

“Without Hills Bank, it would be nearly impossible for us to do it on our own as a nonprofit arts org,” Fons said. “What’s amazing about their partnership is they make it possible for us to offer scholarships.”

The scholarships help at least one child a week on average throughout the summer program Fons said. Now, with the new FilmScene location opening in the fall, the indie cinema hopes to keep growing its youth education programing throughout the year.

“It was just a great fit helping kids learn a new trade, so we were happy to pick up sponsorship,” Hills Bank community-relations Officer Amanda Arn said. “We believe in supporting the youth and others through art because it encourages creativity, and joy, and overall well-being.”