Young women direct, light and edit at filmmaking camp

Thursday, June 26, 2014 | 6:00 a.m. CDT; updated 7:50 p.m. CDT, Saturday, June 28, 2014
Aspiring filmmakers created a short public service announcement to encourage moviegoers to silence their phones.

*This story has been corrected to reflect that Camp Citizen Jane participants will enter films in the Gimme Truth competition in March.

COLUMBIA — In 2010, 7 percent of Hollywood filmmakers were women. In 2012, that number dropped to 5 percent, according to the filmmaking website Fandor.

Thirteen-year-old Ava Mace is out to change that.

"I want to prove that women can make something other than a love story," Ava said, emphasizing the point with hand gestures.

The West Middle School student seems capable of proving it. She started making films last year during Camp Citizen Jane at Stephens College.

"She's a natural director," Camp Citizen Jane director Paula Elias said of Ava. "And she hadn't even realized it before. It's all about getting them to realize it."

The camp's focus is on bringing more women into the industry and giving girls and young women the tools they need to tell their own stories through film.

Part of Columbia Public Schools' Summer SUNsational program, Camp Citizen Jane is hosted by Citizen Jane in collaboration with Stephens College. Citizen Jane was created to support and celebrate women filmmakers, and the annual Citizen Jane Film Festival is their principal event.

The camp, which runs for almost a month, is divided into two parts. The first session covers the basics of filmmaking, where participants learn lighting, sound editing, story pitching and script writing. Session two puts those skills into action, with participants writing and directing several films for it.

Elias rewrote the curriculum this year to emphasize a hands-on approach, especially with lighting and sound. By the end of the camp, she said, participants will be directors, producers and editors. They also learn to do the work of gaffers, who are the chief lighting technicians on film sets, and grips, who are the lighting and rigging technicians.

On Wednesday, the 18 camp participants worked on public service announcements based on the prompt "Please silence your cellphone." The students were divided into five groups, each of which worked within a specific genre, such as comedy, horror or action. The announcements are less than two minutes long. *They also will work on longer films that will be entered in the Gimme Truth competition in March.

Lane Bascon, who is attending the camp, was in a basement studio Wednesday playing the part of a lady who is walking down the street when she is pulled into an alley, tied to a wheelchair and forced to watch a horror show. Her cell phone then rings, which breaks the tension.

“I am stuck, literally,” Lane said, trying to stretch while she was tied to a wheelchair, trapped in a dark room and set in front of an old TV.

“How are they gonna know she is watching a movie?” Lane asked. She suggested her group, which included six girls, should have used a set-up scene to indicate what she is doing.

Meanwhile, Madison Nieuwenhuizen, the director of their group, bent over and watched the camera closely while Isabel Thoroughman walked behind the equipment and checked the storyboards they had drawn the day before. The pre-production, shooting and editing happens over three days.

“From start to finish, this is their deal,” Elias said.

In the lobby of Helis Communication Center at Stephens College, Harleigh Wacker was on her knees dabbing yellowish-brown makeup on Lindsey Nieuwenhuizen’s right eye to mimic a bruise. Lindsey's character would be ending up in a hospital with a pirate.

At 17, Harleigh, the director of her team, entered the second session directly as an emerging filmmaker. She taught herself how to do film makeup: She started with bruises, then moved on to gashes and cuts.

Harleigh figured out how to make zombies this spring when she finished her first film, "The Last Zombie Standing," over spring break. She wrote the script and raised $2,000 from Indiegogo, an international crowdfunding site. She recruited the director of photography, whom she met at the True/False Film Fest, and three cast members, whom she met on the street.

Harleigh has her own business cards. Although she set up her own studio with a green screen and a set of lighting equipment at home in 2011, she said she started learning about films from books when she was 9.

“It’s my passion,” she said.

Supervising editor is Scott Swafford.

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