Cadence Theatre Company’s Film Production Project bringing new stories to the screen

This filmmaking summer camp gives teens a much cooler way to spend their time than we ever had. Kids these days! Hmph!

From 2015’s SpotLife.

Last year, Cadence Theatre’s Film Production Project was an experiment of sorts. The company partnered with the Visual Arts Center to offer a summer camp for teenagers who wanted to learn how to make movies. Not just star in movies, and not just film movies, but write, storyboard, direct, edit…the whole shebang.

This year, it’s no longer an experiment.

Check out the result of last year’s effort–it’s the short film SpotLife, and it is impressive as all get-out. Did I mention they did it all in two weeks?

Laine Satterfield of Cadence Theatre Company heads the project, and this year they decided to go bigger or go home. The Richmond CenterStage Foundation granted them use of the Dominion Arts Center’s teaching space, which includes the digital lab necessary for looking at dailies, post-production, that kind of thing.

The kids spend the first part of their two weeks doing “a lot of brainstorming,” says Satterfield. “We talk about genres, we find out what the students are interested in, we talk about character, and we play some acting games.”

Then they work on a script. Last year, shooting began on the first Thursday and wrapped up on the following Tuesday. Thought instructors guide them throughout the process, the attendees are involved in every step. “They’re acting, they’re writing, they’re editing,” says Satterfield. “They’re really doing it all.”

She thought it pretty remarkable how quickly they all picked up on a process as complicated as filmmaking–some of the kids had been stage actors before, but several of them had no experience whatsoever. Except, you know, the fact that they’re constantly making media with their phones. “These teenagers know so much about technology,” says Satterfield, as she and I try not to feel too old. “So really it isn’t totally from scratch.”

Satterfield herself has a background chock full of theatre experience. Cadence Theatre Company, headed by Anna Johnson, has a theatre summer camp already, along with a pre-professoinal actor training program, so they’re no stranger to working with the younger set.

Digital content has become a big draw for young actors, so film seemed like the next logical step. You need different training for film, says Satterfield. “Theatre is mostly about acting outwards, whereas film is usually about the face. It’s really all about your eyes–your eyes really speak volumes. With theatre, you have to use your whole body. Eyes wouldn’t communicate that much in the theatre.”

One of their other outreach programs, Stage Write, gives RPS Middle and High School students the opportunity to write one-acts and have them performed. Satterfield and her colleagues have found that being involved on that level gives kids a much more powerful understanding of the process. But also, the stories are new and fresh, and that’s what the world needs.

“These students are so creative and have so many ideas,” says Satterfield. “And we need new stories! Not just the same stories told in different ways, like you see a lot of today.” She and Johnson thought, “Well, why can’t we do the same thing with film production?”

This year, Cadence has partnered with the Richmond CenterStage Foundation so as to be able to expand into a larger space and accept more students. With more space, more resources, and more students, who knows what Year Two will bring!

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Film Production Project Details

  • Mondays through Fridays, August 15th – 26th, 2016 • 9:00 AM – 4:00 PM
  • Genworth BrightLights Education Center, located on the third floor of the Dominion Arts Center, 600 E. Grace Street
  • Offered to students ages 12 – 18
  • $550.00 per student. No prior experience necessary.

At time of writing, spaces are still available. Download more information and the registration form here (PDF).

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Susan Howson

Susan Howson is managing editor for this very website. She writes THE BEST bios.

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