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View From the Director’s Chair: It’s a Wrap – Guest post by Lynette Pitrak

I previously submitted a post detailing the first few weeks of an exciting documentary film making program for teenagers that the Downers Grove Public Library was providing for the first time. Now that the program is finished, I would love to share how everything turned out!!

After learning camera, lighting, and audio techniques from our wonderful trainer Laura Zinger, of 20K Films, Inc., the students had a brainstorming session (complete with pizza and other snacks) to discuss ideas for final film topics. It was so much fun to take part in this discussion, and hear about the passions behind the teens’ desires to create movies. Potential topics ranged from very personal to the more abstract and cerebral end of the spectrum. It is great to know that while not all topics were chosen for this particular project, the students had the opportunity to discuss them and develop ideas to revisit on their own later.

In the end, four final film topics were chosen: stress levels of high school students, the world of competitive online gaming, the challenges and opportunities faced by starting a band in high school, and the tactile, precious nature of artwork. The students each chose which film they would like to work on based on personal interest.

All of the students were able to check out the necessary equipment so that they could conduct the interviews in realistic settings. While some interviews did take place in the library’s Digital Media Lab and Teen Central area, it was important for the students to record their chosen subjects in personal environments: bedrooms, afterschool work places, music recording studios, classrooms at College of DuPage, etc. Ms. Zinger felt it was especially important for students to experience the challenges involved in filming in new locations, including framing shots, adjusting to tricky lighting situations, and capturing quality audio footage amidst unwanted background noise.

One thing that film makers always say, and that definitely proved to be true, is that there is never enough time to edit. The final two classes of the program were devoted to teaching the students Final Cut Pro editing software, and then the students were given an additional month to work on editing their films on their own. During this time, Ms. Zinger and I also ran two six-hour open editing sessions, for students to drop in and work on editing with an instructor present for additional guidance. The majority of students attended both editing sessions, and also did a fantastic job editing on their own.

Their level of commitment to their projects was amazing, and during high school final exam weeks, most were camped out at the library alternating between studying for their tests and editing their films. To showcase all of the teens’ incredible work, the Downers Grove Public Library partnered with the Tivoli Theater to hold a student film festival on February 7th that was free for anyone to attend.

We screened the four student-made films:

Can’t Touch This

Less Stress

Bands After Class

and Co-Op

as well as a prequel film of two local teen musicians recording in the audio part of the library’s Media Lab

Live from the Digital Media Lab – Jack

Live from the Digital Media Lab – Jenna

Over two hundred people attended to view the films, and after the screening stayed to participate in a Q & A session with the film makers. The Q & A was a great experience for everyone, with the audience asking perceptive, thoughtful questions and the teens responding with intelligence, passion, and humor. For those who were unable to attend the Tivoli screening, but still interested in viewing the films, our library posted all of the films on our YouTube channel. We also added two Blu-Ray copies of all of the films to the library’s circulating collection.

This entire program was an amazing reminder of teens’ capacity and commitment to imagining, inventing, creating, and it was completely inspiring and humbling for me to be part of this process. In addition, the students involved in this program are already demonstrating their desire to give back to the community by acting as trainers for other tech and maker related programs held at the Downers Grove Public Library. It has been a win-win situation for all involved!!!

Thank you for giving Downers Grove Public Library the opportunity to share this program with other librarians and educators, and please feel free to get in touch with questions at any time.

Lynette Pitrak is the Teen Services Coordinator at the Downers Grove Public Library. Reach her at lpitrak (at) dglibrary.org

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