2016-03-23 / Front Page

Camera, Action


A PS 69 5th grader who participated in a filmmaking program with the help of Queens World Film Festival, teachers and mentors. Students worked on every aspect of making a film. A PS 69 5th grader who participated in a filmmaking program with the help of Queens World Film Festival, teachers and mentors. Students worked on every aspect of making a film. A 5th grade inclusion class at PS 69, whose students have academic and language challenges, premiered five completed films they put together with the assistance of the Queens World Film Festival. For eight weeks, these 32 students have rotated through all the roles involved in making a movie – including scriptwriting, directing, acting, and shooting – using professional camera, sound and editing equipment.

A few years ago, a 10-year-old boy at a Queens elementary school who hadn’t spoken in class in years was given an opportunity to participate in a movie produced by the Queens World Film Festival. Suddenly he was talking up a storm. When the time came to present the finished film he helped create in front of a packed auditorium, he volunteered to speak to the audience about his experience.

Since 2008 the QWFF has been bringing filmmakers and industry professionals into PS 69 in Jackson Heights to produce original short films with a 5th grade inclusion class. According to PS 69’s Arts Coordinator/Liaison and SEM teacher specialist Deborah Strack Cregan, this is the only program of its kind in the NYC elementary school system.

For eight weeks, the 32 students in the class are guided through a complete movie-making experience – from pitch to production. On Thursday, March 17, this year’s five completed films created by these young movie-makers premiered to an audience of over 400 parents, students, teachers, principal and school administrators.

Many of the students have academic challenges or language acquisition issues.

The themes of these personal, original screenplays are very relatable to 10- and 11- year-olds and are based on an essay assignment: “Describe an ‘Aha!’ moment when you discovered something about your own character. “The students worked with QWFF’s filmmaker mentors to create original screenplays on such personal topics as bullying, divorce, being the new kid, boredom, and the death of a relative.

“The students worked together in cohesive groups as creative production teams, enabling them to fully participate in the collaborative nature of making a movie,” says QWFF Artistic Director Katha Cato. “The immersive experience is transforming and has great motivational impact on these youngsters. It fires up their imagination and gets them excited about learning.”

According to PS 69 teachers and administration, some of these students have shied away from all social contact and have worked to “make themselves invisible in the challenging, fast-paced world of a NYC elementary school.”

“Creating these movies levels the playing field and gives these kids a voice -- a way to express themselves and stretch their wings,” says Cregan. “They develop self-confidence and self-esteem and feel special and successful.”

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