KINGSTON — For a week in mid-July, rookie filmmakers convened at KidsEye, the University of Rhode Island’s summer film camp for kids ages 8 to 16. This year’s 43 campers took classes in directing, acting, lighting, production design, screenwriting and storyboarding, which enabled them to produce four short films by the end of the week.
All four films will debut Aug. 10 at 10 a.m. at The Vets, 1 Avenue of the Arts in Providence, as part of the Rhode Island International Film Festival (RIIFF), which runs the camp.
“It’s a great opportunity for kids to learn about story telling, be creative, and learn about teamwork. Through the whole process they’re having fun,” said camp co-director Nick Palermo.
“It’s an amazing opportunity for kids who are interested in pursuing a career in the arts later in their lives. We teach them everything from acting to screenwriting to editing to being on a production crew. They soak everything up like a sponge,” he said.
This year, 15-year-old actor Robert Capron, who played Rowley in the “Diary of a Whimy Kid” and had a voice role in “Frankenweenie,” made a surprise guest appearance.
“He talked about filmmaking and his experiences (to show) that someone their own age can actually make it in Hollywood,” said camp co-director, Jess Wong.
Capron’s visit was inspirational for Jensen Tavares, 13, who said she wants to be an actress. She also said she enjoyed camp’s acting classes but was surprised by how much she learned about other aspects of filmmaking.
“I thought it’d be all acting but I wasn’t aware of how much experience I’d take out of it because I learned filming, directing, acting, slates, the boom and how to be better with props. It was a big, wide range of everything you need to do,” she said.
Tavares was on a team that made a film about bullying. She played Stacy, a friend of the bullying victim.
“I think the film has a message for kids: You always have to stand up for yourself if someone is bullying you. No matter what, you are always going to have to deal with people who are going to be mean and rude to you and you need to stick up for yourself no matter how old you are,” she said.
When Tavares is 18, she would like to become a counselor at the camp but until then she plans to come back every summer.
“I would recommend [the camp] to kids of all ages. It’s good to get experience at a young age if you think this is what you want to do because it shows how difficult and fun it is when you’re working on a film,” she said.
Laura Creese, 16, a camp counselor and former nine-year camper, said coming back every year has helped her discover her interests in filmmaking, which have morphed over time.
“When I was younger I was interested in the acting aspect but now that I’m older I’m interested in the behind the scenes jobs and writing. My job is usually as script supervisor, which is you take notes on the takes and the sound for the editor and also (includes) editing as well,” she said.
“The first two days of the camp we go over mostly the behind the scenes things with the kids and how a movie gets made. We do have a couple of screenwriting and storyboards workshops. Most of the time the kids come up with their own screenplays and that’s how the movie stories are written,” she said.
Creese’s team made a short film about two boys who scare away every babysitter their mother hires until she finds a nanny with magic powers who outsmarts the boys.
She said that her years at film camp will be a factor in her choice of career.
“I’m a junior in high school and I’m not sure what I want to do, but I will minor or double major with film or communications because I’m really interested in it now that I’ve been coming this camp basically my whole life,” she said.
“It’s a really great way to get involved in film if that’s something you’re interested in especially when you ‘re younger and it definitely has shaped my perspective about what I want to do when I’m older,” she said.
Wong said that about 25 percent to 30 percent of campers return each year and the ones who do have a real interest in film-making.
“If it’s really their passion to be a filmmaker it’ll be a great experience because they get to do all of the things that happen during a film shoot and learn a little bit of everything,” she said.
KidsEye is sponsored by URI’s Film and Media Program, the Harrington School of Communication and Media as well as Rule Boston Camera and Sony.