Why I Created Film School for Teens

I’m not one of those people who could ever confidently say “This is my calling!” I have always enjoyed my work and always striven for excellence. But to say it was my “calling” would be an exaggeration.

Poster for "The Substitute"

Then a few years ago I got the opportunity to work with high school students creating short films. I've always done narrative filmmaking as a personal hobby but not to the scale that I started doing it in this new context. To date we have created 3 films and we are currently working on the 4th. What I discovered was a generation of young people who love filmmaking just like I always did. But while you would think that the ubiquitous availability of technology to make films would be a huge advantage, it also serves to stunt their growth. It’s too easy. It takes no effort at all to pull out a camera and start filming. No one has to work for it.

Old school video gear

When I was a teenager I begged my dad to bring home his office VHS camera so my friends and I could make a movie in a weekend. Editing required us to string VCRs together with a jumble of cables and painstakingly hit PLAY, RECORD and PAUSE repeatedly to stitch a scene together. The sheer effort required to pull this off was a feat by itself. But today, a 5 year old can make a video that will blow your mind almost by accident. However, despite the ease it all, most people don’t advance very far in their skills and expertise because the highest form of “art” they aim for is a video of their latest Dutch Bros order or a funny moment with their cat. And that’s not filmmaking.

But through my work with teens, I have seen eyes opened and passions ignited! We run a yearly high school film festival and the improvement year after year is such a gratifying progression.

How kids watch movies today

In addition, as a parent I am becoming more and more concerned and alarmed at the media aimed at our kids. Shows that have inspired suicide, rebellion, atheism, humanism and the lie of “doing what makes you feel good.” I have tried to equip my own children with the rare skill of “critical thinking” to know when you’re being groomed with worldly thinking and to absorb and “own” all the positive messages that come from great movies. But just as with the film-making, young people are quite passive in their film-watching. One of my great frustrations is seeing teens watch movies (good or bad) while at the same time surfing social media or texting. Has evolution brought our species to a point where we can do two things well at the same time? I doubt it.

Therefore, I have a burden to equip young people to be savvy consumers of media... knowing how to appreciate and discern a films' artistic elements, but also the values they foster. So as to my calling: as I began to formally teach these ideas to teens in a classroom setting, a vision began to take shape in my heart and mind. This training is, in my view, essential preparation for a generation who has infinite power at their fingertips…. the question is, will they use this power for good or evil? If they aren’t trained in how to detect attacks on their beliefs and values they are at great risk. The enemy is working very hard to steal their souls and render them irrelevant.

Enjoying our first premiere!

This is why I have become convinced that everything I've experienced in my life thus far has prepared me to serve the next generation in this way. It has been a ton of work, but also a great blessing to put this curriculum together and package it up... for ANY student, not just my fellow techie nerds. :-)

If you have signed up to join me in this new venture, I’m grateful and humbled and I pray the experience will be life changing for your student.

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