Reel Youth Film Camp presents BIPOC Kids to the world of cinema

by Chamidae Ford


Last week, the Rainier Arts Center premiered its first BIPOC Youth Film Camp. Reel Youth Film Camp is a week-long program that allows black and brown children, ages 7 to 11, to learn the ins and outs of filmmaking and explore their creative side.

The idea for a BIPOC film camp came from program instructors Tiffany Bennett and Obadiah Freeman, who were disappointed by the lack of diversity in other youth film camps.

“We originally started doing camps with the Seattle International Film Festival (SIFF) and those camps were amazing,” Freeman said. “We both love teaching students of all ages and types, but we recognize that SIFF was actually only providing services to a certain demographic because of the network they were helping. So we discovered that there were opportunities to create this opportunity for others as well… I’ve always been inspired by cinema and being black. And that’s kind of what brings together everything I do and, I think, what we to do.”

Instructor Obadiah Freeman helps film student Terry Hill, 11, position the camera during the five-day Reel Youth Film Camp August 16-20 at the Rainier Arts Center. (photo: Susan Fried)

The camp is steeped in flexibility, letting students’ preparation and progression guide how quickly they move through concepts.

“We give you the basic structure, an introductory film course,” Bennett said. “And then depending on the distance, I say at least two days at the camp, can we move forward?” [Should we] stay where we are and then get more structure and understanding? And we use their first film so that we can tell us about it, then their second film, and with each film, they grow up.

Young actors Samaya Jeffries, 9, Ny'asia Anderson, 10, and Arianna Davis, 10, star in a movie they helped write during the five-day Reel Youth Film Camp from 16-20 August at the Rainier Arts Center.  (photo: Susan Fried)
Young actors Samaya Jeffries, 9, Ny’asia Anderson, 10, and Arianna Davis, 10, star in a movie they helped write during the five-day Reel Youth Film Camp from 16-20 August at the Rainier Arts Center. (photo: Susan Fried)

The camp featured nine filmmakers. During the week, they each made three films ranging from two to three minutes long. Students were given prompts when needed, but Bennett and Freeman tend to let students’ ideas guide their lesson plan.

“They come in, they create what they want to create, and then we kind of guide them through that process,” Freeman said. “Our program sometimes rhymes with the Montessori type of a structure where the student somehow directs what we teach. So they say they want to make a horror movie. And that’s what we’re going to do.

Arianna Davis, 10, writes down ideas for the film she and her classmates made during the five-day Reel Youth Film Camp August 16-20 at the Rainier Arts Center.  (photo: Susan Fried)
Arianna Davis, 10, writes down ideas for the film she and her classmates made during the five-day Reel Youth Film Camp August 16-20 at the Rainier Arts Center. (photo: Susan Fried)

The program provides children with applicable knowledge, prioritizing traditional film making and introducing different stylistic approaches.

“I think our program introduced art and film in a way that kids wouldn’t think of,” Bennett said. “TikTok is one thing, but we are not TikTok. We teach you real skills that you can learn in film school in a way, because then you call out the signals of the movie and you understand the process of a movie. And so I think our program will introduce BIPOC kids to art forms that they thought didn’t exist for them.

At the end of the week, participants invited their family and friends to an evening to watch their films. With over 50 people coming to see the students’ work, the love and support for the children was palpable.

“We show the films in the order in which the students created them in order to [the audience] can get an idea of ​​the growth that [the students] eu, ”Freeman said. “Parents and students sort of see where they started and where they ended up in the end. “

Kingston McCants, 7, has been training to be a dragon before, was filmed in front of a green screen during the 5-day Reel Youth Film Camp August 16-20 at the Rainier Arts Center.  (photo: Susan Fried)
Kingston McCants, 7, has been training to be a dragon before, was filmed in front of a green screen during the five-day Reel Youth Film Camp August 16-20 at the Rainier Arts Center. (photo: Susan Fried)

The prime minister was supported by Kibibi Monie and focused on community and coming together to support black youth.

“If you think of black and brown families and BIPOC families in general, food is kind of like this central element that brings us together, isn’t it? And this is something that seemed very important to us, like a hot meal or just a meal in general, says a lot about our own, our children and our cultures, ”said Ben Leiataua, program manager at the Rainier Arts Center. .

The Reel Youth Film Camp will be hosting its winter camp from December 27 to 31. You can register for the camp online at the Reel Youth Film Camp Winter Camp Enrollment webpage. Reel Youth Film Camp is a paid program.

Reel’s 2021 Graduate Class Youth Film Camp poses for a group photo. Front row left to right: Samaya Jeffries (9), Ny’asia Anderson (10), Arianna Davis (10), Kingston McCants (7) and Olivia Spearmon (8). The students in the back row are Sekou Kouyate (11), Terry Hill (11), Ezekiel Rapier (11) and Ava Spearmon (10) – seated on a stool. (photo: Susan Fried)

Reel Youth Film Camp would like to especially thank its sponsors, Nu Black Arts West Theater (Kibibi Monie), Island Soul, The Copy Spot and Hardout Media.


Ford of Chamidae is a recent graduate in journalism from the University of Washington. Born and raised in West Washington, she is passionate about giving voice to the communities around her. She has written for The Daily, GRAY Magazine and Capitol Hill Seattle. Reach her on IG/ Twitter: @chamidaeford.

?? Featured Image: Students Terry Hill, 11 (left) and Ezekiel Rapier, 11 (right) position the camera while filming a movie they helped write during Reel Youth Film Camp of five days from August 16 to 20 at the Rainier Arts Center. (photo: Susan Fried)

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