The Video Lab: “Geeking out” at The New School

by alexandrakellyg

“[…] as youth engage in DIY efforts, they are learning to critically read and write the world.”

– Yasmin Kafai and Kylie Pepper in Youth Technology and DIY: Developing Participatory Competencies in Creative Media Production

Tevin Campbell is a Senior at Washington Irving High School.  As he presents his film “A Nice Day at Oval Park” to an audience of over 100 graduate students in an Understanding Media Studies lecture hall, he doesn’t flinch.  “Making this film, I got to know the ins and outs of being a filmmaker.  It was cold on some days and I didn’t want to go outside, but I made myself.  And now, I want to be a filmmaker as a career.”

Tevin’s aspirations to be a filmmaker were inspired by this small participatory youth media program at The New School, The Video Lab.  The Video Lab was started over nine years ago by Carol Wilder and Dawnja Burris as a way to bring our Media Studies knowledge into the community and teach students how to tell their stories through film.  Many students have access to filmmaking equipment through their phones, but very little access to mentors who can work with them to understand media through creating media, rewriting the metaphor of reading the world to read the world (Freire & Macedo 1987) as filming the world to see the world.  Washington Irving High School has minimal art programming, but is overflowing with students who have stories that need to be exploded onto the big screen.  The big screen is not just for celebrities.  At The Video Lab and many other youth filmmaking programs, the big screen is for the everyday; for our ideas and our lives.

The Video Lab Spring 2011

At The Video Lab, curriculum is guided by the students.  Their attendance and commitment to the weekly program dictates the depth and bredth of the filmmaking process.  Below is a short film that depicts a “typical” brainstorming session.  Students come up with ideas and, like clay, shape them into short documentary films over the course of a semester.

At the end of the semester, students present their work to an audience who asks them questions about their process. Every student has a different way of explaining their own storymaking journey, but ultimately there is an increased group cohesion that comes with spending hours and hours editing films with Final Cut Pro, scarfing down late night pizza and then pulling it all together for the public together, as a group.

Highlights from Tevin Campbell’s film, “A Nice Day in Oval Park” – about a park in his neighborhood in the Bronx

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