Updated: Nov 24, 2019
By Carletta Hurt, School Counselor and RSTAY Pathways Coordinator
What We Did
In the spring of 2019, the Pathways Program at Roosevelt STAY Opportunity Academy was approved to participate in the Story Lab Project led by award-winning producer, Annika Young. Story Lab introduced students to the process of cinematic filmmaking over the course of 2 to 3 months and engaged them in every step of the process. Ten students participated in the program from beginning to end; from script through production, they created their own original short film. Some of the roles the students assisted with were Assistant Camera Operator, Assistant Director, Script Supervisor, and Extras.
The skills they learned were broken down into four areas: Story Construction, Technical Terms, Production, and Post Production. Story Lab participants helped write and revise the script, hosted a table reading to hear the words and make suggestions on what they felt would make the film more authentic, auditions to cast the actors, and participated in a series of rehearsals in preparation for production day. Story Lab students even did location scouting to make sure everything we needed was there.
How We Did It
The total cost of the project was around $5,000. Pathways paid the initial $2,400 to get us started. I personally donated $600. Producer Annika Young donated $500. GrantED awarded $500. There were several individuals that provided in-kind services.
The value of GrantEd's contribution was that it came at just the right time! We were in a bind getting an editor to commit to the project, and the funding provided by GrantEd made it possible to get someone on board to edit, which was a critical piece of the puzzle.
Story Lab was a really cool project. The students were engaged and really took ownership of the process. It was heart-warming to hear them talking about the project at various parts of the day on non-project days. Many of them learned about their strengths and challenges while others (two, to be exact) are exploring ways to do more filmmaking outside of school. The seed was planted, watered, and has started to grow!
Three moments in particular stand out and confirm for me that bringing Story Lab to Roosevelt STAY was worth the effort:
Watching Aniyah work with Annika in writing the script made me smile inside because Aniyah kept insisting that she wasn’t a writer. When she realized she was getting a co-writing credit, she couldn’t contain her excitement and sense of pride.
During the audition process, three of our students realized the importance of having someone interested in acting be the lead. Originally, they wanted to cast a friend and were really upset when we suggested auditions. The big “Ah, ha!” moment came during filming. The students got a chance to see what happens and how you have to repeat scenes as well as remember to do things exactly the same from take to take. They were so happy we cast a high school student actor and not just a friend who was a student.
Three of the eight students that participated attended prom the night before and still made it to school to participate in the filming. I was so proud of them for keeping their commitment and seeing the project through to the end.
The final unforgettable moment will come in October, when we host a screening, discussion, and reception so students can share their work with the community and take pride in a job well done.