No red carpet, tuxedos, or glittering gowns were in evidence at the Basketb511 Film Festival. But there were children and adults spotted wearing black t-shirts with “Film Crew” printed on the backs. And the heartfelt enthusiasm and excitement of those attending the festival — sixth-graders, their families, teachers from Worcester’s Gates Lane Elementary School, and faculty and students from Clark University — more than compensated for any lack of glitter.
The festival, hosted at Clark University’s Razzo Hall on May 16, showcased some of the outcomes from the New Media and Storytelling Workshop, a collaboration between Anaïs DerSimonian ’17, filmmaker-in-residence at Clark’s Hiatt Center for Urban Education, and Gates Lane School art teacher Dominique Pratt ’16, MAT ’17. Festival highlights included the screening of two short videos, “Basketb511,” created by the sixth-graders in the workshop, and “Hard Fun,” by Hiatt intern Gillian Rude ’19. A question-and-answer session followed.
The workshop challenged the students to answer the question “What makes a good story?” and to work together as a filmmaking team to create an original video on a topic of their choice. Each student chose their own role on the set (filming, scriptwriting, acting, prop/set design, etc.), and Clark University screen studies faculty Hugh Manon and Soren Sorensen in Clark’s Department of Visual and Performing Arts provided the young filmmakers with professional-grade cameras and sound equipment. In addition to DerSimonian and Pratt, guidance to the budding filmmakers was supplied by Helen Segil ’15, MSPC ’16, Hiatt Center artist-in-residence, and Rude.
As part of her internship, Rude, who double-majored in screen studies and sociology, created the video “Hard Fun.” The film documents a learning process based on student empowerment that took place during the workshop. The title, “Hard Fun,” comes from the work of MIT educator Seymour Papert.
The workshop had a big impact on both Rude and her students.
“I am so proud of this class of students, and will miss my 11 new friends dearly,” she said. “This program has meant so much to me, mostly because it has meant so much to our student filmmakers.
“Often in sixth grade,” she continued, “it can feel like everyone is telling you what to do, and you don’t have many options. Adults don’t always trust kids of this age to be serious and responsible with freedom.”
Rude noted that in the interviews she conducted with the students, they reflected “on the amount of autonomy and choice they were given in this class. They each took the workshop seriously and thoughtfully, utilizing film language effectively and coming up with ideas on par with those of university-level film students.”