Summer camp puts teens in director’s chair

Published on July 31, 2011 by

It was 93 degrees outside on Tuesday, July 12, but the heat didn’t deter a handful of teens at Warren Harding High School from turning on bright lights and cameras in order to film a skit about underage drinking.

Allisha Carter, 15, clad in a skirt and blazer, was playing the role of a doctor. Jessica Lane, 15, was portraying a teen who had been pressured by peers to drink at a party the night before.

“She has alcohol poisoning,” explained Carter while Lane pored over the script. “I’m going to tell her the bad news.”

Carter, Lane and the four young women operating the cameras and boom microphone are part of Lights, Camera, Action Television Production Camp, a five-week program offered by Harding High School’s Resource Center.

The 22 students in the program, which began on July 5, are putting together a 30-minute teen lifestyle show as their final project.

“We wanted to create something fun with a huge academic piece,” said Paula Dofat, program director for the Harding Resource Center.

The students’ final project will be aired on public-access television, and a screening will be held at City Lights Gallery, said Dofat. The screening date has not yet been determined.

The students, Dofat said, are not only starring in the segments; they are also doing research, writing scripts, editing footage and learning how to work in teams.
This year’s program is the second incarnation of a television production camp held at Harding three years ago. This year’s camp, the director said, asks more of the students.

“A few years ago, they created a movie, but they were all in front of the camera,” she said.

The students in this year’s camp are using lights, cameras, boom microphones and other equipment provided by volunteer Jennifer Poteau of Sound View Community Media.
The students, ages 10 to 17, are divided into four groups. Three of the groups are researching, writing and producing segments for the show. The fourth group, comprising the youngest students, is creating a 10-minute, behind-the-scenes documentary that will also be shown at the City Lights screening.

“We just film people when they’re not on camera,” said Christian Dofat, 12, son to Paula Dofat.

Christian and Kuran Roberts, 10, were wandering the set of the teen drinking skit with a handheld camera and tripod, getting commentary from the older students.
“We interview them to see what their project is,” said Kuran.

Some of the projects are fun. A team led by Valdis Lorthe, 16, is working on a segment about travel and another piece about popular music. Both pieces, Lorthe said, require research. The music segment will focus on artists ranging from Nicki Minaj to Big Sean and Jennifer Lopez. Lorthe pointed out that the team didn’t select its own favorite artists, but went online to see which songs were topping the charts.

“It’s not about what we like,” said Lorthe. “We have to reach out to the bigger picture, which is everybody else.”

The students are also learning about teen issues. The teen drinking skit, for example, was Carter’s idea. She approached Dofat during the first week of the program and asked if her team could create a skit with a message as one of its three segments. Dofat said yes.
“We try to make sure this is all student driven,” Dofat said.

Another team of students, led by 17-year-old Crystal Green, filmed an interview with a teen mother.

Green, a resident of Brooklyn who is staying in Bridgeport with relatives for the summer, thinks it is important to shed light on the issue of teen pregnancy.

“I find it’s a big issue in my high school. (There are) a lot of young girls getting pregnant,” said Green.

Green isn’t planning on going into television production when she goes to college next year — she wants to be a psychologist — but she’s happy to try her hand at directing and scriptwriting.

“I love learning new things,” she said. “It’s just a great experience.”