HER Film Camp debuts short film this weekend
The film making class, for middle and high school girls, focuses on empowerment, creativity and working together as a team
A sprained ankle, freezing temperatures during filming and the lead actor backing out because of COVID-19 didn’t stop the production of “Elena,” a short film created by young girls in Eagle County as part of the HER Film Camp.
HER Film Camp, sponsored by Youthower365’s Girl PowHER program, is a film camp that offers girls and gender non-conforming youth an opportunity to learn the art of storytelling through film production. The young filmmakers are led by Meredith Kirkman, a Battle Mountain High School graduate who has studied independent film making, and her first film, “The Promise of the Butterfly,” made its world premiere at the Vail Film Festival in 2019.
“This camp is a blessing for me and gives me the opportunity to influence the youth of the valley while also continuing to grow and lead in the film industry,” Kirkman said. “I encourage the students to explore their interests and empower them in new roles.”
The first HER Film Camp was offered last November. Kirkman led six students through the camp that went on for two weeks, lasting six hours a day, five days a week. The first week had a production focus, the second week had a post-production focus. Six videos came out of that time frame.
“Most campers were new to making films, so at the start of each week they took notes from presentations and worked with ideas to understand the fundamental terminology and cinema technology,” Kirkman said. “With more knowledge and confidence they were able to assume different roles on the production team.”
To help things run smoothly during the camp’s program, Kirkman enlisted the help of colleagues in the industry like her film making partner in “The Promise of the Butterfly,” Andrew Tamarkin. Tamarkin and Julia Musolino co-wrote and delivered a script titled “Elena” which tells a story of empowerment, ambition and embracing difference based here in the Vail Valley. The actors, locations, and equipment were organized and vetted as well, which were all important steps in pre-production that are required for a smooth production week.
The girls were extremely hands on with “Elena,” assuming all of the roles necessary like camera operator, assistant director, production designer, sound mixer, extra actors and first editors.
“I wanted the girls to experience many different roles on a production team so eventually they can start to focus on roles they are most interested in,” Kirkman said.
“Our team was a well-oiled machine that listened and respected each other and that truly created a healthy environment for art to be created,” Kirkman said.
But that well-oiled machine also faced challenges during filmmaking. Time constraints are always tricky with production, but this crew ran into more than that. One challenge happened during the the first take of the first scene. Kirkman was demonstrating something on stage and severely sprained her foot.
“I was bruised up and swollen within seconds, but canceling or postponing production was not an option and I think that taught the girls that the ‘show must go on,’ no matter what,” Kirkman said.
The group also lost one of the lead actors in the middle of production.
“We had sourced our main actress who was going to play the role of ’Abuela’ out of Denver and she woke up with COVID symptoms the day before her scene. Finding a new local woman to play the role was stressful with such short notice and time to prep,” Kirkman said.
But Kirkman believes film making is all about problem solving.
“I think our challenges provided lessons of bravery, passion and persistence for the girls to see. Mind over matter! I saw all the girls walk away from the experience with more confidence from day 1,” Kirkman said.
After 20 hours in production and 40 hours of post-production, the short film’s duration is a little over 12 minutes. “Elena” is making its private premiere at Riverwalk Theater in Edwards on Saturday for cast, crew and donors.
“After completing a project such as this, it’s important to celebrate the success. The girls will be able to experience a red carpet moment, photos and a Q-and-A with their families by their side. Most of the girls haven’t seen the final product, so it will be an exciting moment for them,” Kirkman said.
“Elena” will also be shown to the Girl PowHER after-school program at the local middle schools to engage prospective girls interested in film making and get students to enlist in the next HER Film Camp, which will be held in June. To learn more about the program, visit youthpower365.org.