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Young Filmmakers Screen Their Work
Downtown Youth Behind the Camera in second year at the Tribeca Film Festival
By Juliette Kessler and Jamie Sanders
Scholastic Kids Press Corps

Jessica Mcrae talks to Scholastic Student Reporter Juliette Kessler
Jessica Mcrae talks to Scholastic Student Reporter Juliette Kessler at the Downtown Youth Behind the Camera event at the Tribeca Film Festival Saturday, April 23. Jessica directed the film Respect by the Lower East Side Girls Club.
(Photo: Genet Berhane)
Saturday, April 23—Kids ruled the red carpet at the Tribeca Cinemas today. Unlike most red-carpet events at the annual Tribeca Film Festival, these directors and actors were all students in New York City schools.

From second grade to high school, these young filmmakers streamed in past news cameras to see their movies on the big screen. They stopped to answer questions from the young Press Corps members waiting behind red velvet ropes.

"It's really exciting to have our movies here because we worked so hard," said Jessica Mcrae, who directed the film Respect. Jessica is a member of the Lower East Side Girls Club from PS 188.

Respect was a movie with a message.

"We have respect in our school," said Monika Galaraza, another member of the young filmmaking crew. "We wanted to show people how important respect is and how to show respect."

Samantha Santos was also part of the film. "The reason we made this film was to show people it's not just about respect for each other, but also about respecting yourself."

Youngest Filmmakers

The youngest filmmakers were second-graders from PS 234. They made a movie—unknowingly—about their study of Central Park. The kids made six trips to the park. They thought they were playing around with a camera for fun. After it was all over, they were told they were going to be in a movie and have it screened at the Tribeca Film Festival.

"We were the actors; the teacher made the movie," said 7-year-old Matthew Weldon. Matthew and fellow actor Mikayla Halpern, 8, were part of a panel discussion held after the movies were screened.

Joshua Meyers
Joshua Meyers, 8, composed the music for Ballet Makeover, a 7-minute film produced by the New American Youth Ballet. The film premiered at the Tribeca Film Festival Downtown Youth Behind the Camera event on Saturday, April 23.
(Photo: Genet Berhane)
Ballet Make Over featured 8-year-old composer Joshua Meyers. The young composer said he was inspired by John Williams, who wrote the music for Star Wars, Harry Potter and other movies.

"The director told me he wanted a sentimental feel, so that's what I did," Meyers said in an interview with Scholastic News Online. "I wrote the music; the director made it fade in and out. The kids created the dances in the movie to the music I made."

Just Imagine!

One two-minute film told a funny story. Called Question Marc, it was about a boy working up his courage to ask a girl on a date.

"It was a comedy that showed a kid can try something, but it doesn't always work," said director and writer Claire Strautmanis, 12, of Manhattan Youth. Claire also acted in the short film. "I also wanted to make the point that if this ever happens to you, try again."

Manhattan Youth screened two other innovative films: a three-minute story called Reese's Peanut Butter Love, and a 30-second spot titled Sliders.

Sliders was short, but may have gotten the best audience reaction. The film was more animation than acted movie. Claire explained the technique of making chairs dance on stage.

"We left the camera on for one second, moved the chairs an inch, then turned the camera back on," she said. "I thought the chairs were cool and it would look cool to see them spinning and dancing."

The idea came when one of the main actors in a different movie Claire was working on didn't show up. Claire put her imagination—and the film crew—to work with the chairs.

Two other movies screened were public service announcements made by a health class in the Lower East Side Prep School. Each minute-long film featured a topic of concern to the kids: smoking and homelessness.

Behind "Downtown Youth"

Peter Downing introduced the films at the Saturday morning screening by explaining the philosophy behind Downtown Youth Behind the Camera. Downing is the creative director for the Tribeca Film Festival Family Festival.

"We wanted to show where filmmaking really begins and we realized it was right here in our own backyard," Peter said, referring to Tribeca, a neighborhood just south of Canal Street in downtown New York City. (Tribeca stands for Triangle Below Canal.) "It inspired us to give you a home and a place to share your work," he told the young filmmakers.

Downtown Youth Behind the Camera began last year in the third-annual Tribeca Film Festival. The entire film festival was started to help bring business and attention to one of the areas in Manhattan most affected by the terrorist attacks on September 11, 2001.