Building the Industry Locally by Growing Talent: Film Camp for Kids

Photo courtesy of Film Camp for Kids.

Amanda Gellman is Chairwoman for the Windsor Centre for Film, Digital Media and Creative Arts, and she wants to do something really special, she’s trying to build a film industry in our beloved Windsor. One of the most exciting things by far happening in the construction of this industry is Film Camp for Kids.

“It takes 30-40 years to build an industry, it all starts with growing talent. Many of our programs look at the needs of growing talent in the young.” Says Amanda Gellman. 

Film Camp offers several week-long workshops where students work in small groups to make a short film from conception to finished product. Kids learn basic elements of planning, writing, lighting, designing, shooting, and editing a movie. They do it by a deadline, on a budget, using the resources available. They use their creativity, and learn quality filmmaking skills in the process by working together as a team. 

After a family and friends viewing night serves as a premiere, student films are posted to the camp’s Youtube channel, where a growing number of student films can be viewed. Students are being exposed to the full spectrum of the film production experience, and what is most important of course, is that they are doing it right here on location in cinematic Windsor.

Film Camp for Kids is a part of Windsor Centre for Film, Digital Media and Creative Arts. The Centre is operating 10, 000 square feet of prime real-estate in downtown Windsor. 4, 000 of those square feet are taken up by Hub 691. The remaining 6, 000 square feet are occupied by the successful Film Camp for Kids, which has plans to expand again in 2020. 

Currently, Film Camp’s 6, 000 square feet facility features a multi-room studio, a Green screen room and set, an Art room for painting and more, and Costume room, as well as the filming equipment, lights, camera’s, and the kids of course, supply the action. 

A tour of the current downtown studio. Courtesy of Film Camp for Kids.

“Our kids get practical experience out on location, most programs work in a studio, we go out … they learn how to behave on a shoot location or at a business. We’ve shot at City Hall, coffee shops, hotel lobbies, board rooms, and parks,” Says Gellman of the student experience. 

Since its inception in 2012, Film Camp has had 350 kids at their programs, 90% of those kids have been back multiple times. Film Camp’s goal is to grow talent, and they are doing it, not just with students, but also the instructors.

As of 2019, Film Camp has offered 75 summer jobs in seven years. “The goal remains to grow talent, so we offer those jobs to film students to help grow their talent.” Says Amanda Gellman. 

The prices for the Film Camp are: $200/week and $175/week for multiple weeks. 

For a week long training camp in visual arts and film, that’s a fair price. Similar camps in Toronto or even Detroit are going for around 5 or 600 /week; which is truly one of the benefits of growing a big industry in a smaller market. 

Movies, if you haven’t heard, is big industry. They are at the forefront of audiovisual storytelling in the multi-modal millennium. As viewing options are still expanding, there is no limit in sight to the potential for movies as an artform to reach people. These artists are pioneers of creativity and digital media, and Windsor’s growing them by the heap. You know what they say about Essex County and growing things – from grapes for wine to students of film, this is a good place to grow. 

Windsor offers it all, and with Film Camp for Kids feeding students into the Film and Media programs at the University of Windsor, the cinematic ball has started to roll into the next 30 years. Stay tuned. 

The Windsor Film Society

The Windsor Film Society is something that every film buff in Windsor will want to know about. Outside of Silvercity and Devonshire’s small Classic Films Series, Windsorite’s do not really have a lot of options for seeing older movies. WIFF, and the newly devised WIFF365 which seeks to show movies at least once a month at the Capitol, tend to screen foreign and independent content, not necessarily old and classic. What about the movie buffs that want to see old classic movies on the big screen? 

The Windsor Film Society has just the ticket for such a Windsorite. Theodore Bezaire and Mike Stasko, two popular local filmmakers themselves, formed the Society out of their own passion for movies. Theodore remembers fondly the independent theatres of Toronto – The Bloor Cinema, or The Revue Cinema on Roncesvalles Ave, and would like to create a similar experience here. “I just love watching movies, outside of my house, on a big screen.” Says Bezaire. “Right now, it’s a hobby between just Mike and I, we’re the two guys running it in the hopes that we can build it up, and bring in those audiences every month.”

It is not just about nostalgia for a by-gone era in cinema though, it’s about trying to create a community discussion about film in hopes that it will grow over time. “We do a lot of stuff with the University, because they do have a film program, so we market a bit towards them, these students are interested in films and seeing films in that environment.” The WFS is presenting linked films as a series. The current theme is “Women in the Director’s Chair”. Their last screening featured Sarah Polley’s, Stories We Tell and hosted a discussion with local filmmaker Kim Nelson afterward. They hope to have something similar for the next one. 

“I’d like to get that conversation going more in Windsor,” says Bezaire. If you would like to be part of that discussion, the next screening by the Windsor Film Society is The Babadook, on Feb 26 at the Green Bean Cafe. Be sure to check it out. 

The other part of that love of movies and desire for conversation about them is that Bezaire is also a filmmaker. In 2013, he directed the feature length film, The Birder. In 2006, Bezaire directed Things to Do, which he co-wrote with Stasko. He recollects, “my first feature we did shortly out of film school. It did really well for us, it played at Slamdance, the independent little brother of Sundance. It got a positive review in Variety. It opened a lot of doors for us here in Canada. It got a deal with Mongrel Media, a Canadian distributer for films, and we were in every Blockbuster across Canada.” 

The success of Things to Do, led to The Birder. “With that one, we wanted to step it up with our cast, do something a bit bigger. We brought in Tom Cavanagh, Fred Willard, and Academy Award nominee Graham Greene.” -again, shot in Windsor; and again – more projects in various stages of development ensued. For instance, The Control, “we’re working on distribution on that one now, and most recently, Boys vs. Girls, written and directed by Mike.”– and yet again, these were also shot in Windsor, “we’re trying to shoot more features down here…one of Mike Stasko’s goals as a professor is to give his students opportunities so they can gain some professional experience on a set.”

If you’re like me, you’ve already heard rumblings such as these about the movies in Windsor; but don’t get so excited and start thinking that Hollywood productions are on their way into town – they are not. According to Nick Shields in a recent CBC article, we don’t really have the infrastructure here yet to support them. Bezaire is optimistic that it can be done though: “We’ve had amazing experiences shootings our films here in Windsor. It works for us as local filmmakers, but it may be difficult to bring bigger films to the area…There’s definitely challenges, but maybe we can overcome those challenges.”

As for the infrastructure, Bezaire says, “We definitely need work in that area, but it is getting better. That’s part of what Mike’s trying to do with the University students, so it’s not the first time they’re walking onto a feature set, they understand the process, they understand the workflow, and are not as green as they would be otherwise.”

Giving students experience at making movies is a positive thing for their artistic growth. From that experience they will be better equipped to direct their own first features after leaving school. If there’s two things Essex County is doing really well, it’s growing things and making movies. With the cultivating of youth through these experiences, as well as others that are available, it’s imaginative to wonder what the future film industry may look like one day in Windsor.  

If you have thoughts that you’d like to share, you can always feel free to leave a comment below and start some conversation about movies here in Windsor.