Young filmmakers focus on success through the lens

Published as an Arts Editorial in Centretown News.
Oct. 14, 2005

It’s film festival season in Ottawa, and there has never been a better time to be a filmmaker.

Amateur filmmakers are getting involved in what was once considered an elite art form.

And it looks like the lure of movie-making magic has captivated the younger generation as well.

Youth filmmakers – those who are younger than 30 years of age – are getting a chance to get their hands dirty as film production equipment becomes cheaper and more readily available.

There are also more avenues appearing for budding visual artists to showcase their work, like the annual Canadian National Youth Film Festival, which had its first run earlier this year.

The youth seem to be taking advantage of these opportunities: Penny McCann, director of Sussex Annex Works Video – better known as SAW Video – has observed that around half of their 229 current members are under the age of 30, and that membership has grown by about 25 percent in the last two years or so.

High-tech toys, from the humble television to PlayStations and IPods, are usually seen as bad influences on our youth today.

Technology is blamed for encouraging short attention spans and couch-potato tendencies.

But the digital video (DV) camera may prove to be an exception.

It might even provide a kind of salvation for teenagers and students.

Take, for example, SAW Video’s youth program.

The program trains dropouts and “street youth” to use a camera and direct productions, edit films, and write screenplays, according to Paul Gordon, SAW’s youth co-ordinator.

It’s a chance for 18- to 30-year-olds who are underemployed or unable to get a job after leaving school to learn filmmaking skills.

Students even get paid to participate, and it could be the first step towards a career in film production.

Besides getting people off the streets and into full-time employment, programs like this are helping to build the arts community in Ottawa.

They are also providing these aspiring filmmakers with opportunities they might not otherwise have been able to afford.

All of this is a pretty good sign for both the future of arts in Ottawa and the younger generation; more participation by a diverse group of young filmmakers will likely mean a much bigger pool of ideas and innovations in the filmmaking industry.

All that’s left to be done is for media production outlets like SAW Video and the Independent Filmmakers Co-operative of Ottawa to make their presence more widely seen and heard in schools and elsewhere, so as to give students a taste of what it could be like to become the next Scorsese or Kubrick.

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