The Capital of Annapolis
ANNAPOLIS, Md. - Super robot vampire zombies.
A teenager who runs away to a gypsy cult.
And a degree-toting plant named Dr. Cactus.
It's just standard fodder at Filmsters Academy.
The two-week camp celebrates its 10th anniversary this year, with students ages 11 to 19 churning out short films. The teens write, shoot, edit and act in the movies, which will be shown Friday night at The Key School.
"It's work, but it's fun work," said Natalie Gibson, 13, of Annapolis.
The academy takes over almost an entire building at the private school in Annapolis, using seven different rooms for various tasks. The students are divided into groups by age and film experience: beginners, intermediate and advanced.
The cost ranges from $695 to $1,450, depending on the group, but scholarships are available. Beginners camp only runs one week, while the others run for two. Advanced students even come on weekends, and also get the chance to shoot off-campus and attract outside actors.
Many teens are repeat campers and look forward to their shot at moviemaking the whole summer. One boy was so excited about coming he had a countdown to the start of the academy posted on his Facebook page.
"The best feeling is to see these kids who sit in a classroom like deer in the headlights on day one and become artists," said Patti White, who founded the camp with Lee Anderson. "They find themselves and their talents."
White and Anderson are filmmakers who run an Annapolis company called Filmsters. The academy got started after a two-fold push. First, White's son, Trevor, now 26, and his friends started dabbling in video. Then, parents of other students kept asking the women to teach their children.
Filmsters Academy kicked off with four staff and 12 students. This year, there are 30 staff and interns and 66 students.
"You get a real taste of what the business is like," said David Kirchner, 16, of Edgewater, who was helping another student with the camera earlier this week on a film called "Bus Stop." "It's a very fun way to learn about how to make films."
Many academy alumni have gone on to film school and have budding careers in Los Angeles and New York, White said.
"What these young people produce in one week or two weeks is of the quality that students take a year to learn in film school," said Mimi Edmunds, a longtime friend of White's who teaches at Emerson College and is one of the academy staff.
Although students get plenty of advice on the technical aspects of making a film, White and Anderson emphasize storytelling. They feel that aspect of movies is often neglected in favor of an emphasis on the latest and greatest gadgets.
Among the first tasks for the campers is to come up with story ideas, which they then have to pitch to the group. Ten were selected to be made into movies this summer, including those dealing with the super zombies (which also happen to be from outer space, as a coup de grace), the runaway teen and the educated cactus.
Marlee Fox, who was working on the film about the runaway, has gone to camp for seven years. The 17-year-old Annapolis resident said making a movie in such a short time is stressful, but worth the angst. One of the things she quickly learned is how many people it takes to produce a film.
"You assume it's just the actor and guy with the camera, but it's a real team effort," Marlee said.
Katie Sieracki knows this well. The 23-year-old Annapolis resident was doing double duty earlier this week, acting as a zombie wife in one film, and then working the boom microphone for another - while still in full horror makeup.
Sieracki went to the academy for two years and has been a staff member for five. She's also a film school graduate.
"This camp was the catalyst for my interest in film," she said. "I felt like I was ahead of the game when I went to film school."
Information from: The Capital of Annapolis, Md., http://www.hometownannapolis.com/
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