The New York Times was there last night at the Burns Film Center in Westchester New York, to see what all the excitement was about.
Soon came the stretch limos, the long yellow stretch limos, to launch 60 newly minted animators onto the red carpet for the world premiers of their short films. The kids milked it for all they could, saundering, posing, laughing, What a party!
I stood there clapping and whistling with the throng of photographers, screaming parents, and passers-by who were part of the spectacle. Joy, Cheer, Satisfaction, Respect, and Awe filled my being. My chest swelled with pride, as it has dozens of times before. All the training, editing, supporting, cajoling, and threatening was worth it. I had the privledge, a few years ago, to design this animation program for Burns, to help underserved 4th grade classrooms learn how to tell stories with video. We called it: Animation: Minds in Motion! Now I’ve helped Burns produce 14 festivals just like this one, and it always feels the same.
The Burns Film Center gets it. As does the Tribeca Film Institute. As does The Rwanda Cinema Center. As does USC’s dept. of Communication. As does Manahattanville College of Arts. As does Muhlenberg College’s New Film Program. As does the Academy of International Studies in Connecticut and NYU. As do many other programs for kids I’ve had the humbling opportunity to consult upon visual education principles. They envision the future of media education. They know giving kids relevant media education and experiences will boost the global competitiveness and the core life-skills of the next generation.
Kids today are rabid consumers of media from screens, but they have never learned to “produce” or “direct” their own content for these screens. They are more effected by the persuasible efforts of mainstream, on-screen media than by books, yet the ability to persuade and express via reading and writing, speaking and listening is the only literacy they are taught as “valid” in our schools.
That is why the Burns Film Center gets it. They put the kid’s visual storytelling on a big screen and give the educators a big reason to take visuals seriously.
If I told you I could take your child and in a few short hours, show them how to make their own movie from scratch, and get them a world-wide audience for their movie, along with a walk down the red carpet in front of screaming fans, what would you think this is worth? What do you think would happen to your young filmmaker’s self esteem? What do you think it would do for their confidence?
From experience, I can tell you it reprograms their DNA.
Visual literacy is a stodgy, academic term use by many for what I’m trying to describe, I think this is about much more. This is about integrating all the literacies into powerful ways of expressing and persuading. It is about core life-skills.
You have to see it first hand. I can hardly put it into words. Which is the point. Seeing is part of communicating.
Does it matter to kids? It will be interesting to see how the New York Times describes last night, as we premiered 18 short films for the lucky kids of Westchester.
BTW, this non-profit event was graciously sponsored by local corporations and philanthropies. The kids participated for free.
Take a look: