St. Michaels University School might seem like an ordinary private school campus, but when its annual film camp sets up in the summer, anything can happen. Even zombies.
Last week, SMUS and the Victoria Film Festival held their weeklong film camp for youth called Shoot the Right Stuff, which serves as a crash course on writing, directing, acting and editing. Award-winning local filmmaker Barbara Hager has hosted the camp for five out of the last six years, offering her insight into the film industry.
“In 2008, I was the scholar in residence at SMUS and I was invited to spend a week at this campus meeting with kids and talking with them about being a filmmaker,” said Hager. “Then a year or two later, they asked if I wanted to do a one-week summer camp.”
While the camp is open to kids between 10 and 15, this year’s group of students fit within Grades 7 and 8. The half-dozen youth made their movie from start to finish, opting for a comedic zombie movie titled Zambies, a term that conjures up the image of an undead Bambi.
“I thought it would be cool to have a zombie movie and Liam [Devlin] thought it would be cool to have a funny movie, so we compromised on a bloody, funny movie,” said Thomas Cotton.
“We did a bit of improv before we started to write and kind of figured out which lines we wanted to keep. We wrote those ones down and then made a good copy of it,” said Annika Little.
The group got inspiration from short films from previous years of the camp, many of which had a thriller element to them that took advantage of the campuses layout.
“Almost every single movie had a stair chasing scene because everyone loves the stairs,” said Liam Devlin.
The camp offered each member a chance to try different roles you would find on a film set, from acting in front of the camera to filming behind it, and even touched on the business side of the industry.
“We took them out, gave them $20 for makeup, wardrobe and props,” said Hager. “They learned that you just don’t go and spend lots of money to make a movie, that there’s actually a budget or you lose money.”
The diverse roles also offered the youth the opportunity to see what they really enjoyed in filmmaking.
“I just love acting because it’s fun,” said Seren Bengtson. “I’m also not very good with cameras – I am very clumsy.”
“I got to do everyone’s makeup – all the black eyes, scars, stuff like that, it was really enjoyable,” said Devon Oneschuk.
“I like filming and working with pictures,” added Alex Thomas. “I think I get that from my grandpa. He loved painting and scenery, and he took a lot of pictures. I probably also get that from my mom and my auntie, who works in film.”
“I like the filming, and I like to start recording when I shouldn’t so I can get funny parts in,” said Devlin with a laugh.
At the end of the week, the camp hosts a miniature film festival, showcasing their short films for family members and getting to see the finished product on the big screen.
“We make popcorn and get Twizzlers and really treat it like it’s a film festival,” said Hager. “They have introductions and we show the films, and they have titles and music and credits.”
While the camp takes a week out of her busy schedule, Hager said it’s always a lot of fun to introduce youth to film and open them up to an industry that they may one day choose to pursue for a career.
“We have to give back and mentor and encourage young people to enter the field,” she said. “I know there are people who have gone on to film school after taking this course – I don’t know if we’re the reason for it, but I hope we helped.”