Focus on film


FORTVILLE — Why were two boys placing green tape over their mouths and dancing in front of a camera?

“They’re goofing around,” said Rachel Lorsung, 10.

“They’re trying to make themselves disappear,” added Aysha Bennett, 10.

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Maybe a little bit of both.

The TV studio and animation lab at Mt. Vernon High School is busy this summer, hosting Young Filmmakers and Animators Workshops for ages 10 to 14.

With green screen visual effects, mock TV news broadcasts and computer animation, students are getting a taste of all kinds of digital media.

“It’s a lot jammed in four days,” teacher Tom Shaver said. “My goal is to give this young group exposure to a lot of different technologies.”

This is the fourth year for the Mt. Vernon film workshop. The sessions last four days at three hours a day. There are at least 10 students signed up for each of the four courses.

Shaver, who typically teaches high school students about video production, computer design and animation, snickers when asked about teaching this age group.

“The energy level of this age group is much higher,” he said. “I’ve learned you’ve got to keep them moving, keep them active.”

And so, active it is. Within four days, students put on a mock TV news show complete with a cooking segment (chocolate cream pie was on the menu this week), create a television commercial, and dabble in computer animation and visual effects.

The green screen allows anything from green-colored tape to neon rope to disappear for computer effects, and students have played with everything from a tsunami crashing onto the school parking lot to a dinosaur snacking on Buffalo-flavored Pringles.

“I like making movies and animation. I like the green screen the best,” Aysha said. “You can put anything into it and make it so realistic.”

Aysha has already been on McCordsville Elementary’s news program, so she took the course to learn more and maybe offer suggestions on how to improve Cub News in the future. Rachel said she fell in love with making movies in the last few days.

“I may want to do it when I grow up,” she said.

And while they haven’t even reached high school yet, many of the students in the camp are forgoing summertime swimming and other activities for a few days to learn about what they might do when they grow up.

Gavin Sanders, 11, was thinking about becoming a video game designer but discovered he likes filming people maybe even better.

“I didn’t think virtual reality would be so boring compared to reality,” he said.

Mt. Vernon uses professional-grade software and equipment, Shaver said.

“We’ve got some great equipment that sits here all summer; why not use it?” Shaver said. “The first year I did this, I started with a little stick-figure program, and I realized they’re far beyond that.”

The Mt. Vernon camp is one of several academic programs happening this summer in Hancock County schools and community centers. In New Palestine, officials with the Sugar Creek branch of the Hancock County Public Library are making a movie with 30 students from across the county. Plans are to wrap up production next month and then edit the film for a fall showing, possibly at Legacy Cinema.

At Mt. Vernon, interest is increasing in media classes at the high school level, Shaver said.

It’s difficult to tell whether it’s because of the summertime camp, but this upcoming school year 90 students have requested to take his entry-level course. That’s almost double from what it was last year.

Students who have taken the summer camp have a leg up when they reach the high school level, Shaver said.

“Mt. Vernon has done a great job at providing the most up-to-date education for our kids, and I’m happy to be a part of it,” he said.