Applications are now open for the Fourth Annual Teen Girl Filmmaking Lab, to be held in-person in July 2022, hosted by Arkansas Cinema Society (ACS), Women’s Foundation of Arkansas-Girls of Promise Initiative (WFA) and JM Associates.
Participants, who must be Arkansas residents between the ages of 16 and 18 who can provide themselves with transportation to and from the lab and proof of COVID-19 vaccination prior to the start of the program, will learn a variety of cinematic skills in order to write and produce their own short film to be screened at Filmland, the Arkansas film festival.
“The lab is central to ACS’s mission – exposing the next generation of Arkansans to the entire filmmaking process through hands-on training with working industry professionals,” said Kathryn. Tucker, executive director of the ACS. “Women need to feel empowered to pursue a career in film. Their voices need to be heard, their stories told. We want the Lab to give girls a head start in the industry and the confidence to pursue careers in traditionally male-dominated professions.
Cyn’Nae Weston, currently a senior at Conway High School, participated in the lab in 2020 after her art teacher recommended that she apply.
“I didn’t know that before and she thought because I was really good at art I’d be interested in acting, so I decided to apply,” Weston said. “I thought since I had no experience I wouldn’t know what I was doing, but the way they explained it and everything really helped.”
Although the lab during her year was terminated on Zoom due to the COVID-19 pandemic, Weston and the other girls were able to talk to a variety of people currently working in the field, from people in Hollywood to those who had their own studio.
“I remember a girl who spoke to us was an editor for a show that was on Netflix,” she said. “We were able to talk to people who were actually in the field we wanted to work in. It was inspiring because it let us know that it was actually possible and not just an unattainable dream.”
Over the past few years, students who have participated in the lab have even been able to have private Q&A sessions with one of the directors of the Disney+ Marvel series Hawkeye and Oscar-nominated actress Jessica Chastain.
“The opportunities provided by the Filmmaking Lab for Teen Girls prepare young women for future success,” said Anna Beth Gorman, Executive Director of WFA. “Confidence, teamwork, knowledge and experience enable girls to pursue education and careers that put them on the path to economic security as women. The WFA is proud to partner with the ACS to empower future female directors and work towards parity across all STEAM fields.
This year’s lab will be in person, but even though Weston didn’t gain that full experience, she was still able to learn a lot from her time at the lab.
“Even with the Zoom experience, they took the time to film what we were going to do in person and we were able to watch it from different angles,” she said. “I thought that was really helpful.”
Weston and the girls in her year ended up meeting in person on the last day of the lab where they got hands-on experience working on a film production.
“There were directors and some producers,” Weston said. “When you do it in person, you can see what you really like and what you don’t like. The film lab teaches you everything. It might not teach you everything in depth, but I didn’t know that all of this was entering the cinema before attending the lab.
After the lab, Weston now wants to pursue a career in film and has already been accepted to Georgia State University for this, but film wasn’t the career path she thought she was on before attending the lab.
“The career I wanted to be before that was a cartographic surgeon, which is way off the spectrum,” she said. “I’ve always been interested in creative work because I’ve always been good at art and different things. I didn’t think it was a real job, like a job that was accessible to me, but when the lab opened my eyes to see that it was, and the steps to get there, it made it very possible.
Beyond just learning all about filmmaking, girls who attend the Filmmaking Lab for Teen Girls also have an unforgettable bonding experience.
“The other girls that were there, we still talk today on Instagram or in GroupMe,” Weston said. “We are all always connected.”
Applications to join the lab are free and can be viewed on the ACS website at www.ArkansasCinemaSociety.org through February 6. Applicants will participate in a telephone or Zoom interview prior to selection.