by Jake Leary
The school bells have rung for the last time, students are free from homework and obligations, and parents panic to find a suitable activity to keep their children busy. The Jacob Burns Media Arts Lab seeks to harness this youthful energy and parental desperation for art and creativity.
While many summer camps offer fun experiences based around energy-burning activities, the Burns’ “Summer at the Lab” program offers an educational experience for the next generation of filmmakers and film enthusiasts. Tailored to the age and aptitude of each grade level, the program gives children an opportunity to explore the Burns’ sets, equipment, and professional expertise. Younger attendees — students ranging from third to 10th grade — are offered a place in the Burns’ “Lab Camp” in which children are introduced to different modes of filmmaking as well as the necessary equipment and production skills. Older (high school) campers are able to join a more advanced program: the “Summer Co-op.”
This program does everything that the “Lab Camp” does, and then, by the third week, gives students the opportunity to create an independent project. Students are given the option to write, direct, edit, film, act, or to animate short films. To help campers find their medium of choice, the Burns offers three concentrations: video production, animation, and interactive storytelling.
Emily Keating, the Jacob Burns Director of Education, described the range of possibilities available to campers. “The goal being that as they have more experiences here and more skills here they begin to think as they get older, ‘what stories I want to tell’ and ‘what’s the best format and way to tell that particular story rather than coming in and saying, ‘I want to make an action film or a live action film’ … letting stories and meaning they want to make drive the choices and decisions they would make in the medium,” she said.
“One of the great things about Lab Camp is that the groups are quite small. We have, for each grade level or group, 10 campers with two counselors and then a range of what we call specialists are also part of the experience,” Keating said.
Each “Summer at the Lab” session ends with a screening for the families of the campers — a chance, according to Keating, for the students to “give their guests a little insight into the process they’ve been going through.”
For more information about Jacob Burns summer and year-round educational programs, see https://burnsfilmcenter.org/courses/.