Fort Smith youth share their stories through film

Fort Smith youth share their stories through film
Kole Laviolette, left, and Valadee Lockhart practice going in front of the camera while taking part in the Fort Smith Film Project.Photo: Carla Ulrich.

Young future Spielbergs in Fort Smith are getting the chance to work with professionals and learn their craft through two movie-making workshops happening during the month of August.

Filmmaker Carla Ulrich of Fort Smith, along with Vancouver-based Jay Villeneuve, has been conducting two free sessions of the Fort Smith Youth Film Project (FSYFP), the first from Aug. 7 to 16 and the second from Aug. 18 to 20. During each period, a new batch of youths have had the opportunity to work on their own original movies.

“We’re going to be making a film from start to finish and that’s how the kids are going to get the hands-on experience,” Ulrich said. “We’re going to teach them the basics of the camera, the sound equipment and storytelling and then we’re going to go right into pre-production, which is writing the script then organizing all the schedules…and then go right into filming and then right into editing.”

The intent of the program is to get youth to collaborate and establish what kind of story they want to tell. They are limited to filming a documentary or a drama, but from there are welcome to choose their own topics.

Ulrich said the project came together after conversing with representatives from Uncle Gabe’s Friendship Centre, which had its youth programming funds slashed earlier this year.

“I started looking at the all the different programs that they run here and I didn’t really see anything for the arts directed at especially film or photography,” Ulrich said. “I have experience in this and I’ve done this sort of workshop before, so I thought well, you know, it might be something that the kids here would benefit from.”

Ulrich got her start in film as a youth when she took part in the Dreamspeakers On Tour youth film project in Edmonton. The initiative is similar to the FSYFP in that youth learn about the industry by working with professionals in the field.

Connected with the community

Ulrich negotiated with the Fort Smith Métis Council, Northern Life Museum and Cultural Centre and Smith’s Landing First Nation to put the workshop together.

Vance Sanderson, who sits on the Métis Council, was excited about the program’s possibilities for youth to tell their stories and share their traditions. An avid filmmaker himself, Sanderson is currently working on an online Cree cooking show meant to revitalize the language while sharing healthy, traditional dishes.

“Hopefully it carries on into future projects so they can get involved if they aren’t right now,” Sanderson said. “We can always use more filmmakers in the North.”

“I think it’s going to be a great opportunity for the youth,” said Amy Harris, youth coordinator at Uncle Gabe’s. She said if there is enough interest shown during the workshops, she will consider developing more sustainable film and photography programming with help from numerous grants available.

“It’s a lot of fun,” said Ulrich. “I’ve had kids come in and they’re so shy and they’re so scared but then you get them out and you get them working and you get them using the equipment and they’re not so intimidated by it once they’re using it, and it’s like it changes them. They become more confident, they want to go out and do their own projects.”

The films will premier at the Wood Buffalo National Park’s theatre on Aug. 29 at 7 p.m.

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