Digital Cinema Academy offers creative collaboration, filmmaking lessons to high school participants
The Media School offered an in-person version of its Digital Cinema Academy from June 13-17 for the first time since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, giving high school students who attended the opportunity to use the school’s resources to fully delve into cinema.
The Digital Cinema Academy, a selective camp that admits around 20 high school students from across the country, aims to build the students’ filmmaking knowledge and skills.
The students this year were split into three groups and were tasked with creating a 3-5-minute film based on different film genres over the course of the week. In addition to working on their films, students attended lectures from industry professionals, classes that taught technical skills and film screenings.
Andrew Behringer, one of the cinema academy instructors, said the experience the Digital Cinema Academy provides is unique to the Media School.
“It’s one of the only pre-college opportunities with university-level gear, faculty and opportunities,” Behringer said.
Instructor Craig Erpelding, a Media School senior lecturer who serves as the interim director of the Media School’s BFA in cinematic arts, said having the camp in person gives the students the ability to use more high-end gear. He said he appreciates that the students understand the importance of networking in the film industry, and the in-person environment allows them to more easily form connections with each other and with their instructors, faculty and guest lecturers.
“There’s something about the creative collaboration and just being together that can’t be matched if you’re not in person,” Erpelding said.
The students are thankful to attend an in-person camp because it helps them form strong bonds with each other.
Luke Villanova, a rising senior from Tampa, Florida, attended the virtual screenwriting version of the Digital Cinema Academy last summer. He said that course was a great experience for him and he still has close connections with other students who participated, but he has loved the easy communal aspect of the in-person camp.
Villanova said it’s easy to hang out with people between activities. He said on Wednesday night after the group’s screening of “The Truman Show,” everyone went back to their dorm and just sat on the hallway floor and talked.
“We’re all nerds, so we all love this kind of stuff,” Villanova said. “A lot of us, we go back to our schools next year and we don’t have people like this who love film.”
Ellie Willhite, a rising senior from Evansville, Indiana, agreed with Villanova and said she felt like she could talk to anyone at the camp and it would be comfortable.
Ethan Wu, a rising senior from Plano, Texas, said the in-person academy helps students form professional relationships with each other as well as friendships. He said everyone in his group respects each other’s ideas and gives each other advice on their short film.
All three students said they have especially valued collaborating with their instructors and other faculty because they feel as if they’re treated with respect by industry professionals, and the instructors also give useful advice.
“I’ve just really enjoyed the discussion and the amount of education that I’m gaining, especially practical education, actually getting hands-on experience and learning from someone in person as opposed to previous experiences I’ve had finding information on my own through the internet,” Willhite said.