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SFTV’s Summer Creative Workshop Brings Future Storytellers to LMU

Once upon a time, 12 timid students from Crenshaw High School arrived at LMU with only a shared curiosity of movies. Two weeks later, they left as a powerful family of storytellers. …

Rather than a fairy tale, that story has repeated itself since summer of 2006, when LMU’s School of Film and Television first offered the Summer Creative Workshop, a 10-day immersion program that introduces young people in underserved communities to the filmmaking process.

The Crenshaw students, known as Fieberg Fellows after the program’s founding donors Paul and Patti Fieberg, are among their school’s academically gifted sophomores and juniors. To be accepted into the SFTV program, they must first undergo a rigorous selection process, and they must demonstrate creative promise and academic ability.

Once they are on the LMU campus, fellows find themselves in a fast-paced environment. They receive hands-on, intensive training in story and screenplay development, direction, cinematography, lighting, sound, editing and the full range of 3-D and 2-D animation story development and production. They even scout campus locations for their productions.

But the Fieberg fellows gain experience in front of the camera as well as behind it: They act in their films. During the course of the workshop, the students as a group make four films. They all write a short screenplay. The group then selects two live-action and two animation screenplays to produce, splitting into film production and animation teams.

The summer 2008 fellows focused on stories about relationships and ethical dilemmas — a marital squabble and whether or not to steal, for example. Mark Evan Schwartz, associate professor of screenwriting, says that students’ stories often are about people making choices and dealing with the consequences of their choices. “What is wonderful about the workshop is that everyone has their own story. … The kids bring to this simply who they are and their enthusiasm, their highs and lows, joys and sorrows. It’s all there in their work,” he says.

For Teri Schwartz, dean of the SFTV (no relation to Mark Evan Schwartz), the program reflects the university’s commitment to diversity. “I define the diversity pillar of our mission as a beautiful reservoir out of which new stories and storytellers would emerge to shape our world in unique and powerful ways,” explains Schwartz. “The Summer Creative Workshop is the living, breathing example of diversity in action, in motion.”

After sound effects are added and the films are edited, the students hold a premiere screening, complete with family and friends. It is an emotional experience, says Mark Evan Schwartz, and one that instills a sense of accomplishment in them.

But Fieberg fellows’ story doesn’t go forever dark after the screening. One of the program’s long-term goals is to encourage the high school students to pursue their interest in filmmaking after they get to college. Fieberg Fellows can even qualify for scholarships to attend LMU if they continue to do well in school, and five former fellows have entered SFTV on full scholarships.

If this is just a preview of what the next generation of filmmakers will achieve, movie-goers have a lot to look forward to.

… And they filmed happily every after.