By Courtney Warren
Most know the city of Canton is known as the “City of Lights.” From Christmas lights to film lights, Canton sparkles. However, it’s not just “out-of-towners” who dream of making stories of Canton come to life on the big screen. The annual Young Filmmakers Workshop brought young filmmakers to Canton to learn how to create movie magic.
Young filmmaker Saralyn Teasley said she found her passion for filmmaking after attending camp.
“Now that I’ve done five to six years of this camp and a film academy at school, I really feel at home doing it.”
Teasley said she enjoys several things about the film industry and process.
“Coming up with the ideas, costumes, and working the camera are my favorite things to do,” she said. “The people and workers here are so nice. I also really enjoy not having to pack my own food every day, because they feed everyone here. They create such a welcoming environment, and I never feel like I have a bad idea.”
The love of film is contagious and, for young filmmaker Richard Sumrall, attending the camp for the first time led him to his new passion.
“I came one year and had so much fun that I just kept coming back. I’ve now done six years here and enjoyed every one of them,” said Sumrall.
While Sumrall enjoys the filming process, being in front of the camera is also a joy.
“When you get onto the actual filming and acting, there are just so many laughs. Also, the food is good,” he said.
Seeing these young filmmakers learn their craft is an exciting adventure to the leaders and teachers of the workshop.
“On day one, campers start out being shy and reserved, said leader Thabi Moyo. “However, because we are talking about filmmaking, a creative process, they usually open up before lunch as they begin writing their short films. Also, during the scriptwriting process, I get excited about the young filmmakers’ light bulb moment, when they realize that they are making a movie and the process they are learning is how film industry professionals work in the real world.”
“By the end of the week, they are front and center and in complete control of the filmmaking process. I think they learn to trust themselves as visual storytellers and walk back into the world armed with a new skill that will be helpful to them in the future.”
Moyo firmly believes that the Canton Young Filmmakers Workshop plants and nurtures “a creative seed, unlike any other program in Mississippi. There are lots of film projects happening across the state, and the Canton Young Filmmakers Workshop provides a great opportunity to begin training future industry professionals. I believe students that attend this workshop see the world a little differently, and, when they arrive at camp, it validates that their perspective is valued. I think that film camp has a unique way of building confidence and character in those who attend.”
Leader Xenia Minton added, “The campers become more comfortable in their skin and feel open enough to become vocal about their thoughts and ideas. This camp encourages individuality and the freedom of expression in the easiest and most fun way possible, and it’s so cool to watch everyone break out of their comfort zones and practice asserting themselves and their ideas to others in a safe setting such as film camp.”
Encouraging filmmakers to step out of their comfort zone, Minton added, “Unlike real-world situations such as a school environment, these campers are encouraged to not only project their ideas for a movie, but they learn the necessity of asserting themselves and speaking up about original thought. As a film camp alumni, I learned the skills of working with others while also respectfully advocating for my own suggestions during the pre- and post-production. This camp is a great resource for adolescents to project their voices, and it’s a safe space for exploring passions in the film industry.”
Leader William Lindsey is a product of the Canton Youngfilmakers and said, “I took this camp myself for six years starting in 2014, and I got a strong passion for filmmaking and storytelling that I still feel to this day. I think this camp is a necessity because it’s not a babysitting service; it’s a real instructional course where you work with people from the industry that used to be in your shoes. I learned so much that I continued making short films but also put my passion in sports broadcasting, where I have now directed over twelve passthrough events direct for ESPN+ and held numerous other positions with the ESPN/SEC network at Mississippi State University.”
“I also made numerous friends that I still make projects with today. In this camp, even when repeating, you’re always learning and getting to use equipment that will only benefit you later in life. There’s always a story to tell in anything you do, and I learned that at Canton Young Filmmakers Camp.”
Canton Young Filmmakers Camp partners with the Madison County Library for their enhanced equipment toward the creation and implementation of the student projects. The Mississippi Film Office provides a curriculum and experienced instructors with filmmaking experience. Sponsors include Cadillac of Jackson and Netdoor.