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Camp Citizen Jane empowers young girls to tell their story

July 13, 2017

 

Libby Cleavinger couldn’t wait for Camp Citizen Jane.

The 15-year-old from Columbia had finally worked the girls-only film camp into her schedule this summer, and the experience was living up to everything she imagined it to be: fun, challenging and the perfect place to make new friends. 

“I think it’s amazing,” she said. “The environment is so encouraging and creative. You can bond over your love of filmmaking and over everything we’ve learned about the empowerment of women.

At the beginning of the week, I didn’t know anyone here. But now I consider everyone my friend.”

film student and campersCleavinger is one of 18 middle and high school girls who have converged on the Stephens College campus this week to spend five days learning how to tell their stories through film. Cleavinger’s older sister graduated in May from Stephens and had long encouraged her younger sibling to attend the film camp. 

“I’m excited to finally be here,” Cleavinger said.

Camp Citizen Jane, now in its eighth year, is designed to connect young women with the world of film. During their experience, campers have total access to Stephens’ film equipment, students and faculty.

“There is a little bit of media literacy work, lots of discussions about women in media and hands-on work to create a short film,” said Barbie Banks, director of the Citizen Jane Film Festival and the summer camp. 

During the week, campers explore the industry basics of filmmaking, which comprises screenwriting, directing, cinematography, lighting, sound and editing. They also discuss how girls and women are portrayed in life and media.

Eventually, the campers split into “production companies,” in which they learn the roles of director, cinematographer, sound mixing, lighting and in some cases, acting.

Once in their respective production companies, the campers create a narrative film as well as a PSA that will be shown at the Citizen Jane Film Festival, which runs Oct. 26-29. The PSAs will remind viewers to turn off their cell phones and to refrain from talking during the festival films.

“For their short films, each production team of campers is randomly assigned a genre, a line of dialogue, and a prop to make the creative process a little more interesting,” Banks said.

Cleavinger’s team scored a stuffed reindeer head as its prop. And like any creative production team, the campers cleverly wrote the prop into their script, making the stuffed reindeer head a treasured family heirloom that is stolen but then rescued by a brave heroine. Of course, there’s a ransom note and plenty of theatrics.

“It’s a lot of fun,” said Fin Crowder, 15, of Columbia, who’s at camp for a second summer.

This is also the second summer Molly Murphy ’18, a digital filmmaking major at Stephens, has volunteered at the camp. This year, she is working with the youngest production team, a spirited group of 10-year-olds.

“It’s very rewarding,” Murphy said. “They’re really enthusiastic and all so creative.”

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