Back to (film) school

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Earlier this year, I received an e-mail from the lead mentor at Light House Studio, the film mentoring program to which students show up never having held a camera, and sometimes leave with an acceptance letter from a prestigious film school. Jason Robinson, the mentor, said the studio was running a program for advanced students wherein the kids would create music videos over the course of a week for songs by local musicians, and would I be willing to let the kids make a video for one of my songs? (Like many of you, I’m sure, I work from 9am-5pm, then rock all night.) “Of course,” I told him, thinking it would be a cute exercise, like the Adrenaline Film Project meets Nickelodeon’s “Wild and Crazy Kids.” 

Local musician Adam Brock, of Borrowed Beams of Light, stars as a sea monster in the music video that young filmmakers at Light House studio made over week-long workshop. 

Historically, Light House has run the program in conjunction with the Music Resource Center, but Robinson and other mentors wanted students to have real, this-is-not-a-drill industry experience, working on deadlines, cutting video to music and, perhaps most challenging of all, catering to the desires of loopy musicians with brooding temperaments. (Many of the Light House workshops are based on collaborating with the local community.) “There’s so many great local bands in town, and several that already have a relationship with the Light House,” says Robinson. “We’ve never done anything like this before.”

School your kids in the arts
Film
Light House Studio.
www.lighthouse studio.org.
293-6992.
Youth film mentorship studio
based in the City Center for
Contemporary Arts.
 
Music
Music Resource Center. www.musicresourcecenter.org.
979-5478. 
A converted church where students learn to play, record and produce original music.
 
Theater
Old Michie Theatre.
www.old michie.com.
977-3690.
The arts of theater and puppetry for little ones.
 
Live Arts

www.livearts.org

977-4177.
Year-round, process-driven educational opportunities for children, teens, and adults.
 
Dance
Charlottesville Performing Arts School. www.charlottesvilleperformingarts.com.
294-CPAS.
Age-appropriate instruction in dance, music, movement and more. 
 
Writing
The Virginia Discovery Museum. 
www.vadm.org.
977-1025.
Hosts a poetry club for ages 5 and up on the first Tuesday of each month.
 
Visual Arts
McGuffey Art Center.
www.mcguffeyartcenter.com.
295-7973. 
Kids can learn about visual arts through a variety of classes at the converted school.

The workshop started Monday morning with a short course on the heyday of music videos: the late ’90s when you knew a band by its video, and music video directors like Hype Williams, Spike Jonze and Michel Gondry were celebrities in their own right. “I never thought I could show a group of 12 people the Beastie Boys’ ‘Sabotage’ video, and have them go, ‘Whoa, this is amazing,’” says Robinson. “What’s seen as a music video now, is like OK Go videos. They’re built around a really clever gimmick, and they’re so well done, and they’re such a viral video that you don’t even know you’re hearing the song.”

“The younger kids were like, ‘When are we going to go do something? And the older kids wanted to break down and analyze, you know, what made each video successful,” says Robinson. The musicians met with their groups and explained what they wanted out of the videos. 

I was one of three to get the music video treatment, along with tunes by Adam Brock’s rollicking indie rock act Borrowed Beams of Light and the funky local pop group Downbeat Project, fronted by Clarence Green. After meetings and some basic instruction, the students—who ranged from the 7th through 12th grade—cut loose with their mentors, in one case taking to Darden Towe to record the sights and sounds of nature, and in others, covering the room with fake cardboard fish and glitter. 

The final products fall somewhere in between viral, and evocative in the vein of the Golden Age. Both Green and Brock, who are mentors with Light House, star in their respective videos. Brock offered up a new Beams cut called “Hang 1,000,” an instrumental pop journey that sends the reverb-heavy surf aesthetic on a roller-coaster ride. In less than two-and-a-half minutes of video, a sea monster sabotages a game of beach volleyball, and a pair of cops flips their car into a river, narrowly escaping the monster. In the Downbeat video, Green sits in a bar-booth, eyeballing a pretty girl and ruing his bad luck with the ladies; by the song’s end he has mustered the courage to talk to her. But when he approaches, a Tom Cruise-esque short guy puts his arm around the girl. Burned!

“What impressed me was how different they all were,” says Robinson. “This is by far the largest range of ages of any Light House class all summer. But they were all very experienced groups who had taken lots of classes here.” 

Their work also fits naturally in the world of the music video; each was well-made, thoughtful, with viral potential, and—most important for us broke musicians—totally free.

Light House hosts its 10th annual Youth Film Festival at the Jefferson Theater on Friday, September 9,

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