For my journalism class this semester, we had to write what our teacher called a “packet project.” A packet is a collection of different news stories on one broad topic. I chose my topic to focus on the impact of online videos, which was both fun and challenging. We had to write a feature story, profile, and an editorial, which took us about half a semester.
This is the last of my packet stories. For my editorial I got to interview high school filmmaker Elijah Perry, a founder of Coming in the Clouds Productions, who’s a YouTube friend of mine. Through our common ground of filming, we’ve gotten to know each other a little bit and hope to collaborate with one another in the future.
For my feature story, click here.
For my profile story, click here.
Perry as his lead role in CITC’s short film, Paladin’s Conquest.
PENSACOLA. Fla. —In the late ’80s, the average cost of a camcorder was about $1,500, according to Videomaker.com. Modern young people, however, have access to video and multimedia content wherever they turn. If a child or teen doesn’t have a smartphone, tablet, GoPro, or camcorder of his own, his parents or friends probably do. With the rise of the digital era, young people are adopting a new hobby to fill their post-school evenings and hot summer afternoons: filmography.
Parents of young people may raise concerns about the growing interest — and possibly even obsession — in more screen time, YouTube celebrities and content, and film in general. After all, excessive screen time for children and teens has been proven to affect their focus, memory, social skills, and even the ability to empathize with real-life people, according to Edudemic. Instant entertainment in a face-paced, on-demand society may also explain why attention spans are shortening.
But does the filmmaking hobby fall into the same category as mindless television watching, video gaming, and hours spent on social media? Not necessarily.
High school filmmaker Elijah Perry claims that while there’s always a balance to every hobby, filmmaking is his way of influencing the world and reaching people with important messages and issues.
“[Our goal] is to reach people with the message of Jesus Christ through our films. You can impact so many people. It’s one of the biggest things in this day and age, watching films.”
Perry, a director of Coming in the Clouds (CITC) Productions, began his filming hobby with three siblings and point-and-shoot cameras before turning the hobby into a passion. During the summer of 2014, Perry began investing in camera equipment, writing scripts, and designing costumes to take his filming hobby to the next level.
“Filmmaking is a creative art. It has probably been the biggest learning experience for me. I’ve probably gained the most knowledge from making films, and part of that is it presses you mentally and physically,” said Perry. “I would recommend getting into filmmaking or a creative art like writing or photography because there’s so much creativity that goes into it.”
Perry believes filmmaking even has a positive influence on memory and learning through hands-on experience. He says, “I think it’s a huge benefit to your brain — to your education. So that’s just my opinion and my experience.”
Now Perry and his siblings produce short YouTube films with an average budget of $1,500 — $2,500. He plans to raise that number in his next film to $5,000 with over 25 cast members. In the future, CITC Productions hopes to produce high-budget, feature-length films.
Filmmaking not only is a creative art; it also requires skills such as writing scripts, learning editing software, coordinating large groups of people, and understanding effective camera angles. It also pushes follow-through — an accomplishment few young people achieve. Filmmaking is not simply running around the backyard with an iPhone; it’s a massive project that creates a sense of accomplishment and satisfaction if the project is completed.
Even if there isn’t dialogue in the film, filmmakers and directors still have to decide how they’ll tell an effective story. In Backyard Studios’s case, it treats its short YouTube films like Disney would treat a Pixar short. Run by twins Caleb and Connor Dyck with their older sister, the three have used these non-verbal shorts to strengthen their understanding of camera angles and no-budget special effects while still telling a compelling — or sometimes humorous — story.
As fun as filming movies in the backyard can be, parents of the young filmmakers may worry how running around outside with foam swords will benefit them after high school. Families with conservative beliefs may be even more concerned, thinking that a liberal Hollywood is the only destiny for their aspiring Spielbergs.
Jordan Taylor, the face of Blimey Cow, uses satire in each of his “Messy Monday” videos to make important points to his evangelical viewers.
Yet consider two examples of cinematographers who have used their unique hobby to bring about personal success. Jordan Taylor, the face of the popular evangelical Christian YouTube channel Blimey Cow, and his brother Josh started filming “mockumentaries” in 2005. When they relaunched the show after Josh married and Jordan started college, their “Seven Lies About Homeschoolers” went viral in 2012, starting their online popularity. Now at nearly 500,000 subscribers, Blimey Cow pushes out a video every Monday, using satire to discuss topics such as teen youth groups, dating, homeschool, and other subjects relevant to evangelical young people.
Aaron and Chad Burns are another set of homeschool brothers who began making films for fun before tackling a 4 million budget feature-length film, “Beyond the Mask,” according to the Blaze.
Even without a multi-million budget, young people still produce self-made videos as a new, popular pastime. Filming no-budget movies in the backyard is a valid hobby, despite possible first impressions. Siblings Lem and Abbi Schooley, amateur filmmakers from Kansas, agree that filmmaking as a hobby not only brings enjoyment, it’s beneficial for all who are involved.
“It’s a really great hobby because it gets the kids to use their imagination instead of being inside on their tablets all day. They can still use technology, yet they’re using their imagination and they’re learning as well,” said Abbi Schooley. “It helps you to be self-motivated and teach yourself. When you see other people laughing at [and enjoying] your videos, it makes you want to make more and do better, and you just keep getting better.”