Megan Sperry, assistant professor of digital media & journalism at SUNY New Paltz, has worked for years as the director of the Woodstock Film Festival’s Youth Film Lab Program.
As the program enters its fifth year, Sperry is leading it through an expansion from a summer schedule to a six-month program, set to start in January and conclude in June before the school year’s end. She spoke about that change, and about the program’s history, on the Dec. 12 episode of Radio Kingston’s “Let’s Talk, Kingston.”
“I thought ‘what if we could expand the lab into the school year?'” she said. “They would learn about screenwriting, editing, location scouting, directing and other things we would cram usually into three weeks.”
The Youth Film Lab, geared towards teenagers interested in media production, had been a free, three-week intensive program before expanding to a six-month excursion. Participants get a unique opportunity to work on video projects and present them to peers, family and friends.
The College’s Department of Digital Media & Journalism has had a strong connection to the Youth Film Lab over the years. In addition to Sperry’s role as director, many alumni have worked as teaching assistants or providing operational support.
Sperry feels that the Youth Film Lab gives teens the opportunity to work somewhere where they can fulfill their passion, as opposed to any typical teenage job at a retail store or restaurant.
“We feel like we are providing them with an opportunity to develop a skillset that they can put in their pocket and help them get a better job rather than a retail job,” she said. “They can build a portfolio and put this on their resume.”
Students in the program also have the advantage of being mentored by industry professionals.
“The youth now have access to technology, and that’s great, but we also want to provide them with the mentorship of industry professionals,” said Sperry. “We want them to come in and talk about what inspires them and what it takes to tell a quality story.”
The application deadline for the new iteration of the Youth Film Lab passed on Dec. 22, but those interested in registering for future Youth Film Labs can contact Sperry at firstname.lastname@example.org.