The Rise of Youth Filmmakers

September 20, 2012

youth film making
Students in a filmmaking class taught by John Berggren ’15 work on Adobe Premier. Photo by John Berggren.


In the two minutes it will take for you to read this story, 144 hours of video will be uploaded to YouTube. Though it’s difficult to estimate how many of those videos are created by teens, Assistant Professor of Critical Media & Cultural Studies (CMC) Ted Gournelos would hazard a guess that the percentage is likely to be high.

“Young people are making films at an astonishing rate right now; part of that is because of technology. Cameras (even mobile phones) can take not only video, but high definition video,” Gournelos said. “It's also because young people are more and more familiar with cameras and editing. Computers have come with free video editing software (iMovie or Windows Movie Maker) for quite some time now.”

Gournelos also points out that schools are becoming increasingly more adept at integrating video technology into the curriculum and adding digital storytelling to class work. “The result is millions of amateur videos posted online, some of which make it viral and get millions of views,” Gournelos said.

There is perhaps one more element that is driving the rise of teen film creation, and that is this age group’s uncanny ability to learn and integrate new software and platforms at a rate that would dizzy even those just a few years older.

“Teens these days are completely surrounded by technology. Learning new software is very instinctual for them because every day they are downloading a new app or software. And nobody reads manuals; it’s all trial and error,” John Berggren ’15 said. This summer, the CMC major spent a few weeks teaching an advanced video editing software called Adobe Premier to 11-15 year olds registered in a filmmaking camp in Chicago and D.C. “There was a little trepidation at first, but after an hour of working on the software they were totally engrossed. After two days, they could do more on it than I could.”

Over the summer, Berggren began to note how video is giving this demographic a platform in which to communicate about the issues that are important to them. While most of his students this summer were creating fun and silly movies, one student worked on a documentary-style video about the environment. The ability to communicate an opinion or idea, and perhaps reach millions of viewers, has become, thanks to sites like YouTube, limitless. One might even argue that it is democratizing media to a certain extent. 

That’s something Gournelos sees as important not to overlook. “Certainly video can allow young people to express themselves, even just TO themselves, in a way they couldn't before. I think it's definitely strengthened young people in that sense. Agency is important, maybe even the most important, thing you can have.”


By Kristen Manieri

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