Lights, camera, life: After-school program teaches NYC students filmmaking and more

"It's creativity, collaboration, connection, confidence and communication," said program co-founder Joshua Raff.

Thursday, June 22, 2023
Lights, camera, life: After-school program teaches filmmaking and more
The after-school program called Five4Five Films is a hands-on introduction to movie making.

BELMONT, Bronx (WABC) -- It started in just one New York City public high school and has expanded into ten more.

The after-school program called Five4Five Films is a hands-on introduction to movie making.

But the program, funded by the New York City Department of Education, also teaches vital life skills.

And the enthusiasm of these students is off the charts, as I discovered when I recently attended the Five4Five Film Festival in the Belmont section of the Bronx.

The culmination of a semester's worth of work was met with cheers from the young filmmakers' peers.

"It's creativity, collaboration, connection, confidence and communication," said program co-founder Joshua Raff.

"It's teamwork, it's critical thinking," said Five4Five's other co-founder, Jordan Battiste. "You know, it's all of those things we need for our young people to continue to develop as they come into their adulthood."

Battiste and Raff told me they have created the program they wish they had had back in high school.

"Having the student with a camera in his hand and giving notes to his or her fellow student actor that have never done any of those things before... that's the essence of this program," said Raff.

"Having strong mentors... people who are present, who are there for these kids to hear their side of the story, to help them through their issues," added Battiste.

A few of these students will likely pursue careers in film. But to hear them tell it, this activity has value beyond the instruction provided.

"It's opened my mind up to things and made me more open-minded," said Alayna Anthony, "which I'll take with me into the future."

"It's given me the opportunity to express myself in ways I thought I couldn't otherwise," said Jeremiah Gonzalez.

"I would most definitely say it has made me a better person," said Jayson Farley.

The founders of Five4Five Films are great motivators, said Kia Thompson from Park Slope in Brooklyn.

She said the program has offered her some much-needed encouragement.

"It definitely built my confidence," she said. "And I don't know where I'd be without this program."

There can be no greater tribute, right?

Five4Five is offering a series of two-week film camps in Pelham, Westchester County this summer.

Each day, participants will work to create their own movies, which will then be shown at a red carpet premier on the last day of camp!

No previous experience is required.

You can learn more about the Five4Five summer program here, at five4fivefilms.com.

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