BIKFF logoBy Kathryn Dietz, Executive Director, Filmmakers Collaborative

I am the executive director of Filmmakers Collaborative, an organization that works with some of the best independent documentary filmmakers in America. Our usual work is to provide nonprofit fiscal sponsorship, production management, and educational and networking opportunitiesc

In this first of 3 posts I want to share how we came to create the BIKFF and what we hope to accomplish. Maybe some of you reading this will be inspired to get involved! In future posts I will share this year’s schedule and then some reflections.

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Young media makers get ready to learn media literacy.

After a career making my own documentaries, in 2011 I became senior staff at FC, joining Laura Azevedo, our associate director and also a filmmaker. In the summer of 2012 we had a retreat with our board of directors to talk about changes in our industry and how we might address them. The changes are dramatic. Media has moved online, with new models of funding, production and distribution. Filmmakers are getting younger and younger. Cheap digital tools make it at least theoretically possible for anyone to be a filmmaker. Kids are inundated, spending upwards of 8 hours/day on digital media; on YouTube alone there are over 8 years of content available at the click of a mouse. Media literacy and skills are clearly essential for anyone growing up in the 21st century. As a group of professional filmmakers, we thought that FC could help, by offering essential media skills from an experiential perspective. Thus the Boston International Kids Film Festival was born.

Our aim is to help kids learn how to use media so that it doesn’t use them, and to empower them to tell their own stories through the positive use of visual media. We want to inspire them with thought-provoking films, and give them opportunities to learn from media industry professionals. Eventually we want to create a year-long initiative that culminates every November with the festival.

As co-directors, one of the first issues that Laura and I had to decide was what “kids” were. We settled on ages 10 and up because there are so many great films made for this demographic, and because kids this age can readily interact with workshop leaders.

Wndy Blom of SCATV interviews Meredith Walker of "Smart Girls at the Party" about her inspiring talk to girls about being their authentic selves.

Wendy Blom of SCATV interviews Meredith Walker of “Amy Poehler’s Smart Girls” about her inspiring talk to girls about being their authentic selves.

We looked for partners who could help us and were thrilled with the tremendous response. Tufts University (my alma mater) was our first partner, through the Communications and Media Studies program. Amy Poehler’s Smart Girls came on board, along with Walden Media, Boston University’s Communications school, the Institute of Contemporary Art‘s teen media program, and SCATV (Somerville Community Access TV). Partners helped with workshops, venues, films, logistics and marketing.

We had a social media bootcamp for parents, a workshop on making movies on a smartphone, and a session on decoding film language. Amy Poehler’s Smart Girls inspired girls to be their authentic selves, while a young filmmaker from Canada shared clips of the work she has been doing since she was 14 on the global youth climate movement. We showed movies from 12 different countries (including Mongolia!), and had filmmakers come from as far away as Brazil. For a first year launch, it was terrific.

Filmmaker Slater Jewell-Kemker signs autographs.

Filmmaker Slater Jewell-Kemker signs autographs.

We are now planning for year two, and already we see tremendous growth. We have nearly 250 film submissions (up from 80), and more coming in daily. The Boston Globe has signed on as a media sponsor. Other new partners include FableVision, Media Educators of America, the British School of Boston, and the Association of Independent Schools of New England. We have a great advisory board that includes Erin McNeill of Media Literacy Now.

While we may be the “professionals” (filmmakers, educators, industry leaders), we recognize that we have much to learn from young people who are now using media in ways that we never dreamed possible. In their films and their engagement in workshops, we see that their sensibilities and interests are different from ours. It is an exciting time to be developing a youth media program. Let us know if you’d like to be involved!  Find us at:

Media Literacy workshop featuring The LAMP's Media Breaker.

Lots of participation in Media Literacy workshop led by The Lamp’s Alan Berry and featuring the MediaBreaker tool.

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