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Carteret County Teens Learning About The Film Business

What started off in 2010 with a few local kids and a tripod-mounted camera has developed into a full-blown production studio for young film enthusiast.  Lee Jenkins has more. 

Carteret County’s Teen Film Club now has 24 regular members from Havelock to Beaufort, aged anywhere between twelve and nineteen. So far, the club has produced a small TV show and a six episode miniseries called “The Persistence of Time.” As the name would imply, the miniseries deals time travel, explains Club Founder Melissa Bennett.

“It was about a brother and sister who live in the future. They end up taking a time machine back to Victorian England and in the process, their time machine breaks down and they’re stuck in Victorian England. They run into all these problems as they try to fix the time machine and they have to sort of overcome all of these obstacles.”

According to Bennett, the club didn’t start filming until late winter, though members had been working on it as early as the fall of 2012.

“They started writing it as soon as the first Saturday after Labor Day. We did a lot of pre-production work from September to January trying to raise money, making costumes, making sets, writing. And then, from February till about mid-May, they filmed and edited and composed music for it at the same time. We finally got everything completely finished the first week in June.”

Club member and director Jeff Duke says that while he wasn’t entirely sure what inspired the series, the club quickly latched onto the idea.

“Once they pitched it, everyone in the meeting fell so in love with that it was like the only idea we thought about, and we realized that it was the concept we wanted to use for our miniseries.”

One of the most memorable moments of filming was the dinner party scene, filmed at a crew member’s house, explains Jeff.

“It was the first time in the whole series, in the entire filming process, actually, that we had gotten everyone together and that we were all there. It was also the first time we had filmed on-location, where we had gone somewhere else to film a scene. Just having that many people, it was really great.”

While Bennett did offer suggestions and the club members used a formatting program called Final Draft to streamline the writing process, they created the whole script, all 120 pages of it, by themselves. They also handled a great deal of the set design, despite it becoming much more complicated than it had been in previous productions.

“We used a green screen for the first time, the kids got more into lighting design for the first time, this is the first time we’ve had serious costumes. I’m not sure what the future holds as far as costumes and sets go. Probably, the teens are going to want to do more with sets than they are with costumes.”

Perhaps their most impressive work in set design was a time machine prop inspired by Doctor Who. It began with the teens buying a door and some silver and gold spray paint, and became steadily more elaborate, gaining cogs, clock keys, and eventually almost an entire clock. Jeff, who also worked on the door, says it was the centerpiece of the series.

“It was the time machine; it was how they had gotten back in time. It was just as much a main character as our two protagonists, so we featured it in every episode in one way or another.”

Not many teens get to participate in such an undertaking.

“When I was younger I got wrapped up in movies and ever since then I’ve always loved movies. I didn’t really plan that this would happen but I was so glad when I found out that the library had a teen film club. I joined almost immediately.”

Right now, Club Founder Melissa Bennett is introducing members to the various aspects of film production.

“I’m trying to, through different workshops that are specifically focused on either directing or camera work or lighting, give them a more balanced background so that for the next project, we call it the fall project. We always do a TV series that starts in September and ends in May. My hope is that they can learn better foundational skills and make more educated decisions about where they want to be placed in the fall.”

Bennett also teaches them how to write a script with all the nuances of the medium.

“I tell them you have to decide first ‘Where is the scene taking place? Is it inside or outside?’ and then you have to label the scene; ‘Is it in a room, is it in a forest?’ and then you have to give the time of day.”

Next, you’d set up the screen for the director reading the script, filling in all of the little details like the age of the characters or what they’re wearing, and pointing out any important items or props in the scene. There’s also the matter of directing, which Bennett considers one of the hardest roles.

“Directing requires more work; you can’t just come in and say ‘Okay, it’s my day to direct.’ The directors really have to be able to look at the script and understand it and be able to know what it is they want to do with the script.”

They also have to communicate their vision with the rest of the crew. Bennett says the easiest way to do both is through a storyboard, which is a visual interpretation of the script. On top of that, directors must be able to keep everyone working. While everyone can have their moments, Jeff says he enjoys it all the same.

“I love directing. The cast was really cooperative, for the most part. It was the first time where we had filmed out of order, so it was definitely an experience trying to make sure that the cast was portraying the right emotions because we filmed two scenes in a day: one was at the beginning when the two siblings weren’t as close as they were at the beginning of the series and then we were filming a scene where it was after they had had their big bonding moment.”

According to Bennett, the club handles this, and much of the other work the production process entails, mostly by themselves.

“They film, they edit, they do rehearsals, they compose their own music. They really do everything themselves. I just help them communicate with one another and set the schedule and organize things for them.”

The teenagers meet at the Carteret County Library each Thursday during the summer, and 9 to 4 on Saturdays during the school year. To see the club’s earlier series, “From Here to Reality” and “Working Title: Take Three” visit the Carteret County library. I’m Lee Jenkins.

Jared Brumbaugh is the Assistant General Manager for Public Radio East. An Eastern North Carolina native, Jared began his professional public radio career at Public Radio East while he was a student at Craven Community College earning his degree in Electronics Engineering Technology. During his 15+ years at Public Radio East, he has served as an award-winning journalist, producer, and on-air host. When not at the station, Jared enjoys hiking, traveling, and honing his culinary skills.