Mountainfilm Educational Initiative Garners Praise and Renewed Support
Making Movies that Matter, an educational outreach program launched by Mountainfilm three years ago, has received renewed funding by Colorado Creative Industries (CCI – formerly The Colorado Council on the Arts). In a particularly competitive climate, the program received high marks from the state agency that receives its funds, in part, from the National Endowment for the Arts. This marks the second time in three years that the state arts agency has approved grant funding for Mountainfilm’s program. This year the amount of the award, $8,500, has nearly doubled. Members of the CCI grant selection committee echoed former praise for Making Movies That Matter, citing its “relevance, excellent teacher materials, strong implementation capacity, high quality of film artists and its impact on kids.”
Making Movies That Matter introduces middle and high school students to vital global issues through the medium of documentary films. Following critical content analysis, the students are taught basic editing techniques and, with permission from the filmmakers, distill the films they have studied into their own shortened renditions, adding graphics, music, voiceovers and other editorial elements of their choosing. The best of the student films are then showcased at Mountainfilm’s annual festival.
“Our program reinforces core curriculum in a way that resonates particularly well with this age group,” says Mountainfilm’s Education Creative Director, Ellen Shelton, who originated the unique dual approach. “At a critical juncture in their intellectual development, our program helps students make sense of the image-charged media they experience on a daily basis. And it gives them practical tools to make meaningful contributions to that media.”
The pilot stage of the program started in the spring of 2008 with two teachers and 20 students in two local school districts. Since then, some 700 students in fourteen schools, stretching from Seattle to Santa Fe and from Denver to New York City, have participated. Continued expansion of the program at a national level is anticipated and a new education project director, Tracy Biga MacLean, has joined the Mountainfilm team to spearhead that growth. MacLean was formerly academic director of media studies at the Claremont Colleges in southern California.
“Mountainfilm’s mission centers in education and inspiration,” says the organization’s executive director, Peter Kenworthy. “To provide access to middle and high school students to some of the most powerful and important independent documentaries available, and to help them interpret and translate those works into their own creations, is exactly in line with that mission. We’re extremely excited by the success the program has enjoyed and by its tremendous potential. CCI’s renewed support is really a great endorsement and validation of Ellen’s efforts over the past three years.”