This blog represents most of the newspaper columns (appearing in various Colorado Community Newspapers and Yourhub.com) written by me, James LaRue, during the time in which I was the director of the Douglas County Libraries in Douglas County, Colorado. (Some columns are missing, due to my own filing errors.) This blog covers the time period from April 11, 1990 to January 12, 2012.

Unless I say so, the views expressed here are mine and mine alone. They may be quoted elsewhere, so long as you give attribution. The dates are (at least according my records) the dates of publication in one of the above print newspapers.

The blog archive (web view) is in chronological order. The display of entries, below, seems to be in reverse order, new to old.

All of the mistakes are of course my own responsibility.

Thursday, May 3, 2007

May 3, 2007 - Student Films Test Boundaries

When I was in sixth grade, my fabulous public school teacher, Mr. Smith, sparked my interest in haiku, the Japanese verse form.

It fascinated me. Forty years later, it still does.

My own son, at about the same age I was when I encountered Japanese poetry, was captivated by another art form: film. In particular, he's absorbed by the tiny incremental repositioning of clay figures that adds up to the illusion of motion. It's called claymation, and Max is very good at it.

He's not alone. Just take a gander at youtube.com. All kinds of young people are making movies.

But you don't have to go to the Internet to see what sort of cinematography your kids are up to. You need look no farther than your local high school, and your local Douglas County TV network.

Their joint program, called F-stop, itself part of the DC TV Academy, has been airing student films for three years now.

Some of the films -- OK, many of them -- are very funny. But not all of them. Even the funny ones tackle serious subjects.

The world of student films divides into those that air, and those that don't. (In this respect, high school is just like the outside world.)

Why wouldn't a film pass muster -- get approved by teachers, DC8 staff, or its advisory board?

Well, there are lots of reasons. Maybe what the student thought was funny, the grown-ups didn't.

Maybe the treatment of the subject was deemed unintentionally offensive.

Maybe the adults thought some of the messages would reflect poorly on the cooperative efforts of the county and the school district.

Maybe it's censorship. Or maybe it would be, except that now you can view the films and decide for yourself.

On May 5, 2007, at 6 p.m., at the Philip S. Miller Library in Castle Rock, the library, the county, and the school district will sponsor the third Annual F-stop Film Festival.

The first festival was the brainchild of Ian Kellett, a student filmmaker himself. I hope it will run for many years.

At this free event, we'll show the best of F-stop's season, then screen a selection of films that were, for various reasons, deemed "not ready for prime time."

Then, we'll have a panel discussion and audience feedback. On the panel will be representatives from the county and school. We'll also have a parent, a student, and a youth advocate.

After this frank discussion about the boundaries of public education, television, and popular taste, we'll give out some awards for the films. The "rejected" films are also in the running.

Most of the films are pretty short. But the whole event -- film, panel, and awards -- should run about 3 hours. The school district is providing popcorn. Crowfoot Coffee will offer its signature beverage. We'll have soft drinks. Again, all will be free.

As an added treat, we will also offer some live music afterward. The band is Joe Fornothin.

Much of what we think about our culture today is profoundly influenced by those master manipulators of light and sound: the makers of television and movies; the producers of commercials, music videos, and even the evening news.

What kind of work will we see from a generation steeped in this technology since birth?

For a preview, join us on 5/5 @ 6, and we'll talk about it.

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