This summer break while many high school students are flocking to movie theaters, chasing Pokemon, or learning the intricacies of menial labor, the Reagan Presidential Library has been hosting our annual filmmaking workshops that connect young minds with experienced teachers. Since 2013 Film This! has brought educators Eric Van Hamersveld and Sue Van Hamersveld to our sprawling mountain-top campus to impart their wisdom gained through thirty years of experience both on-set and as collegiate instructors.
For 2016 the Van Hamersvelds were joined by actor Atticus Shaffer who served as a student instructor and brought his own on-set experience to our students. Over the course of a week students learn and apply filmmaking concepts as they research, film, and edit a five-minute documentary film focusing on United States history. In addition to his role as an instructor, this year Atticus also shot and edited a promo to let the world know about Film This!
This year’s workshops saw students produce a variety of films over the course of the two one-week sessions. Tackling the theme of “Presidential firsts” we were astonished by the creativity of students with subjects like the first President to be protected by the Secret Service, the first President to break “Tecumseh’s curse,” and the first President to nominate a woman to the Supreme Court, and more. It was a pleasure to watch these dedicated young historians and filmmakers delve into documents and records to tell stories from American history.
The National Archives and Records Administration’s vision statement enjoins us in the NARA staff at the Reagan Presidential Library “to transform the American public’s relationship with their government, with archives as a relevant and vital resource.” Through the Film This! program students are given access to archival footage via our Audiovisual Archivist, allowed to tour the museum, and work hand-in-hand with our archivists, curatorial staff, and education department staff in order to bring the past alive before their lenses and upon our screens. During the fall students may revise their films before submitting them to our film festival in the winter. At the film festival student films nominated in categories like best use of historical resources, excellence in editing, and best overall are screened in front of an audience including film industry professionals. The night is a red-carpet experience that gives our students and their families an opportunity to celebrate their hard work.