Ready for a close-up

Workshop teaches teens filmmaking

Workshop teaches teens filmmaking

July 12, 2007|By MATTHEW UMSTEAD

· More information about Teen Filmmakers' Workshop is available at

· More information about the Adam Stephen house is available at

MARTINSBURG, W.VA. - "A long time ago in a galaxy far, far away ..."

"Star Wars" filmmaker George Lucas' accomplishments in Hollywood - realized a figurative galaxy away from Martinsburg - still reverberate clearly in the young mind of aspiring film director Dylan Hahn.

"He seems he knows what he's doing," the 15-year-old Hedgesville, W.Va., teen said of Lucas, with no hint of sarcasm or humor Wednesday.

Hahn, who began fiddling with a video camera when he was 8 or 9 years old and has produced his own skateboarding music videos, seemed more than ready to soak in the experience of the Teen Filmmaker's Workshop in Martinsburg, an enterprising production itself.


"The point of the workshop is to teach them about all the different aspects of filmmaking," said Katherine Walsh Ryan, who believes the unique summer camp-like experience is a trailblazing effort for the region and West Virginia.

"Maybe next year, we might get into documentaries and expand the program," said Ryan, who hopes to add more value to students' experience with high-definition filming equipment and a "long list of things."

Ryan and Hedgesville High School teacher Marianne Tomasic developed the curriculum. Both are members of the West Virginia Filmmakers Guild and have extensive backgrounds in theater performance, acting and production.

After two days of classroom-based instruction, each of the students gets a chance to direct their own film or a segment of their own film, said Ryan, who joined the students on location Wednesday at the home of Revolutionary War Gen. Adam Stephen to shoot a short film about Martinsburg's founding father.

"The first session (last week), I had a dozen kids," Ryan said of the community's response to the series of three, five-day workshops.

Last week, Ryan said students in the first workshop examined the B&O Roundhouse, a transportation and supply hub during the Civil War; Confederate spy Belle Boyd, who was jailed for shooting Union soldiers; and Main Street Martinsburg's palette project.

A public showing of the teens' short films will be at Poorhouse Farm Park on Sept. 9 as part of a film festival, Ryan said. The top three films will be recognized, she added.

Inspired to launch the workshop by two nephews who had a similar opportunity before enrolling at University of Southern California for film studies, Ryan said one of them has since graduated and is working in Hollywood. Ryan and her husband, Philip, moved from Indianapolis in 2003 after her husband accepted a job at City Hospital in Martinsburg, she said. Aside from launching Star Power Films, Ryan also works as a consultant.

At the Adam Stephen House on Wednesday, volunteer Naomi Johnson, 70, agreed to be interviewed for the students' short film project in 18th-century period costume.

"It's educational and it's also fun," Johnson said.

"Children today are many times learning their history behind the computer and its good to see them here."

The computer, coincidentally, helped Devin Cooper's mother learn about the workshop, said the 15-year-old Martinsburg boy, an admirer of filmmaker Wes Craven.

"I like the plots, the twisted endings that you don't expect," Cooper said. "And even when the camera's off, he's still very serious about his work."

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