Youth filmmaking team captures meaning of creativity


Photo courtesy of Chip Hawks.

Alex Kamczyc

To many students, Saturdays are reserved for sleeping in and ignoring homework. But for one group of kids it’s spent in a conference room, laying the groundwork for a new venture.

Independent Film Works LTD is a local film company made solely of kids aged 10 to 14 who plan, write and create their own films.

The company is comprised of seven students — Hunter Seachrist, Theo Lovinski, Adam Khan, Andrew Nguyen, Finley Clapper, Raina Gmerek and Collin McCann — all currently enrolled in either elementary or middle school. Their leader, Chip Hawks, is a gifted intervention specialist for the Kent City School District.

“One of my primary goals is for the kids to experience the art of collaboration,” Hawks said. “My hope is to mentor them as they learn how to listen, process, share and respect each other and themselves. These are life skills.”

Packed into a small room at the Kent Free Library last Saturday morning, the group met to discuss their recently released film “YOU… The Artist,” a documentary about the Kent Creativity Festival that was organized by Kent State’s College of the Arts and held on Kent State’s Esplanade last September.

The first film the team has produced, the premise explores the definition of creativity and what it means to the people and artists who attended the festival.

The group showed up in the morning before the festival began at 11 a.m. and filmed until 5 p.m. Each member of the group had a specific job on set, some just learning how to use the equipment.

“This is how I learn,” said Seachrist, the director of photography for the film and oldest member of the group. “If I do it, I have to know it. I never knew how to use the Cannon camera we used before filming this documentary.”

After filming and gathering the footage from the festival, the kids then edited it and turned it into the final product with little to no supervision from Hawks. Overall, an estimated 165 hours was dedicated to making the documentary.

“The main thing I really like about this group is that it’s hands on,” said Lovinski, a fifth grader and sound recording supervisor of the documentary. “There’s a lot of doing, not just talking.”

This isn’t the first time they have worked together though.

In 2015, some of the kids in the group worked on a project called “Sidewalks of Gold,” a film about immigrants who came through Ellis Island. Through this film, they found a new opportunity.

“After producing ‘Sidewalks of Gold,’ one of the parents who was part of the Kent Creativity Festival programming committee mentioned making a documentary as a means of keeping filmmaking alive for Kent kids,” Hawks said.

Most of the members in the group are part of the gifted program at each of their respective schools and have worked with Hawks for a few years.

“I still have the footage of me showing Fin how to use the clapper on set of ‘Sidewalks of Gold,’” Hawks said. “It’s only coincidence that that is his last name also.”

Each kid brings something unique to the table: From directing to editing, everything is created by them. The most notable thing they bring is their spirit.

“It feels meaningful,” McCann, a fifth grader, said. “It feels like something you want to do.”

The crew premiered its work on Dec. 6 at the E. Turner Stump Theatre on campus to an audience of friends and family. They received praise, as well as mini Academy Award replicas for their work.

“I can honestly say that we all had smiles on our faces,” Hawks said. “I was elated for the kids. It was their evening, and my hope was that they would leave with an exuberant spirit. They did.”

The film also screened at the 14th Annual Standing Rock International Shorts Festival on Jan. 28 at the Kent Stage, featured along with professional and amateur entries from around the world.

The meeting was long but lively, with each member having an opinion to voice. One way or another, those with voices let them be heard.

“We have a lot of A-types here,” Hawkes noted about the room and its members.

“Actually, I’m an O-type,” one of the kid’s responded among the chatter. The room erupted in laughter.

The meeting ended with them going over ideas on how they want to create their next film, which ends with no clear resolution. It served as the first step in a long process toward youth art appreciation.

“I really like that these kids have something to look forward to,” said Renee McCann, a parent of one of the members. “It means the world to me knowing they are learning skills that can help them in their future.”

Alex Kamczyc is the arts reporter, contact him at [email protected].